Understanding the COVID-19 Debate

What Each Side of the COVID-19 Debate Should Understand About the Other
The war between Openers and Closers shouldn’t be seen as a fight between idiot death-worshippers and unnecessarily frightened tyrants.
Brian Doherty <reason.com/people/brian-doherty/> is a senior editor at /Reason/ and author of /Ron Paul’s Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired/ (Broadside Books).
NOTE FROM COLLUSIONS… at first I read this and went this is pretty good, rather even handed… but the more I thought about certain points .. NO.. its not good. Got to reading through some of the comments and one person with a lengthy rebuttal made the case(s) – he put together things that this article glosses over, probably purposefully too, because it champions the liberal left agenda albeit subtly as written … at the bottom of the article I copied in his comment too – which fairly represents my rebuttal to this article.
dreamstime_m_179894764 (ID 179894764 © Brandi Lyon | Dreamstime.com)
Beyond its devastating effect on the health of hundreds of thousands <www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html> and the livelihood of millions <reason.com/2020/04/02/unemployment-claims-hit-6-6-million-its-officially-worse-than-the-great-recession/>, the COVID-19 crisis is a harshly vivid example of Americans’ inability to understand, fruitfully communicate with, or show a hint of respect <reason.com/2020/04/19/coronavirus-lockdown-protests-shutdown-media-covid-19/> for those seen to be on other side of an ideological line.
Americans are divided about the best way to proceed from here, three months since the first case <www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2001191> was diagnosed in the U.S. The division is more vivid and harsh on social networks than in the polls, where a vast majority <reason.com/2020/04/09/polls-show-americans-are-souring-on-trumps-response-to-covid-19/> of Americans still think strong lockdowns are the best idea moving forward. Such Americans think the economy needs to stay shut down by law until a vaccine or some effective treatment is developed that ensures no more, or a very tiny number of, people will be seriously harmed or killed by COVID-19.
On the other hand, some Americans think, on balance, the country’s overall quality of life demands we start letting people and businesses make their own decisions <reason.com/2020/04/20/tennessee-will-allow-vast-majority-of-businesses-to-reopen-on-may-1-georgia-april-27-restaurants/> about whether it is safe to go out <reason.com/2020/04/20/pushy-politicians-make-stay-at-home-protests-necessary/> in public or conduct business openly, especially given access to simple prophylactic measures such as gloves and masks <reason.com/2020/04/03/masks-for-all-sensible-and-helpful/>.
To sum up each side in the language of their angriest opponents: The “Closers” want to demolish nearly all Americans’ ability to live, and destroy nearly all the wealth our society has built up over decades, by halting the wheels of most commerce for the forseeable future. And the “Openers” are so dedicated to keeping GDP growing and so ignorant of science they want to see hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of Americans die of a hideous disease because they don’t understand how contagion works.
Both Closers and Openers, though, have a combination of reasons, theories, guesses, and value judgments of a sort many sane people have always made, that make their respective positions make sense to them. Neither side should be blithely written off as either idiotic or sinister or not thinking, in their own way, of human well-being.
The Openers think they see many costs the Closers are not adequately considering, and wonder if the long-term benefits of closing are smaller than the Closers believe.
Openers are worried about over 15 million Americans out of work <www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/04/14/coronavirus-unemployment-claims-caused-covid-19-crisis-state/5130034002/>, and look at industries including hospitality <www.hospitalitynet.org/hottopic/coronavirus>, food service <reason.com/2020/04/13/covid-19-and-its-accompanying-restrictions-continue-to-harm-world-food-supply/>, entertainment <www.business-standard.com/article/companies/covid-19-spells-disaster-for-film-industry-but-boosts-digital-media-kpmg-120041400383_1.html> not beamed in via smart TVs, sports <www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/sports-covid19-coronavirus-excersise-specators-media-coverage/>, construction <www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/covid-19/understanding-the-sector-impact-of-covid-19–engineering—const.html>, oil <www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-19/oil-drops-to-18-year-low-on-global-demand-crunch-storage-woes?utm_medium=social&utm_content=business&utm_campaign=socialflow-organic&utm_source=twitter&cm…>, education <reason.com/2020/03/12/school-canceled-because-of-coronavirus-a-homeschooler-offers-some-tips/>, law <www.abajournal.com/news/article/pay-cuts-layoffs-lower-partner-distributions-part-of-biglaw-response-to-covid-19-impact>, and even, counterintuitively, medical care <www.salon.com/2020/04/18/cash-strapped-hospitals-lay-off-thousands-of-health-workers-despite-covid-19-staff-shortages/> (not to mention all non-food retail and any financial or other entities who depend on rents and mortgages <reason.com/2020/04/15/with-30-percent-of-tenants-unable-to-pay-their-bills-this-month-due-to-covid-19-many-want-rent-canceled/> continuing to be paid in the months to come) all either destroyed or seriously weakened and unable to move forward at anything near their old strength.
