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You’re Probably Going to Disagree with My Take on the Coronavirus Lockdowns

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Posted: Apr 21, 2020 6:00 AM
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You’re Probably Going to Disagree with My Take on the Coronavirus Lockdowns

Source: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Fair warning, you're probably going to disagree with my take on the Wuhan coronavirus lockdowns. As more and more people start to say "enough" to the economic shutdown that has left some 30 million people unemployed, I'm not so eager to jump on that bandwagon. 

I'm also not in the "we need to be in quarantine for 18 months" camp either. It's a debate between an acceptable rate of loss for re-opening the nation right now, coupled with a corollary about liberty and slavery. Clay Travis put it bluntly here:

Still, gun to my head, yes, I support the lockdowns in order to contain the spread and prevent our hospitals from being overrun. Yes, I'm nervous about the re-opening of the country, even gradual, because I know there will be areas of re-infection.

We don't have a vaccine yet. And until we do, there will be some activities that will take longer to get back to a sense of normalcy. Sporting events and concerts are two areas that I think we won't be able to attend until the Fall of next year. At the same time, I know in four-to-six weeks, maybe sooner, there will be some businesses that will be wiped out. Families' economic futures shattered. Some mom and pop stores with rich histories will be swept into the dust bin. I hate it. It's the reason why people should stay the hell home. The sooner we can slow the spread, the sooner we can get back to normal.

The hot spots are mostly the East Coast, New York City, the greater tri-state area, and parts of New England. As we speak, there are over 750,000 Wuhan coronavirus cases. Over 36,000 Americans have died from this disease. This is highly contagious. One infected person can infect upwards of two-to-three people on average. It can live on certain surfaces for up to three days. And not everyone gets deathly ill. There are those who have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic but can spread the virus like a brushfire. There are octogenarians who survive and those who die from this virus. There are young Americans, Millennials, who also contract the virus and die from it. No one is immune, and for God's sake, yes, young children can still get infected. Do they get as sick as an adult with the virus? No. But that doesn't mean they can't spread it, which is why Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' mulling of re-opening the schools in the state is a terrible idea. Kids are messy and touch everything. Like a nursing home, someone infected with this disease could totally infest a whole school. And then, we're back to square one, as the incubation period is anywhere from five-to-fourteen days.

Yet, it seems that Americans, for the most part, have done their part in staying home. It's enough for the Trump White House, in consultation with the health experts assembled on the task force, including Drs. Deborah Brix and Anthony Fauci, to announce that at least 29 states are either ready or on the cusp of being ready to enter phase one of re-opening. The Trump administration announced the new protocols this week.

During the presser, Dr. Fauci admitted that there might be setbacks. There may be new infections that cause them to re-evaluate, but with testing and antibody tests in the works, the data can give a better targeting picture to re-deploy resources to combat new outbreaks if need be, or at least that's the hope. Slowly, states that didn't have bad outbreaks, like North Carolina, Texas, and Georgia, are starting to re-open some aspects of their state economies. I'm hoping for the best. 

Indeed, there is plenty to be positive about: American enterprise was mobilized to meet the need to personal protection equipment, General Motors is churning out ventilators, the FDA loosened some regulations to increase our testing capacity, and some clinical trials on therapeutics are in the field—and have yielded excellent results. All of this while pharmaceuticals work on a vaccine. And now we hear that the infection rate is quite higher, that hundreds of thousands of Americans might have already contracted it and recovered. Some studies show the Wuhan coronavirus being less lethal than the seasonal flu, which runs contradictory to previous reports about the disease.

Still, in a mere six weeks, this virus has killed more people than the seasonal flu for this year—and that's with social distancing in place. It could've been worse and for folks who are mad about some of the overreach we see right now, imagine the protocols enacted if the death rate was twice as high now. There is no doubt that Trump ending all incoming travel from China and Europe saved lives, along with the stay-at-home orders. And yes, stopping the spread is essential to preventing our hospitals from being overrun. They were stressed but didn't break, unlike what we saw in Italy. New York has plenty of ventilators, hospitalizations are stabilizing, and more patients are being discharged than they are being taken in for COVID-19. At the same time, New York City is nowhere near out of the woods. With most of the cases being in the Big Apple, it's going to be a long time before normal is part of the discussion there.

Yet, my position on the lockdowns is challenged by those who—shocker—are just into power grabs. It's one thing to issue stay-at-home order and, if need be, issue fines for those who disregard the rules. I'm okay with fines and misdemeanor charges being lobbed against those who break the quarantine rules, especially in hot spots. Hunker down and wait it out. Let's see where we are in 30 days. It should have been simple, but then I forgot two things: Trump is president and this is an election year.

