It’s been a few weeks since I’ve blogged about the pandemic. My past blogs were pretty focused. This blog is more a general “check-in” with the current state of affairs, first and foremost here in Washington state where I live. But the situation is the same many other places in America.
The regular media (mainstream newspapers and news site) are awash with reports of “skyrocketing Covid cases.” There is generally a tone of shock and alarm at this “2nd Wave”, though I’m not sure why it’s coming as such a surprise. What concerns me, as before, is the official government response. With a few adjustments, the Washington state government is rewinding the clock to spring, and trying the lockdown approach again. Businesses and families returned (albeit masked up) to their daily affairs in June with a sense of progression and hope. But now we are seeing the true face of the political response. We aren’t progressing. This is a long-term reality. And the decision is being made for us. This is how we are going to live as long as one statistic, the number of positive cases-as-tested, occasionally goes back up from some lower point.
There are so many things wrong with what is going on and so many objections that it’s really hard to know where to start. So I guess the points laid out below constitute a laundry list of things that I need to unpack and discuss in future blogs. But I think there’s value in throwing out this list now because it could help raise questions that all of us need to be asking and attacking with fervor. I don’t have all the answers. But here’s the list, in no planned order:
- Why are City governments in Washington State, Chambers of Commerce, professional organizations and private medical institutions like UW Neighborhood Clinics immediately acquiescing to, passing on, and rubber stamping unprecedented restrictions on all of our collective social, economic, and medical exchanges and interactions coming from the office of one elected official (Governor Jay Inslee)? (When, for one, they know this is forcing businesses to shutter for good in their home communities.)
- Allowing a huge number of businesses to be deemed non-essential and forced to cease operations, with no legal recourse, sets a terribly frightening precedent for life in America. Any time the government judges that your business needs to be closed, they can demand this, and you are expected to do so, regardless of the economic consequence to your family. Meanwhile other businesses can stay open like normal.
- If the end goal is worthy, then any Means to that End is acceptable. You can’t argue with or object to new restrictions on our freedom because the goal is saving lives and we are following science. Giving up freedoms is acceptable and it is demanded, because the goal is morally beyond reproach. (Don’t worry it’s only short-term. It will only be for 6 weeks until the end of April 2020. But wait a second…. it’s November 2020 and we’re about to start a whole new lockdown…)
- If you can argue convincingly and passionately that the government approach is NOT saving lives like promised, or isn’t following science…well that doesn’t matter either. YouTube will take down your video, and Facebook will block your post. Because censorship is also (now) — in America — an acceptable means to the End.
- The approach the Governor is following isn’t even realistically strategic. We have been in some form of restriction since March. A vast, vast majority of the people I see wear masks in all public situations, and tend to go above and beyond what “science” has said they need to do (e.g. wearing masks while hiking or jogging alone). If the Governor spent two minutes reading the comments on his social media feeds he would have to concede and recognize that there are ALWAYS going to be people in this state who will choose to not comply with his directives. It is also clear there is no intention, generally, to enforce his restrictions. So if he (or any other government official) is ACTUALLY concerned about beating coronavirus through intervention, they would get smart and strategic and realize throwing out edicts from on high is not going to do it.
- The real purpose of the government restrictions (if you accept the aforementioned argument) is one or more of the following: a) to lay blame… i.e. create a narrative that the perpetuation of the pandemic is chiefly the fault of those who choose not to comply (and that those who don’t comply are failing to do so not because of any ideological or conceptual concern but because of ignorance that can be fixed through public shaming or coercion), and therefore not the fault of those in power b) to advance some sort of hidden agenda (I’m not going there right now…but I sympathize with those who feel drawn to conspiratorial theories in the face of such dogged wanton destruction of our economy and our principles of freedom)
- The government, both local and national, has had almost nine months to address the pandemic. Instead of treating everyone as potential carriers and restricting everything, the focus could and should have been on maximizing testing and maximizing statistical knowledge. Test everyone in society regularly so you would actually know who to quarantine. Trace specific cases to specific locations and activities and create a massive, publicly available, data map to help understand — based on science! — what is risky and what is not. If the answer is “that’s too hard”, tell that to businesses like mine that have had to work 25% more hours for 30% less pay just to adapt and keep their necks above water. If the answer is “that’s too expensive”, let’s see how expensive playing Russian roulette with the economy turns out to be over the next decade. Handling the pandemic with lockdowns and universal restrictions is pretty much like saving the village from a marauding cougar by exploding a thermonuclear device in the village square. Sounds medieval, not scientific.
- All of the above is powerful stuff, but it doesn’t even get down to the most basic facts. Let’s get back to that headline: “skyrocketing cases!” I expect this kind of attention-grabbing hysteria from the media because they have a product to sell and advertising space to collect revenue on. But I demand better out of my leaders, especially when businesses and childhoods are at stake. The reality is we have never known how many ACTUAL cases there are, because we haven’t tested everyone. The headline is statistically meaningless because known cases (based on testing) are always a portion of actual (unknown and known) cases. You shouldn’t inhibit and prejudice freedoms based on an arbitrary principle of “essential” versus “non-essential” anyway, but you especially shouldn’t do it based on an incomplete picture of a disease. And even if you give the “skyrocketing cases” a logical pass, the hard number of deaths and hospitalizations remains very close to as low as it was in the summer of 2020… so the missing statistic is that as a percentage of cases, the death rate and the hospitalization rate is actually going DOWN. This is the “reality” to which our governor appeals as the “most dangerous day in our history.” You don’t need conspiracy theories to object to this. You only have to look on the King County, Washington COVID dashboard and you’ll see that the only dangerous thing is this kind of unfounded hyperbole coming from the lips of American leadership, with its concomitant attack on our communities, our families, our children’s happiness and opportunities and our local business life.