They worry that the web of commerce is so complicated and hard to build or to gently snip off portions of that as-yet-unrealized problems will arise with an economy that acts as if making, transporting, and selling food will keep working fine <reason.com/2020/04/13/covid-19-and-its-accompanying-restrictions-continue-to-harm-world-food-supply/> even if nothing else is.
Openers see the government’s short-term solution of loans and giveaways both personal and corporate in thetrillions and growing <reason.com/2020/03/25/trump-is-right-to-worry-about-the-cost-of-aggressive-covid-19-control-measures/> as seriously dangerous <www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Record-government-and-corporate-debt-risks-15210446.php>, with a real possibility of upending our fiscal and monetary systems under debt and/or money supply explosions that could become truly unsustainable and take decades to recover from. They see states and localities facing already near-impossible pension <www.ocregister.com/2020/03/14/covid-19s-harsh-impact-on-state-pension-systems-and-school-districts/> and other obligations and shrinking tax bases pushed closer, faster, to an abyss of complete inability to function, with dire effects on citizens.
Openers think it is worth seriously wondering about many as-yet-unknown facts, such as actual current infection rates <reason.com/2020/04/12/official-covid-19-numbers-represent-just-6-of-total-infections-a-new-analysis-suggests/>, asymptomatic numbers vs. ill numbers, and death rates <reason.com/2020/04/17/covid-19-lethality-not-much-different-than-flu-says-new-study/> and age distributions <marketmonetarist.com/2020/04/20/one-factor-explains-most-of-the-differences-in-covid19-deaths-across-countries/?fbclid=IwAR2n8SwwWuUP1bMgTj5bKMSxBa511kf1i88mtih4fg7MnBFN8uIU6rAE3f4> of same. They understand that the Openers vs. Closers debate involves cost/benefit decisions, and they want to understand the benefits as well as possible. Openers do believe that one cannot build public policy as if “saving one life” (or, more accurately, delaying one death) is the sole goal and think it important to note that in no other situation and with no other illness have we acted as if that was a reasonable goal.
Openers do take very seriously the idea of “flattening the curve <www.livescience.com/coronavirus-flatten-the-curve.html>”—perhaps, an Opener might think, even more seriously than the Closers do, because Openers can’t help but think that this virus will, over whatever length of time, infect everyone everywhere until herd immunity is reached or by whatever method R0 becomes less than one.
That is, Openers think it reasonable to consider that we are not facing a choice to “save lives” (or delay deaths) in the sense of preventing infections from ever occurring, which is more or less impossible now. The only really important consideration now is excess deaths or serious illness complications caused by inadequate medical facilities because at some given day in some specific hospital COVID cases are overwhelmingly large.
Openers thus wonder why more public policy decisions aren’t being made based on a rigorous calculation of /that /number, now and in a reasonably foreseeable future based on best understanding of our hospital capacity, how quickly we could increase that capacity if that became public policy priority one, and the prevalence, percentage symptomatic, and percentage brought to brink of death by the disease. Openers tend to believe a “testing” solution <reason.com/2020/04/20/a-plan-to-use-massive-covid-19-testing-to-reopen-the-economy/> or a “vaccine” solution <nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/will-there-be-a-coronavirus-vaccine-maybe-not.html> are both outside the realm of plausibility now and for any foreseeable future.
