aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

A good first step is only one step

The current strategy for dealing with the Wuhan virus is, first, prevention. Prevention will not stop the spread of the virus; it will only slow down the rate of transmission, preventing medical facilities from being overwhelmed and buying us time to develop treatments. And when those treatments come on line? There is no second step being discussed. People are talking about locking down the country for months. If they try that, there will be civil unrest on top of economic disaster. There has to be a second step, and some idea of when to go there.

But people will die! Yes, they will. People will die, anyway. If that sounds callous, let me remind you of a previous crisis and the controls it spawned. After the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s, the feds lowered the speed limit on federal highways to 55 mph. Then they coerced the several States into all lowering the speed limit everywhere to 55. This was done to save gas. But after the crisis of supply was over, the gummint changed its tune. Now, driving 55 was advocated/mandated in order to save lives.

The people would not have it. They were told that each 5 mph above 55 equated to so many deaths in road accidents. Nope. Irrelevant. The people wanted to drive at the speeds the roads were built to accommodate, not some artificially imposed speed. But it would save lives! Yeah, well, in that case, why not impose a 45 mph speed limit? No answer. And so, slowly, exceptions started to be made at various points until finally, the whole attempt to hold Americans' speed down failed. No mention of how many have died in the years since in road accidents is ever given. The people knew the cost (in lives) and it was acceptable to them.

Even in WW2, stringent controls were accepted only so long as danger could be shown to be imminent, or only while the sense of "supporting the boys in uniform" could be sustained. Blackout rules in coastal cities could be sustained while danger from German U-boats was at its height; within a year or so, the U-boat danger was largely over, and blackout rules began to be ignored. After the surrender of Germany, the public was in jubilation mode. They wanted to cut loose. If we had had to invade Japan -- at a projected 1 million casualties -- I think you would have started to see electoral upheaval and/or protests, like those which accompanied the wars in Korea and Vietnam.

What is the second stage, after temporarily restraining the people from contact with each other? Restating "but this will save lives (and keep hospitals functioning)" only gets you so far. It is not a sufficient refutation of what I'm saying here. There needs to be a second stage.

At some point, the Wuhan virus is going to become endemic in society. it's already here. We are in a race to discover, first, treatments, and second, vaccines. We also await ramped-up production of medical necessities. All these things are coming on line: we hear the first news of victories on these fronts, from around the world. We're a long way from having the means in hand to control (not simply, prevent) the virus, but we're getting there.

We need to concentrate our protection upon the most vulnerable, and prioritize their treatments when infected. But we need to let the rest of the population go about their business, earning their several livings, going back to school, etc. But they'll share the virus! Yes, they will. They were going to, anyway. The best you can hope for is to buy some time to prepare for the next stage. But if all we do is try to prolong the strategy for the first phase, we will wreck the country, and STILL have the virus among us.

We are stuck on stupid.

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