It's no surprise at all that the most egregious overreaches come from Democratic governors. Phil Murphy of New Jersey admitted that he wasn't thinking about the Bill of Rights when he issued his Wuhan virus protocols. Gretchen Witmer of Michigan has been a trainwreck. Locally, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio even threatened to shutter places of worship permanently if they are found to violate his orders. In Champaign, Illinois, the mayor tried to ban gun and ammo sales due to the outbreak. In Colorado, a former cop was arrested in front of his daughter for violating the social distancing rules. He later received an apology for the overreach. In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, ordered police to take the license plate tags of those who went to Easter service. A part of me, which admittedly is slightly more authoritarian than my other colleagues at Townhall, is like "whatever, we need to contain this thing so we can start to re-open the economy," whereas the other side is screaming in abject anger.

As for the Trump angle, well, we have lockdown politics made even murkier by the fact that the news media is peddling shoddy stories to divert attention away from the liberal and elite Acela Corridor, which is infested with COVID-19 and the Democratic governors managing the ongoing crisis. CNN decided to say rural hotspots are popping up. No. That's fake news. But it adds to the cacophony of insanity that has erupted from this issue. It also doesn't help that those who want to end the shutdowns are a mix of patriotic, freedom-lovers who see the overreach in their states and want it to stop—ordinary people—and cranks who think the Wuhan coronavirus isn't real.

Granted, I was skeptical of the virus' impact on the country. I saw the low numbers, which soon exploded due to increased testing. And then, saw the markets crash and the stay-at-home orders get set in place to prevent a run on the hospitals. The economy was now in a dire situation. And this virus threatened President Trump's re-election more than a shoddy Russia collusion myth ever could, albeit the former is more important. I'm fortunate enough to work from home. The majority do not have that luxury, hence the legions who have filed for unemployment. We need to get going again. We need our businesses to be bustling again, people to be shopping again, and for all that is holy, give us our sports back. We couldn't do so without a lockdown—short-term pain for long-term gain.

This was a roll of the dice. I knew the risks of this, and the Democratic Party didn't disappoint with how it's treating this crisis. Now, with President Trump stating quite clearly his move to try and get those states who can back up and running again, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears to be wanting the keep the nation closed a little while longer (via WSJ's Kimberley Strassel):

Congressional Democrats are meanwhile debating their “own plan to reopen the nation,” said Politico, with legislation that would ask “each state to submit a plan” and that “would also require adequate testing and contact tracing to prevent a second outbreak.” The Washington Post reports that “Trump has been so insistent on the reopening that some officials worry only a narrow window exists to provide information to change his mind or to ensure that the effort to reopen does not significantly add to the country’s rising number of infections and deaths.”

By these standards, no lockdown may end until the Trump administration can “guarantee” a “safe” world in which people return to “normal.” The feds must stand up a testing system capable of hunting down and snuffing out each new infection. There can be no more outbreaks, and reopening cannot “significantly add” to existing counts (and the press reserves the authority to define “significantly.”) The unsaid corollary is that Mr. Trump will be held politically responsible for reopening in any way that fails to meet these baselines—on the hook for each subsequent death.

Talk about moving goal posts. A month ago, the administration announced its 15-day plan to “flatten the curve” and “slow the spread” of the virus. Examine those phrases. The goal of the shutdown was never to eradicate the disease—an impossibility absent a vaccine. The lockdown was designed to buy the health sector time, to make sure all the cases didn’t hit at once in a crush that would overwhelm hospitals, à la Italy.

My only worry is we will have a second wave of infections if we re-open too soon, even though I think states that meet the criteria set out by the Trump administration should, by all means, plan their roadmaps back to normalcy. At the same time, in Strassel's column, there's everything that's odious about the Democratic Party. Democrats are using the crisis to extend their respective governors' power grabs and want to ensure a destroyed economy so they can blame Trump. And if there is a slight uptick in infections and some deaths from the initial re-opening run, they will blame the president for that as well. It's disgusting.

It's an honest debate. On the one hand, you have to risk power grabs by the government, but you also need to have a lockdown to give our health care system some breathing room. You don't want to leave yourself open to such government overreach, but more infections and deaths mean not just a lockdown, but one whose duration would far exceed what we see now. You want to protect freedom and liberty, but know there's some aspect of security that must be considered concerning you and your family. I'm willing to reflect more, but for now—sorry, folks. I'm for the lockdowns, but I also want to end them as quickly as possible, which is easier said than done given the power-hungry ethos of a particular party that has an ass as its logo. But this is the reality. 

Maybe this was the best, worst decision in the absence of a vaccine, but I also think about the future. What precedents have we set here? I want the American economy back to full strength as safely and as quickly as possible, and that's led me to have debates among friends and colleagues that are a bit terrifying concerning how to get there in this Wuhan period. And I'm not alone.

At any rate, I'm sure you'll find Marina, Larry, and Kurt's columns on this more agreeable.