The Closers, meanwhile, are seen by hostile Openers as driven by some sinister desire for a scenario in which the only “reasonable” endgame for living anything like a free life is either or both enforced vaccination <blog.oup.com/2020/04/why-vaccines-should-be-compulsory/> and constant registered surveillance <reason.com/2020/04/14/the-google-apple-infection-tracker-has-a-privacy-problem-just-not-the-one-you-think/>, or who for partisan political reasons want to make 2020 so miserable in America that Trump will lose the election .
However, the Closers have many reasons that make sense to them to keep things closed that don’t involve a mad desire to tyrannize the country <reason.com/2020/04/21/idaho-woman-threatened-with-jail-time-for-holding-nonessential-yard-sale/> or harm Trump. Closers see and acknowledge the economic damage we are suffering, but they see most of that damage already inherent in the unchecked spread of a disease that kills or seriously harms people to a greater extent than any we’ve dealt with in a century. They thus don’t see the economic problems as solvable just by “opening up America.”
Closers see anyone who, aware that COVID-19 exists and can spread asymptomatically, then does anything that could in any way risk someone else catching it as morally akin to murderers. The Closers are very concerned with the fact that people are dying from this disease, in the tens of thousands—that COVID-19 is indeed after just three months by best available data likely killing nearly double as many Americans as were killed by the flu <www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/#S2> this flu season. Closers thus consider some Openers’ niggling obsessions about marginal accuracy in that fatality count as irrelevant to any policy decision we are now facing. Even if those numbers are not 100 percent accurate, they are large enough to make worrying over their precise size peculiarly beside the point.
Closers also recognize that the death count is not the best or most accurate way to assess the threat COVID-19 presents and thus what sacrifices are reasonable or prudent to try to keep it from spreading faster. The disease is known or suspected to be neurotoxic <www.medscape.com/viewarticle/928848> and hepatoxic <www.medscape.com/viewarticle/927144>, not merely a respiratory illness, and might cause serious and possibly long term damage to the heart, blood, liver, and nervous systems of those who contract, it even if they “recover.”
Closers are also sure that we can’t know how much damage COVID-19 will eventually cause in our nation just based on the experience of the past 6 weeks, when we have been doing our best to keep people from getting close enough to each other in large enough numbers to truly and quickly unleash COVID-19. Thus to the Closers, any calculations based on “existing data” that are supposed to settle the question of whether we’ve done enough, or even too much, and can now “open up” are beside the point, in a genuinely dangerous way. If it’s not an intolerable nightmare yet, they would say, that’s /because /we are staying shut down.
The damage done by the disease and/or the policy reaction to the disease is baked into our nation, and will almost certainly echo strongly through at least the rest of this decade. Our nation might be slightly better off, though, if more of us did not compound that civic damage through a ferocious and unmanageable cultural and political squabble based on refusing to consider the reasons the other side thinks what they do with anything approaching intellectual charity and empathy.
We could, though might not ever, know the answer to every currently unanswered question about the disease’s spread, extent, and damage. We might figure out accurately the long term damage to life and prosperity the economic shutdown is causing. Even if or when we do, though, human beings of goodwill and intelligence might come to a different value judgment about what policy is best overall. Because we all have to make those tricky, very hard-to-discuss-dispassionately decisions (of a sort we have always made every day on the margins without explicit debate) about when we think it best to stop shaping policy toward the sole goal of extending every possible life. The answer either side might come to need not be condemned as based in idiotic recklessness or tyrannical fantasies.
*Doug* April.22.2020 at 11:59 am <reason.com/2020/04/21/what-each-side-of-the-covid-19-debate-should-understand-about-the-other/#comment-8222506>
What a terrible article that misses the point. You try to draw a comparison as if they both have equal credibility when they don’t. You do this by intentionally ignoring facts. Sloppy journalism. First of all for both sides to have a comparable argument they have to be supported by comparable facts which they are not.
