FILE – In this March 28, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles police officers patrol a sparsely populated Venice Beach boardwalk in Los Angeles. At least three police officers in California have died so far from COVID-19 and officers have been urged to wear masks when they are interacting with the public. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
In response to the threat of the Chinese coronavirus that causes COVID-19, President Trump and the nation’s governors took several steps to slow down US economic activity. It is now time to reverse course, end the panic, and reopen the country.
It may seem unfeeling to risk opening the economy when people are afraid. I understand. My wife has been receiving chemotherapy for several months, often too low in white blood cell count to receive treatment. She’s at risk for acute coronavirus disease if she’s infected. We’ve been practicing social distancing since before we knew to call it that. COVID-19 has been another reason to be careful.
But we cannot continue with the status quo. Despite the pleas from Ezekiel Emanuel and Nancy Pelosi, we cannot continue to fund the nation by borrowing money, waiting for a vaccine that may never come.
“If something cannot go on forever, it will stop,” — Herbert Stein.
Not only may a vaccine never come, but if one is produced, its effectiveness may be short term. Or a vaccine may offer permanent immunity from SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19. But being permanent is only a small victory, because these viruses are prone to mutation.
There will be a COVID-20, or -21, or -30. Or perhaps all of them. Even if we get a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, there will be a SARS-CoV-3, 4, and more to follow, and a new vaccine would need to be developed for each.
The bottom line is that we should not wait for a vaccine to come before we reopen the economy.
Nor should we wait for COVID-19 herd immunity. Herd immunity is reached when, depending on the disease, 80% to 95% of a given population is immune, either by vaccination or prior infection. As shown above, we cannot depend on a vaccine. If we are to achieve herd immunity, a lot of people are going to have to get the disease.
A lot of people will get the disease whether economic activity resumes in full or not. Though spread will be slower, eventually almost everyone will come into contact with infected persons, and in the same numbers will get the disease either way.
The shutdown, social distancing, and other mitigation cannot stop, and were never intended to stop, the virus, but only to slow it down, to “flatten the curve.” That has worked. The orders to “shelter in place” and keeping Americans away from one another have almost certainly kept the number of infections down, but that also means there are still more of us left to infect.
The governmental overreach also has consequences. From shutting down beaches to closing churches and the curious, hamhanded decisions of Democrat governors to decide which items are “essential” and which are not, and to forbid the sale of nonessentials, we see government’s incompetence and the ease with which those with power abuse it.
Panicked Americans accepted the restrictions on their liberties on the belief they were protecting the elderly. The result has been to separate families.
Consider an aging grandmother, living quietly in a nursing home. Once a week her children would visit, often bringing grandchildren, but always bringing news of them. After the lockdown, there are no more visits.
What sort of cruel society is it that locks away its elderly and forces them to live out their days without even the sight of their loved ones?
Without a vaccine, and facing a disease that sooner or later at least four out of five of us will contract, we must make the difficult choice to face it, instead of hiding from it.
It’s time to end the panic. It’s time to reopen America.