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Thoughts on COVID-19
The first thing to say here is that I am neither a doctor nor a health or disease expert in any sense, but there is obviously a political aspect to this virus and that makes it worth discussing here I think.
For my part, I don't believe a draconian response from the U.S. government, or any level of government, is necessary or possibly even the best response to this pandemic. Economist Per Bylund has gone into great detail in a Twitter-thread explaining why a top-down approach to managing this crisis is not the best response.
There are some very disturbing calls for quick fix "solutions" following the reporting of how countries have and have not handled the COVID19/Coronavirus.
It is now about how contagious or dangerous the virus actually is, which is not my expertise, but the typical and dangerous misunderstanding of the supposed efficiency of hierarchy and, therefore, the effectiveness of control societies, authoritarian rule, and dictatorial regimes.
To put it simply, the claim is that China "handled it right," was able to do something acting fast and forcefully, and, by implication, that open societies are impotent to threats and fundamentally fragile. But this is exactly wrong. This misconception arises out of a common but fundamental misunderstanding of social organizing (such as society, markets, etc)...
There is some limited truth to the argument that a centralized power can act faster and more forcefully (that is, brutally and without respect for individual or groups of people), but it is based on embarrassingly ignorant assumptions. To be true, it requires that the regime, those in power, have the correct information and act in the best interest of society. Those are not simply exaggerated assumptions, but are in fact never true.
The failures of the Chinese regime, the Italian regime, the Trump regime, and even the CDC at containing the spread of the virus in their respective countries and throughout the rest of the world should be apparent at this point, lending credence to Bylund's argument.
That said, I do believe this is a genuine crisis. I don't believe the World Health Organization was incorrect in labeling the current situation a pandemic, and nor do I think that their advice is bad.
We must stop, contain, control, delay and reduce the impact of this virus at every opportunity. Every person has the capacity to contribute, to protect themselves, to protect others, whether in the home, the community, the healthcare system, the workplace or the transport system.
It seems clear that it's up to individuals, businesses, churches, and various groups and organizations to take the necessary measures to stop the spread of the virus as much as possible. Washing your hands with soap on a regular basis and using hand-sanitizer in between washes is an absolute must, but avoiding any unnecessary exposure to people in geneeral is just as important. Short of literal self-quarantining, unless you're exhibiting symptoms of illness, even so much as going to the store should be avoided. Stock-up on the essentials that you need and then stay away as much as possible, don't go out to restaurants, to movies, to parties, or anything. It would also be wise to not host friends or extended family at your home at this time.
If you must go out to the store for essentials, send only one person from your family to get what's needed and then they should immediately sanitize before they get home and wash with soap when they do arrive home. This may seem drastic, but given the ease with which this virus spreads we can't be too careful.
Best practice for many businesses would be that they simply close and have their employees work from home where possible, but this is, unfortunately, not possible for all of them. If they must remain open then the number of people allowed in should be strictly limited to essential personnel only, and employees should sanitize their work stations several times per day. I work in health care and am trying to convince my employer to ban our field-staff from coming into the office, and telling everyone to spray disinfectant regularly and wipe their desks down at least every three hours.
Churches, schools, sports, and other extracurricular organizations should simply shutdown for the foreseeable future.
Again, this may seem like overkill, even rude, but for those of us with family members who would suffer more than the average person if they contracted COVID-19, this is the bare minimum that's necessary to keep them safe and to stop the spread of this virus in general.
I am not prone to overreaction in the face of outbreaks like swine flu, bird flu, SARS, or what have you, but this COVID-19 pandemic seems to be at another level compared to those. It seems to be far more viral than any of those, and the fact that symptoms can manifest days or even weeks after a person becomes contagious to others is of particular concern. You simply don't know who may be contagious at this point.
Unfortunately, the best thing for everyone to do right now is to simply avoid one another to the maximum extent possible.