Our Coronavirus Strategy Has Been All Wrong. We Need To Change It.

The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Do you remember March 11, 2020? It was nearly 250 days ago as of this writing, and that was a day that marked the beginning of the nightmare we are in. On that day, the NBA canceled their season, The World Health Organization declared COVID 19 a pandemic, Tom Hanks tested positive for COVID-19, and Trump banned travel from Europe. This day was the day that changed our lives, and our response since that day has been a series of kneejerk reactions, unecessary panic, and incompetence. We need to change our strategy. Now. We are facing exponentially increasing spread combined with exponentially increasing tiredness of corona restrictions (pandemic fatigue.) We have been dealing with COVID restrictions for eight months now, and we need to get away from the continuous on/off lockdowns and to something that makes sense from a public health and economic stand point. I’m not saying we revert to a herd immunity strategy, as we appear to be quite close to a vaccine, but we need to change our approach away from the constant threat of lockdowns to something that is more of a balance. I hope that you enjoy this article, as I lay out what we’ve done wrong with regards to COVID, and then I will discuss how we can formulate a new strategy for the months ahead.

The National Lockdowns in March May Have Been A Mistake

After China and Italy locked down, the United States had a kneejerk reaction to do the same in March. It’s true that in some parts of the country, COVID was spreading like crazy. However, at that point of time, COVID wasn’t actually widespread at all. Hospitals were only at capacity in a few areas of the country (NYC Metro Region, SE Michigan, and some parts of the Northwest). It’s important to note, that part of the reason we locked down is that we didn’t know where the virus was as there was a lack of testing. If we had a competent government, testing would have been widely avaliable in February. In South Korea, they quickly activated their virus response after January 20th, and had widespread testing in order to know where the virus was. This allowed them to quickly contain the virus, and avoid economic harm. The United States missed that opportunity, as we didn’t have widespread testing. However, even though we didn’t have the best testing at the time, decisionmakers here should have paid more attention to hospital data and only instituted local restrictions and not done a lockdown on a nationwide scale. In many areas of the south and west, there were few covid cases and even fewer hospital beds taken up by covid patients. Having a national lockdown in March was a foolish mistake, as we should have utilized the strategy that Vietnam and South Korea have utilized. Local lockdowns, publicly avaliable contact tracing, and proper health communication. The mistake of a nearly two month long national lockdown caused a nationwide mental health crisis, a nationwide economic crisis, and a nationwide overdose crisis. The cost a nationwide lockdown was immense and will have effects lasting for generations. It didn’t have to be this way. We should have thought smarter, and not had such a knee-jerk reaction.

New York City Empty During COVID Shutdown

In areas where hospitalization was low we should have just encouraged everyone to wear a mask and told people to stay home if they choose. This strategy would likely cause some modest increase in spread, however, it would likely keep many at-risk people at home. Also, it was clear to many in March that MASKS DID WORK! However, the CDC said that they should be “reserved for healthcare workers only” which made literally no sense as people could have made their own. Nevertheless, we could have approached the pandemic while addressing both public health and the economy. In February, instead of saying that the virus would never arrive here, we should have built a massive contact tracing apparatus like Vietnam did. We should of done localized restrictions. For example, Vietnam implemented a lockdown in the city of Son Loi Commun (population 10,000) on FEBRUARY 13TH due to evidence it was a hotspot. It is true that Vietnam had a brief nationwide lockdown for about two weeks, however, that was far shorter than the USA’s nearly two month long plus nationwide lockdown (initally health experts said our lockdown would only be two weeks, remember “two weeks to flatten the curve???”). Having a more targeted approach would have been more efficent in addressing the virus, and likely wouldn’t have caused as much pandemic fatigue. Lockdowns are deadly as well, and they should have only been used with a far more targeted approach. Not even on the state level, on the county and city level of precision.

Should we revert back to lockdowns? No.

After reading my long rant about localized lockdowns, you’re probably wondering if we should institute lockdowns again. The simple truth is that no targeted measure would work anymore, as the virus is so widespread now. Our only opportunity to do targeted control was back in March/April when the virus wasn’t nearly as widespread as it is now. Furthermore, back in March/April the virus was localized in a few different places. At this point, targeted measures would do next to nothing, as the ever increasing pandemic fatigue means only about 40–45% of the populace would comply with pandemic measures, and the virus is everywhere so there’s nothing to target. The cost of a 2nd lockdown (even if localized at this point) likely outweights the cost of increased spread. Instead of reverting back to lockdowns, we should continue to increase hospital capacity, invest in a robust contact tracing system, and continue encouraging basic health measures. Furthermore, the United States needs to stop closing schools. In Europe, they have kept schools open even as the virus has surged there recently. Most of the data so far shows that schools aren’t major superspreaders, and in-person learning is essential to a child’s development. We don’t need to stay inside until a vaccine arrives. In order for our sanity to continue, we need to strike a balance.

In Conclusion

To sum everything up, I belive our pandemic approach is too focused on instituting lockdowns and not enough on common sense. If we had a common sense approach since the very beginning, we would have been able to limit both the damage to our economy and the spread of the coronavirus. Since we didn’t have a common sense approach at the beginning, now we are in a situation with rapidly climbing case counts with more and more people sick of the ro. At this point, lockdowns won’t work as there will be mass non-compliance. We made a terrible mistake of acting like a deer in headlights early on in the pandemic. We should have taken a more heterodox approach that kept our social lives relatively intact, kept our economy intact, and contained COVID. We are at the point where lockdowns make little sense, and instead we should invest on a wide ranging public contact tracing system, and continue to encourage mask usage until a vaccine arrives. We should also not completely cut off our contact with other people. It’s probably fine to see a friend once a in awhile, as that’s also an important part of our health. Just avoid the large gatherings. If we strike a down the middle approach, pandemic fatigue will subside, and more people will probably be willing to follow the rules. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

I would encourage all to read this article on Vietnam’s approach, as it represents what I wish our COVID approach was. If Vietnam can do it, then surely the United States of America can. Vietnam Article

-Nathan Clark

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Nathan Clark

Nathan Clark

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Political junkie. I am left leaning, and believe in electing Democrats up and down the ballot.