Wednesday, October 07, 2020

"How America Bungled the Plague", by Johnny Harris and the New York Times

The New York Times (Opinion) has a 20-minute short Sept. 29, “How America Bungled the Plague”, narrated and produced by the very handsome Johnny Harris.  Nicholas Kristoff and Adam Elick contribute.

The film seems to argue that America should have followed the examples of Italy, France, and Spain and locked down entirely.  He could have mentioned New Zealand.  I have argued that no large country (not even China) completely locked down this way.  In Europe, different countries had different rules (Sweden was the most lax) much as different states did here.  And European cases are coming up now, but it is true that several states had horrible spikes this summer.

It is also true that US leaders played down the threat.  As late as March 3, Di Blasio encouraged New Yorkers to go out on the town. Pence kept saying “the risk is low”.

And it is true that Bush and Obama had pandemic preparation plans that mentioned coronaviruses but that were largely ignored.

It’s also true that Trump cut down on spending on vaccine development and preparation in 2018, and Trump has himself played down the virus, as we know now from his own course with it.

With a truly draconian lockdown, my own Internet activity could not have been kept, and it could not have been brought back after the end.  I personally fared better but a lot of people in service and performing arts are wiped out. 

There is an argument, which may be workable in smaller countries like New Zealand, that if you lock down hard enough and compensate everyone to stay home for one month (even shut down “unnecessary” web and social media sites) you could bring everything back quickly because the virus “dies” during the lockdown period (two incubation period cycles minimum).

But in the long run, Sweden is turning out relatively well.

I am 77.  I am at risk.  But it is easy for me to work at home.  I do my own grocery shopping (with an N95 clone mask) and other errands and ride elevators in an apartment building every day (with mask).  I go places by car, but alone, and generally do only takeout food from drive-ups.   So far, OK. 

But this virus is like a cancer.  One person may have a very mild case (or it may still cause longhauler effects not expected even if mild), but in certain environments (indoor spread) can spread it to dozens even if asymptomatic.  The exponential infection cycle re-ignites.

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