Do you know something I think is crazy? We sent $1,200 or more to tens upon tens of millions of people who have not lost their jobs . . . as, thus far, 80% of us have not.
What that tells me is that, in an emergency, under lots of pressure, and with best of intentions, we can take a blunderbuss to a problem that clearer thinking might have improved.*
So let’s talk about clear thinking.
What do you make of Table 2 of the CDC’s latest report? It’s incomplete because of the lag time in the issuance of death certificates. But among children ages 5-14, it shows a total of 1 death from COVID, nationwide, in the last three months, versus 39 deaths from the flu.
For those of us who care about children — which is to say, all of us — this is great news!
With the rarest of exceptions, when it comes to the pandemic, our kids are safe. They are 39 times more likely to die of the flu than of COVID.
What’s more, only one in a thousand reported COVID deaths hit the 15-24 age group. (And at least some of those rare cases presumbaly had underlying health issues that made them especially vulnerable.)
So does this mean we can open summer camps and playgrounds to kids 5-14, staffed primarily by healthy 15-to-24 year olds? And managed by healthy thirty-somethings — especially if they’ve already got the antibodies? And schools, giving a pass to any teacher or staff who, because of age or underlying condition, does not feel safe?
The big danger in allowing kids to catch the virus and become immune is of course not danger to the kids — it’s to the grandparents they live with. Or to their vulnerable parents.
It makes total sense to isolate seniors and at-risk juniors. Let’s give those folks every support we can. And protect them from young people who may be infectious!
But does it make sense to lock everyone in place?
I have a young friend who went to paddleboard this week — alone — in the middle of Biscayne Bay. A well-meaning cop, following orders, stopped him. Really?
What Sweden is doing, basically, is saying, Look: if you’re old and/or suffer from the kind of condition that makes you vulnerable, you must take every precaution! Stay away from other people! Make sure you — and people you do come into contact with — wear masks! Don’t let your kids or grandkids out of the house if you don’t have a separate bedroom and bathroom.
And so far they’ve had 2,000 COVID deaths, which is roughly the same number we’ve had — proportional to their population — but without sending their economy into a depression or adding massively to their national debt.
The Swedish deaths are awful. The American deaths are awful. But it’s interesting that so far theirs have been no worse than ours even though their economy is open.
I’m not saying we instantly flip the light switch, or that I have the expertise anyone should rely on in making these decisions. Clearly, I do not.
But neither should it be taboo to discuss ways of re-opening the economy. That doesn’t make you heartless. Voices like these should be heard: I’ve Worked the Coronavirus Front Line — and I Say It’s Time to Start Opening Up.
And this: The Bearer of Good Coronavirus News: Stanford scientist John Ioannidis finds himself under attack for questioning the prevailing wisdom about lockdowns. (It’s behind the Wall Street Journal paywall, but some friends have been able to open it on their phones.)
And we should consider allowing young people to go to restaurants and bars — and card old people for a change. “I’m sorry, Sir. Until this pandemic is over, we’re not allowing you to assess your own risk if you’re over 44. Take a look at Table 2 and you’ll see that, although 90% of COVID deaths are among people 55 or older, and you’re just 46 — and although you appear to be fit and healthy — it’s our policy during this crisis not to serve anyone over 44.”
How about a part-way measure like that? That would still leave a load of customers for bars and restaurants.
And can we let young people go to the beach and trust old and vulnerable people to keep their distance from young people?
We are quickly driving the world into a depression that could lead to so much death among young people – from wars, murder, suicide, despair – and so many years of suffering for the billions who manage to muddle through . . . ARE WE DOING ALL WE CAN TO COME UP WITH SMART MEASURES TO PROTECT THE VULNERABLE WHILE GOING BACK TO FAIRLY NORMAL LIFE?
When 9/11 happened, we over-reacted. We spent trillions bombing the wrong country and losing more young Americans than had died in the attack itself. The over-reaction was understandable — shock and awe, for sure. But was it ultimately in our own best interest?
We absolutely need to do all we can to protect those most vulnerable to COVID . . . and to avoid overwhelming the health care system. So older and vulnerable people need to remain isolated.
But I think we have to be open to the possibility of largely resuming normal life for most people. Please don’t hate me for thinking we could be doing this smarter.
*If this was really the only way to get help to the other 20%, why didn’t we attach this string: “This is a national emergency. In order to get cash to people who’ve lost their livelihoods, we’re sending checks to everyone. If you have not lost your livelihood, please do not deposit the check . . . hold it for three months before ripping it up, in case you do. Likewise, if it was direct deposited to your account, you will be getting a notice from your bank within 90 days asking you to either affirm you have lost your livelihood or else to return the money.” Obviously, a lot of people might have cheated and affirmed they had lost their livelihood when they had not; but mightn’t that small change have saved us at least half the cash, to be used to help people who needed help?
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