Robert Meyer
Quarantines aren't for the healthy: Part 2
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By Robert Meyer
May 18, 2020

The minute I finished the last piece, I knew I hadn’t said everything I wanted to about the Covid-19 shutdowns. As of this writing, many states are opening, or have opened up their economies to some degree. Initially, I understood the stated rationale behind the sheltering orders; to flatten the yield curve so as to avoid overwhelming hospitals. But as time went by, I became increasingly more weary. The ‘”bait and switch” objectives as it pertains to reasons for the quarantines quickly became established talking points.

That led to a host of specious assertions by liberals, such as the claim that opening the economy was not caring about others, or placing economics above human lives. The problem is that efforts to flatten the curve were never supposed to translate into saved lives over the long run. The trade-off was that slowing the spread of the virus artificially, also extends the duration of the virus artificially. So you don’t actually get fewer fatalities or infections in the long run, you only space them out. The only way sheltering strategies actually save more lives, is if they are practiced indefinitely, or some vaccine, or other breakthrough treatment, is developed fairly quickly in the process.

It isn't selfish to look at finances and the economy. The fallacy is to view the “lives versus economy” as a legitimate dichotomy, rather than the false dilemma it actually is. Economics and finances ultimately have a huge impact on health, lest we would not have any examples of that from third-world countries. Don't let anyone tell you that living your life puts others in danger. This is an empty assertion, much like the claim that if you're pro-life you don't care about people after they are born. The difference is that the detrimental health impacts of the shutdown aren't always seen immediately, as they are with the virus. Liberals always tout personal choice, but want everyone to be forced to do as they decide is best. All too often, the people supporting the protracted shut downs aren’t as financially impacted as those protesting the continuations, so their advocacy is hollow.

Another gambit used is to suggest that comparisons regarding other potential socially risky activities aren’t analogous to the risks inherent in the virus pandemic. Of course, no two things that are similar, but not identical, are ever comparable in every aspect. Some people will focus on the similarities in making their point, while others seize upon the contrasting elements. For example, comparing the statistical risks inherent in driving via traffic fatalities is said not to be analogous to the risk of opening the economy, because deaths caused by the virus are only a tally for a short period of time. But this observation ignores the history that past pandemics go through peaks of acceleration and don’t pose the same mortality risks indefinitely. Traffic fatalities, on the other hand, present a fairly stable risk, that continues to exist in perpetuity, yet it doesn’t dissuade people from turning on their ignition and driving.

We’re also told that Covid-19 should never be compared to influenza, because the mortality rate is much higher with Covid-19 and Covid-19 is much easier to transmit. But I have to wonder whether people would be equally panicked by the latest seasonal flu outbreak, if it was reported with the same intensity as the current viral outbreak, daily statistics and all.

Notice how quickly camps were entrenched along political lines. As we continued on with the sheltering orders in various states, the “Never let a crisis go to waste” motif emerged. Before you knew it, proposals in the House of Representatives began emerging that seemingly had little to do with Covid-19 relief. How would governors in many of the blue states acted any differently if they had planned to tank their economies to get federal bailouts, or perhaps even to help thwart the Trump reelection bid? Of course, the calculation is that Trump will suffer both from the economic and Covid-19 fallout. One side has defaulted to placing blame on the president, virtually ignoring consideration of reconfiguring our China policy going forward.

Notice the animosity that has erupted between people who choose to wear masks and those who don’t. As more businesses require patrons to observe this policy, I suspect we will see non-mask shaming taking place more routinely.

There was a distinction made between “essential” and “non-essential” workers. As an essential worker myself, I have taken on all the risks associated with mingling in the general public. Why would it present any greater risk to the public if those in non-essential occupations went back to work, assuming they took similar precautions? The necessity of shutting down the economy for this period of time will likely be fiercely debated.

Once we recognized that hospitals would not be overwhelmed and we beefed up our production of medical supplies, we should have ended the quarantines of healthy people, limiting them to the sick, elderly and vulnerable.

There exists a balance between protecting lives from threats to health and protecting lives from the lasting devastation of economic upheavals. That’s why policy decisions must ultimately reside in the hands of elected leaders weighing the costs, rather than those exclusively cowering behind the projections of health care experts.

© Robert Meyer

 

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Robert Meyer

Robert Meyer is a hardy soul who hails from the Cheesehead country of the upper midwest... (more)

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