COVID-19 Day 72: Reopen or Shelter-In-Place? Yes.

For almost 8 weeks, most of the US was closed due to COVID-19 with over 30 million citizens forced out of work due to the closure of most businesses. Since the start of May, many states in the US are re-opening their business with the hope people will be able to return to jobs. There remain many states with serious restrictions on personal activities and which business can reopen, sparking protests.

California was one of the first states to close down ‘non-essential’ business and issue stay-at-home orders back on March 19. San Francisco, the city where I live, closed 3 days earlier. Many wrongly credit these policies for keeping California’s per-capita COVID-19 case and death rates low, as they do look much better than New York. But looking at the rest of the country, CA actually falls in the middle third of all 50 states. In fact, California did worse than 7 of 8 states that never instituted state-wide lockdowns.

The point to “flatten the curve” wasn’t to cure COVID-19; it could never do that. It was to avoid having too many serious COVID-19 cases overwhelm local hospitals as they almost did in NYC. Now that cases are at a manageable level, our focus should be on deploying tests, tracing tactics, and policies that reduce spread, WHILE returning to a more normal way of life. No individual or a country can continue to live off their savings or print-money indefinitely.

‘We’re all in this together’ doesn’t mean we all have to do the same things to fight the spread of coronavirus. Those aged 65 and over, have diabetes, on dialysis, or seriously obese, are at higher risk of developing serious symptoms or dying of COVID-19. For those of us at higher risk (my household included), we would continue to avoid contact with people outside our household, physical distance, wear masks, and work from home. But for everybody else, especially people who can’t work from home or aren’t at high-risk, they should not be prevented from returning to work or outside life.

If we can trust that our food is prepared or items packed with enough safety that we can have it delivered to our homes, shouldn’t we expect that same level of hygiene from them in person? Shouldn’t we also expect that level of safety in ourselves and others? If we can shop (with social distance, masks, etc.) at Walmart or COSTCO, why could we not do so at a small business? And for those at higher risk, should we allow them the highest level of isolation if they choose?

In other words, we all need to do what we need to do to reduce our chances of contracting coronavirus and spreading it. I don’t see why the argument should be either reopen or shelter-in-place, why not both?


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