COVID-19: Two tough choices for the future
Sometimes in life you are presented with two options, both of which are bad. One might be slightly less disruptive or destructive than the other, but neither is a path you would willingly
want to go down. This is one of those times. We have to be realistic about that and then develop strategies that mitigate the damage.
If you are a regular consumer of just about any media right now – especially social media – you’ve realized that almost everybody has an opinion on how COVID-19 can be resolved in a way that brings much less disruption than what the country is currently experiencing due to the decisions being implemented by local, state and federal government officials. Some of these commentators actually have relevant backgrounds and practical experience that lends credence to their recommendations. Most don’t have either. And don’t even get me started on the trio of Dr. Oz, Dr. Drew and Dr. Phil (for the record: not an MD).
Well OK, I’ll get started on them a bit. These three – and other – celebrity prognosticators have been proven wrong repeatedly in their predictions and highly insensitive in their opinions about who should live and who should not. Unfortunately, their voices have caused some people to question the advice that public health officials are offering – practicing safe social distancing by staying indoors and drastically limiting our previous lifestyles. That prescription – essentially shutting down a huge portion of our economy and creating 22 million unemployed people so far – has been extremely painful. It’s also been challenging as the fact that social distancing is working means you are seeing less instances of COVID-19, which makes it that much more difficult for people to understand why they needed to practice social distancing in the first place.
The combination of economic devastation and less deaths than the initial models had predicted led to protests in some parts of the country last weekend and yesterday with small, but loud, groups of people calling for everything to be reopened. People were even crowding the beaches in Florida within minutes of the state reopening them. Georgia and South Carolina are opening some things up early despite the fact that neither state meets the federal criteria for doing so.
All of this chaos and misinformation has created a situation where some people in the country are feeling like that there is a way out of our predicament that requires minimal sacrifices or at least less of a sacrifice than they have been asked to make up to now.
The harsh reality is that there is no easy way out until we see major increases in daily testing, deployment of therapeutics that are proven to work and ultimately a vaccine. Until at least the first two things happen we are left with two choices. And those two choices are bad (economic loss) and extraordinary bad (massive loss of life).
We can hope for other factors that might change all of this, like the virus disappearing in the summer, but we must be realistic and adapt to the facts in front of us. Patience and perseverance in the face of this situation is extremely difficult, but we have to stand firm.
I shared the reflection below last week and still feel like it’s where we are now at this juncture. Now is not the time to give up. It’s going to be painful, but if we support each other we can get through this together.