Commentary: It’s like sailing.
Reopening during the pandemic involves understanding water, wind, and sails, then tacking as accurately as we can toward port (protection) and starboard (profit) in turn.
Staying closed has had huge economic and social costs. Learning more about this virus helps governments chart reasonable courses – and citizens analyze risks and act prudently.
Closing was essential to “flatten the curve,” minimizing deaths and preserving health resources. Now we should be reopening. Sensibly.
We know how. We know this virus spreads mostly through the air, although surfaces also can infect us. We know that infected people are most dangerous in the 2-3 days right before symptoms start. If an infected person sneezes, coughs, shouts, or sings at you, s/he could infect you quickly. Even talking quietly across a restaurant table, we’re vulnerable to infected droplets reaching our lungs.
We know masks, physical distance, and limiting exposure to others are critical. Studies show that where most people wear masks, COVID-19 cases drop sharply. The less we go out, the less we’re face-to-face with people or in crowds, the more we wear masks and wash hands, and the fewer surfaces we touch, the better our odds to avoid getting or spreading the virus.
I wear a mask because I could endanger not just myself but my wife, my high-risk, diabetic friend, and my radio producer’s 95-year-old father. Even my dog. Protecting others ain’t unmanly! Nor is this pandemic a plot concocted by George Soros or Bill Gates.
Other countries are reopening. But in states like Florida, Texas, and Arizona, reopening has meant spikes in cases and deaths.
What stands in the way of safely re-opening theaters is that this got politicized. Donald Trump wanted nothing to do with a pandemic, so he dismissed it as a plot by the Democrats or the Chinese. None of us wanted to close down, but Trump made a political cause out of staying open – while denying the facts. That works in politics, but you can’t con a virus.
Imagine a U.S. President stating in February, “This new virus from China is highly unfortunate, but dangerous. It will spread. If we all listen to health experts, act prudently, and think as ‘We’ not ‘I,’ we’ll get through it, as Americans pulled together to get through wars and disasters.” Had that happened, tens of thousands of dead U.S. citizens would be alive today. Most of my generation would be paralyzed (or limping badly) had Trump, not Eisenhower, been president in 1955, and said polio was a Communist hoax and we could cure it by drinking Listerine. Ike said, “I’m not a scientist, but . . .”
This is not political. As Republican Senator Lamar Alexander said this week, “Unfortunately this simple lifesaving practice has become part of a political debate that says if you're for Trump, you don't wear a mask. . . . The president should occasionally wear a mask. . . [Trump has] “millions of admirers. They would follow his lead.”
Tragically, current record levels of infection and death are plaguing mostly states with Republican governors. (This week Texas imposed mandatory mask-wearing.)
I’ve been saying that Trump, not our Governor, is endangering our economic reopening. This week Goldman Sachs reported on a study showing that people not wearing masks are hurting our economy to the tune of 5% of our GNP.
City, county, and state should force businesses to require safe practices – for everyone’s good.