Day 44. Surveys overwhelmingly indicate that a substantial majority of Americans prefer extended stay at home orders to a premature lifting of restrictions. Yet, it is becoming abundantly clear that over the next few weeks stay at home orders across the country will be lifted and Americans will be leaving the safety of their homes and begin the process of returning to their once normal lives; albeit with masks and some semblance of social distancing.
Unfortunately, there is no consensus among government decision makers themselves about when and how to safely accomplish the return to normalcy. Nor is there consensus among the decision makers and public health officials about the wisdom of lifting the restrictions in the near time. Consider the state of Georgia, for example, where the governor has begun lifting restrictions on many businesses while the mayor of Atlanta has clearly stated her opposition to such lifting as premature and dangerous. The same is true at the federal level. The federal government has issued guidelines for states to follow in lifting restrictions, while its top public health scientists are warning against premature easing of restrictions and the very high risk of a second wave of mass infection.
If ever there was a time when the public requires and is entitled to a singular, consistent voice and plan of action it is now. I do not envy the decision makers who must weigh the risks to public safety with the draconian economic impacts of the pandemic. While no one is quite sure what the best approach is, it should be obvious to all that the worst case for both stopping the ravages of the virus and for restoring the economy is a confused mess of inconsistent and ill timed decisions and approaches.
There is one thing worse than the price we have paid to date to flatten the curve and that is squandering the gains we have made by ill timed, poorly developed, inconsistent “plans of action”. Confusion is dangerous and in the case of Covid-19 deadly.
At the end of the day, these are hard choices with no guaranteed outcomes. Keeping the economy shut down is not sustainable. People have to feed their families. Yes, some will die. It’s unfortunate, but American soldiers died during World War II. What were we going to do, not fight back? If this was Ebola where 99% of the population would be wiped out, that’s one thing. This isn’t that.
What can I say? Every fiber in my body, mind, and heart values a life above all else. As the Talmud teaches “He who saves one life has saved a world”. Would you feel the same way if the life you were talking about was, G-d forbid, someone close to you?