What do we know for a fact. To start with we have never pushed social distancing and shutting down the environment at any point in the history of the country. That’s including every single previous outbreak or pandemic some of which are ignored by the press but killed 3 times as many people in this country. We were talking about this from the day the first case was reported.
We Know for a fact that the 3 largest states with the most population took polar opposite approaches to social distancing and shutting down the states with comparable number of cases. In addition if you look at any graph showing the rise in cases there is not one example where there is a dip or indent as a result of implementing these measures. That would be there if were effective. Finally there are states and nations that didn’t really do any of this with few to no cases. So we have enormous evidence and prior history that social distancing has not been pushed before nor has it been effective. That’s an empirical fact.
On the other hand we have another set of facts that are indisputable. The media has been complicit with liberals in doing anything they can to get rid of Trump. The Russia collusion which was a fake. The impeachment, another fake, Now we have a way to destroy the economy. One of Trumps greatest achievements. If that doesn’t work they are already pushing for mail in voting which would allow democrats to nullify voter id requirements in a majority of states and engage in widescale voter fraud like they did in the last election. Unfortunately when over 2000 people vote in the County of Los Angeles than actually live in the county we can no longer pretend that voter fraud doesn’t exist or pretend it’s done on both sides equally. This way they can spread the votes out across the country and not make that mistake again. A mistake the media quickly buried to cover up.
That leaves the protesters. Let’s see we already know for a fact that some of the protesters carrying nazi signs were Bernie Sanders supporters. We also saw lots of those signs used before in rallys as set ups by paid Sanders supporters to make conservatives look bad. You left that out of your story. You also left out that the “healthcare workers” and “nurses” that were standing in traffic in Colorado protesting the protesters were not nurses or healthcare workers but paid activists. I work in nursing. I can guarantee those coordinated efforts to stand in traffic in the same position with improperly worn n-95 masks was nothing but a paid stunt and I guarantee that not one of them works in healthcare. They would be fired from their jobs immediately for engaging in a political stunt like that.
I suggest you engage in some real journalism if you want to be taken seriously. This article is garbage and trying to act like they both have valid points is intellectually dishonest. When you are paying someone to stand in the street pretending to be a nurse to push a political narrative that is going to cost many people their jobs and possibly their lives then you have zero credibility. ZERO. So both sides are not credible. There are probably a small portion of people out there that don’t understand what is going on that are simply responding to being misled by the media and fake news coming out daily. The coordinated effort is to get rid of Trump. Doesn’t matter what mean they need to use. And that’s what is going on. Banning seeds to grow food? Banning being out in a boat on a lake fishing? Outrageous. We already know for a fact viruses are 5X more likely to spread when people are in closed contained area. Forcing people into small areas to contain the virus is the antithesis of common sense and intelligence. Increasing proper distancing would help but forcing people to be bottled up inside homes has accelerated the spread of the virus. That’s common sense. Something lacking throughout that appeasement article to try to make the left look less nefarious and the right look like they are over-reacting. Sorry this narrative is no less dishonest than saying that the medication to treat malaria isn’t FDA approved, has a lot of side effects, isn’t available, and won’t be able to be available for years. Exactly what CNN put into print within 4 hours of Trump talking about it. Every single comment was a knowing and outright lie. In addition to the peer reviewed professional journal going back to 2009 that said this would be the first drug to work with were there ever a corona virus pandemic. Where’s the reporting on why that study has been outright ignored. Oh that’s right, it doesn’t fit the narrative just like the pandemic we knew was coming for 3 months that killed 3 times more people. That one is always left out of every discussion. Wonder why. Fauci knew about that study but downplayed the drug because he’s only interested in vaccines at the direction of his handler Bill Gates. You know how he pushed for vaccines for HIV for over a decade while we spent little time on therapeutics. So 40 years later we found that we will never find a vaccine but we did find therapeutics that are effective. I wonder if someone other than Fauci had been steering the ship how much sooner we might have found treatments for AIDS. I wonder how many millions died for no reason while Fauci was chasing his personal love for vaccines because that was the solution. Oh yes I remember those times and I think some actual investigative journalism is in order here to see if we have a pattern. Because I think we do.

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