I can always tell when people are taking a problem seriously They work together and their differences are set aside to achieve a common goal. Initially, I was fooled into thinking that would happen with the Covid-19 virus, but now it is apparent that this is the latest cultural incident that has coalesced into politicization and polarization along the lines of ideology.
In March we were informed by national disease specialists that mitigation strategies were being recommended. Among these strategies were “Shelter in place” orders, given a variety of specific names by the governors of the states that ordered them. These were temporary orders that requested people to stay in their homes and avoid traveling, with the exception of acquiring necessary items, such as gasoline and groceries Governors also made the distinction between “essential workers” and “non-essential workers, ” with businesses being shut down that employed the latter category.
We were told that the objective of this strategy was to “flatten the yield curve,” that is, the normal progression of an infectious disease is extended out into the near future by slowing its spread, rather than allowing large populations to be infected all at the same time. The purpose they said, was to avoid hospitals and medical workers from being overrun, along with creating medical supply shortages.
But then something happened that frequently happens in fluid situations: those in charge began moving the goalposts. Governors extended the sheltering orders claiming the need to achieve new objectives that were never explicitly stated before. All of the sudden the reason for these orders became that they were necessary to save lives, so arbitrary or vague standards were set as the new goals necessary to lift the quarantines. Now we were told new cases must drop by a certain amount for so many consecutive days, and there has to be a certain volume of testing, etc. It raised the obvious objection that as testing is increased, so will the number of new cases, thus making it difficult, if not impossible, to reach the standards in a short period of time. It some instances, draconian measures were put into place that didn’t seem to have any legitimate purpose given the stated objectives. As a consequence, a number of protests began to emerge in various states. Many of the participants were people in the non-essential categories, who were concerned both about their civil rights, along with the sudden uncertainty of their financial futures.
Now lines of demarcation have been drawn pitting essential workers, such as medical care professionals, against the protesters, many of whom are non-essential. Some medical workers have reasoned they are being disrespected because those protesting are engaging in reckless behaviors that will ultimately make their jobs more difficult. But this assumption is entirely theoretical.
Then of course there is the conspiracy angle. Some time ago, a popular television celebrity suggested that given the difficulty of removing Trump from office via investigations, it might be worthwhile to endure a recession if that was the only way to get rid of him. Current events have thus presented a classic “be careful what you wish for” scenario.
Here in Wisconsin, we have a “safer at home” order, which was extended until after Memorial Day, while neighboring states with worse numbers have health orders set to expire weeks earlier. Less than a decade ago, there were massive protests in Wisconsin, when the republican governor at that time stripped away part of some public employees bargaining rights. Ironically, most of those same people are less effected by what the current democratic governor has done. The governor was already under fire for trying to cancel the presidential primary the afternoon before the April primary elections. The same election had an important State Supreme Court race as well. Some have speculated that the governor’s delay in opening Wisconsin might be pay back to the who didn’t support him or the 2011 protest.
On top of the whole issue, the Carville/Clinton slogan from 1992 tends to emerge: “It’s the economy stupid.” Every week this drags on will cause greater difficulty in reviving the national economy in a meaningful way before the November elections.
I take issue with several of the actions and assertions about this shutdown. Now that the yield curve has been flattened, there is no reason to continue this shutdown Other than in New York and a few hot spots, there are no medical facilities that were overwhelmed as expected. Governors who tell their citizens eager to get back to work or reopen businesses, that they are choosing between livelihood or death, are overly melodramatic and just plain wrong. Much of the most vulnerable portion of the population is no longer in the work force anyway.
Many people suggested there would be big outbreaks of the disease after the rallies. More than two weeks have passed and there is no evidence of significance outbreaks related to the assemblies. Some people who voted in person in Wisconsin’s primaries later tested positive for the virus, but there is no proof they contracted it while voting. If they had, one must observe that liberal mayors of two of Wisconsin’s largest cities reduced the number of polling locations exacerbating the crowding problem.
Those who are classified as non-essential workers have no greater propensity to spread the virus then those currently still employed. All they have to do is observe the same safety rules.
Notice that political liberals have generally supported the continuation of the sheltering orders. Think of the leftist bumper-sticker slogan “If you don’t believe in abortion don’t have one.” A commitment to personal autonomy. Yet liberals don’t likewise argue that if you don’t feel safe, you should stay at home. They don’t recommend that a business owner who feels uncomfortable should avoid opening that business. They suddenly want the same rules for everybody with no exceptions.
Let’s also remember that there is no vaccine for HIV, and there is one for influenza, yet tens of thousands die every year with no shutdowns ordered. I could go on. There is a popular saying though: It’s a quarantine when you isolate a sick person, but it’s called something else when you isolate scores of healthy persons.© Robert Meyer
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