The Lost Month

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In these parts, our governor has been doing the two week thing. Well we’ll close everything for two weeks and then look again. And, as each two deadline passed with no good news, the period was extended. Guess he finally got sick of pretending like we’d be able to open up sooner and now the potential date is May 1. We shall see.

But it is clear that this is going to be a summer like no other. If there is a baseball season, it will be strange and compacted and played in different places. I strongly suspect that the restriction on big gatherings will not be lifted by early July so I’d guess that our typical plans will change. Who knows about any vacations.

And this will likely stretch into fall disrupting the football season as well. I’d be shocked if there was a college football season this year. You are going to have colleges taking different approaches and some are already talking about on line classes this fall. Hard to justify having a stadium full of people if you won’t let the students come to smaller classes. Again, we shall see but I’m not going to be shocked if these things happen.

If the dance studios are allowed to reopen, I suspect it will also be like it was right before we shut down. Limited to private lessons with no group classes or parties. Events like Showcase in May are certainly gone.

And, look, I’m well aware that this are first world problems when people are still getting sick and others have lost their jobs. This isn’t about complaining or suggesting that things need to be opened quicker. I’ve been burned by my optimism bias so I’m trying to re-calibrate.

I will say that what little news I do watch is depressing for a lot of reasons. In the simplest of terms, everyone wants to make this out as science vs business. Either you believe the scientists and doctors and other experts and keep things shut down until we have a virus. Or you believe the economists who say that we need to start turning things on again because there is a cost (in human lives) to keeping things shut down.

There is of course the civil liberties argument and government overreach and all that to be considered.

The problem is that so many are quick to judge and refuse to even listen to another point of view. And, I’ve found that trying to engage people with closed minds is not helpful. So I just come here to spout my “can’t we all just get along” to the world.

Not to generalize but many of the strongest defenders of “science” in my social circles are those who have jobs. I’ll freely admit that this whole shut in thing sucks but it mostly an inconvenience for me and I’d dare say for anyone who still has a consistent paycheck. If you are able to get your needs met and don’t get driven crazy by the isolation, then it is really easy to come down on the “stay sheltered until we are completely safe” crowd.

But what if your place of business has closed? There’s a bakery we shop at from time to time (they make dog cookies) and they’ve been closed since early April. For the people who work there, there is economic uncertainty in addition to the whole virus thing. For people working at home, the end means you just go back to working in the office. If your job vanished, then is it coming back? That’s a whole different level of stress. Yes, there are support systems but how long can you count on those? So can’t we understand why some people may not be on board with shutting down forever.

As someone smarter than me pointed out, a lot of the people writing newspaper articles about why we should stay in lock down are still getting paid. Maybe that gives them a built in bias to that side of things.

I’m not going to get deeply into the politics of the whole thing but there do certainly are places where the leaders seem to be enjoying their new found power. And places where it almost feels like they are trying to make life as miserable as possible for the people who live there.

And there is something else that probably isn’t being factored into the equation. We’ve all seen what has happened in New York City. The news reports of the situation were beyond grim. If you think that the rest of the country could end up like that, then you certainly want to err completely on the side of caution.

But the rest of the country is not New York City. For example, in my state, we’ve had a large number of cases but the hospitals have not been overwhelmed. To illustrate the point, our paper had a story about a hospital on the front lines here with the headline something like it being quiet now but it may not last. Almost like the headline writer was rooting for things to get bad so they’d have something to cover.

So if you are living in a place where there have been even fewer cases and the medical system is not overwhelmed, isn’t is possible that you might start thinking this isn’t as big of a problem. And that the more immediate need is to get back to work and start making a paycheck.

It does probable come down to how much faith and trust you put in the experts and their models. They were way off but is that truly because of our month of social distancing or is it because they made some bad assumptions about how the virus spreads and how deadly is it. Isn’t it also possible that New York City presented a unique set of circumstance – high population density, lots of people commuting in close quarters – that aren’t replicated in other places. Does the most severe solution really apply across the country?

At this point, two things seem clear. First, this thing is deadly to certain groups and we should be taking steps to protect high risk people. Secondly, large gatherings are not a good idea (think Mardi Gras and the subsequent problems in Louisiana). Could you open restaurants but limit how many people they could seat? Could you open hair salons if everyone wore a mask?

I don’t know. I have lots of questions and no good answers. But we are going to get something like a controlled study here in the US in the next month or so. Certain states are going to open. Others won’t. We’ll see what happens. It would just be nice if we could try to understand the other point of view. There are no easy answers here.

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