More Covid-19 Random Thoughts

Previously on Covid-19 (April 2020):

  • We were starting to reopen. US death toll, about 20K. Flights from Europe were largely prohibited. “Anybody who wants a test can get one”.
  • Some potentially helpful thoughts were coming out of White House (Clorox kills germs, almost immediately – couldn’t we look into getting some into bodies? Maybe if we could mitigate some of the unhelpful side effects, like corrosiveness, toxicity….)
  • Hydroxychloroquine (still that?). Just because numerous controlled trials showed it didn’t work doesn’t make it true, does it?
  • It will go away, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Here in early August, some things have changed:

  • US death toll has risen to 160K, or thereabouts. MAGA, indeed!! We lead the world: Just don’t plan to fly to Europe anytime soon. We’ve gone from Shining City on the Hill to the world’s pariah. Although there are improved treatment options, no vaccine yet. Toolbox, as they say, still limited to social distancing, masks and testing, such as it exists. (It seems to have increased the number of cases, according to WH). Also, how good is testing if one needs a week or more to get results? Makes contact tracing much more difficult (what is that anyway?).

The economy seems to be getting worse. Since the number of cases has burgeoned, early opening states have had to close again, throwing more people out of work. Our solons on Capitol Hill can’t seem to agree on how (or whether) to put some Federal dollars out there, so that poor people can survive. The relief initially provided (moratorium on evictions, $600 weekly on unemployment) has expired. Throwing people out of homes benefits neither landlord nor tenant. GOP folks (some of them, at least) worry about disincentives to work if we’re too kind to the poor. In the meantime nothing gets done.

Seems to me that the nation needs to attack this situation (much as we did during WWII) on a holistic basis. Some ideas:

  1. We can’t restore the economy in any meaningful sense until we control the virus. We need to adopt nationwide steps to close down, big time, for maybe 6-8 weeks. The major means remain social distancing and mask wearing – MANDATORY – NO EXCEPTIONS! Never mind this nonsense about individualism, freedom. As the cliché says, we’re in this together. We need to enforce this, perhaps ruthlessly. Such a policy would involve significant economic suffering. We need to alleviate this by, to put it bluntly, throwing money after it. It’s long past time for the feds to put money where their collective mouths are! This will involve a few trillion dollars we can’t afford, except that we have to. It will cost less in the long run. Let the printing presses roll!
  2. We can’t open schools until we get this thing under control. If we close up until it’s controlled (see Item 1) we can open late. It’s too dangerous to open now, not only for students but teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, etc.
  3. We can do this! We did it after Pearl Harbor. We need to take a holistic approach. Look at what needs to be done, step by step, to support people no longer working. Do we need contract tracers? Lots of them? Let’s recruit them form among the unemployed. Let’s do some infrastructure repairs while we have so many unemployed people.
  4. Don’t hold your breath about getting a vaccine anytime soon. Even if we do, it must be proven safe as well as effective. This takes time. You can’t rush this, you can’t cut corners. We do have a significant minority of the citizenry convinced, regardless of scientific evidence, that vaccines cause autism. Makes one wonder if this is a “designer” bug, as contagious and harmful as it appears to be. Hmm…

Unfortunately, we sorely need leadership, FDR style, from the federal government. The present administration seems to have given up, thrown in the towel. We can’t seem to get this chief executive to even invoke the Defense Production Act. At times like this, I wish we had a European system, where we could take a “no confidence” vote. Shutting the economy has worked in many nations (cf.South Korea, Japan); God knows we couldn’t have screwed this up any worse if we tried.

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