The Week of Saturday, April 11 through Friday, April 17, 2020 [#39]
The Week’s Most Notable:
This week marked the beginning of public protest on coronavirus mitigation, expressing the views of those in denial and/or defiance of public health restrictions. To the casual observer, most of these gatherings to spray each other with protest seem to be candidates for the Darwin Award; that is, any problem they represent will be self-removing by COVID-19 infection. That may ultimately be true, but the glib putdown doesn’t capture the potential seriousness of their protests.
According to reports, there seem to be two approximate types of protester: Those saturated with the Trump-GOP freedom-Kool-Aid and those truly shaken by the economic crisis, many of them small business owners. They believe the prevalent travel, shopping, school, and distance restrictions are devastating the economy – and unnecessary. Most governors and epidemiologists would agree about the economy, but disagree about the necessity of restrictions. Ironically, many protesters cite lower-than-expected death rates as evidence of overreaction, missing the point that the death rates are lower because of the stringent restrictions. Even Trump recognized that if we did nothing there might be a million or more deaths, which would also destroy the economy.
For now, the protests are tiny, the cause all but absurd, and they do not represent the 60% to 80% who believe in the medical science and the need for social distancing. But what happens 4 to 6 months from now when the real pain of mass unemployment and a staggering economy produce hunger, bankruptcy, anger, and despair? By then there may be millions who want to protest and Trump will still be inciting riot. Much will depend on the ability of governors (and hopefully Congress) to cobble together a meaningful testing regime, fund enough relief, and manage expertise to weave their way out of the dual crises before a social explosion occurs.
Calls for coronavirus testing grew louder this week. From doctors to corporate execs, from non-right-wing media to congresspeople the phrase was “testing, testing, testing.” Recognition is growing that the way out of the “control the spread vs open the economy” bottleneck is to use testing – viral (who’s sick) and serum (who’s had it). The tests, combined with tracking infected people, make it possible to reopen the economy without unleashing more rounds of infection. It’s an approach several countries, notably Germany, have demonstrated. Unfortunately, Trump and Republican leaders, especially governors, quietly ignore testing; they don’t want the bad news testing often brings. Testing numbers in the U.S. are actually declining per capita. In the coming weeks, watch what dominates the narrative – an aggressive nationwide testing regime, or skip the testing and open up.
Saturday, April 11
[Coronavirus] U.S. Cases: 522,800; Deaths: 20,400 – Remember these figures do not include cases or deaths that were not tested or occurred outside of hospitals, i.e., the real numbers are higher.
[Coronavirus] First Time in U.S. History All 50 States Under Federal Emergency – Declaring a state under federal emergency makes them eligible for specific FEMA and other federal funds, so largely a no-brainer. On the other hand, 10 states still have not declared shelter-in-place (lockdown) orders.