Why social distancing and shelter-in-place must end now

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble ...

Although much is not known, we do know a lot and can make some reasonably valid assumptions. The virus is clearly trending downward nearly everywhere in terms of new cases and deaths. Whether this is due to the natural course of the virus or the social distancing and shelter-in-place measures is in dispute but most would say these have flattened the curve of new cases, as was intended. The other side of this coin is that it has also the extended the length of time it will take the virus to work through society. We know the results coming in from increasingly wide-spread testing show that the virus is more prevalent in most communities than was expected. If a vaccine is possible, one is not expected sooner than 12-18 months and there is no way to predict how effective it will be, nor for how long. We know our economy has taken a dive not seen since the Great Depression and more suddenly and severely than even then. Unemployment is at record highs. No one disputes that the current lock down of the economy cannot continue for much longer before we enter completely uncharted waters, if we have not already done so. There are costs to the current war on CV-19 that are difficult, if not impossible to quantitate, but are real none-the-less: stress due to fear and isolation, depression, anxiety, loss of hope, a financially devastated future.

Even the most ardent pessimists have come to the point where they believe we must start lifting shelter-in-place and social distancing, and allow businesses to open. The big question appears to be how quickly. I have a simple answer: immediately and fully. None of this phase 1, 2, and 3 nonsense. Restaurants, those that have not closed and can do so, have provided take-out service which cannot remotely sustain them. Now they are told they can open but can only serve 25% of the clientele at a time. Given the small profit margin of most restaurants, this just extends the time somewhat until they can no longer survive, period. For many businesses, a partial opening is no better than staying closed; their expenses rise more than revenue when they do this. My masseuse, who is the sole provider for her family cannot yet work even though she services one person at a time in a very controlled environment. Big box stores can remain fully open, if they also sell food. Small businesses that sell only dry good, clothes, etc. cannot or are severely restricted. The inconsistencies and hypocritical determinants regarding what is essential and what is not are legion.

We are not going to have definitive answers to many of the questions regarding CV-19 for months, perhaps years. We cannot remain in this economically shriveled, socially paranoid state for much longer before we will find ourselves in a country that is no longer the United States of America. The time to restore normalcy is now. We need to do so fully and immediately. We know enough to protect those most vulnerable. And, yes, we need to expect there will be a “surge” of cases, and deaths, from CV-19 if we do this. The alternative, however, is unimaginable and the number of lives lost if our country crashes economically will make the CV-19 numbers pale by comparison.

I am not going to live my life behind a mask, in fear of my neighbors and community, shunning human contact, or worrying about what will happen if I am one of those who contract CV-19.

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