Officials are Looking at the Wrong Criteria for Reopening Businesses During Coronavirus Pandemic
We need cleaning supplies and masks, not scientific models, to defeat Covid-19
May 18, 2020
On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he would conditionally allow the reopening of certain types of businesses in the state. Since March 19, only "essential" businesses have been allowed to remain open. The lockdown order plunged 3.4 million Californians into unemployment as most business outlets closed their doors.
Newsom cited the necessity for testing and contact tracing for the coronavirus as a condition for reopening so-called low-risk businesses. On both local and national levels, leaders have been citing the need for "science" to dictate the rate and quantity of reopening. Pulling out graphs of projected infection curves and touting the benefits of recording the location and movements of every citizen, officials would have us believe they have a way to control the spread of the virus.
They do not.
And they aren't using science, either, as much as they claim they are. So far, every expertly created model of how this virus was going to spread through the population has been wrong, one after another. Infection rates were wrong, infectiousness was wrong, death rates were wrong. The hard truth is nobody knows much about this virus; new articles from highly certified experts blast different and often contradictory information every day.
Testing for COVID-19 is not very useful in stopping the spread, either. The only way tests could be useful is if they were cheap enough to do at the door of every venue and instantaneous. Otherwise, a negative result means absolutely nothing. Later that day, the person testing negative could be exposed to the virus and then spread it to others.
As for contact tracing, this is will not be effective in stopping the spread of the virus. Only a minority of the 39 million people in the state are going to be tested. The virus may easily be carried by those who do not end up tested. So any contact tracing, assuming it is possible, would only be done on the few people who get tested and end up with a positive result. All of those other asymptomatic carriers of the virus will continue to infect others.
But let's say we could test everyone in the state. Could we test them all on the same day? I don't think so. So the people who are testing negative near the beginning of this program could easily end up exposed to the virus after their test. The idea that one could then contact trace them after discovering a friend of theirs tested positive later on in the program assumes a tracing method so accurate and global and with such perfect compliance from the public that it surpasses belief. But if one did believe in it, one could hardly support any system so vulnerable to Big Brother abuse.
The hard truth is this virus will continue to spread through California and the rest of the world until nature or some as-yet-undiscovered human method kills it. The idea that we can or should cower in our homes until this indeterminate event is absurd. It may never happen. Or it may take 15 years, as it did for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. In fact, we still cannot kill HIV but can only manage its effects.
Therefore, we need to figure out how to resume our lives alongside coronavirus.
We all need to work, to produce, and to earn the money to feed and shelter ourselves. The government cannot provide that money - not for 15 months let alone 15 years. In fact, the government only has money to dole out because of our work and productivity.
Rather than looking at infection curves and flattening slopes, officials should be looking at the availability of protective equipment, masks, and sanitizing supplies. It isn't only front-line health care workers who need these, though they certainly take priority when such supplies are scarce. But if the rest of us don't want to contract this disease, we need to have the provisions necessary to protect ourselves from it.
But the shelves of stores are bare when it comes to cleaning supplies: bleach, hand sanitizer, soap, and other disinfectants. The only masks that are available are non-medical grade. Even these will be snapped up once we all need them on a more regular basis as we encounter potential virus-carriers.
The real criterion for opening the economy is ensuring the supply of these now-scarce provisions and equipment. We need a steady supply of medical-grade masks and disinfecting materials and equipment.
We all need to leave our homes again. We need to engage in the necessary interactions with other people that lead to the economic activity that will keep us sheltered, fed, and doctored. But we shouldn't be asked to do so in some stupid fashion, without adequate masks and without enough soap to wash our hands.
No amount of testing is going to keep us safe from coronavirus. A medical-grade mask per day and a bar of soap will go a lot further.