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Save lives or save jobs? A tough call


Trump has a valid point (I never thought I’d say that!) about the “cure” possibly being worse than the disease. I mean, shutting the whole country down for a long time is not sustainable. I expect we’ve all played this scenario out in our imaginations, and envisioned the same dire result: weeks or months from now, everything comes to a halt, and the country falls apart. That would be the apocalypse, and we don’t want it to happen.

On the other hand (there’s always “another hand”, isn’t there?), sheltering in place seems to be the only way to “flatten the curve,” as they say, and if we don’t flatten the curve, then we turn into Italy. It’s terrible that sheltering-in-place is ruining the economy, but what else can we do?

Well, we’re between the devil and the deep blue sea–between a rock and a hard place. What to do?

For one thing, we talk about it. We have a national conversation. We know what the two sides are: The healthcare people are telling us loud and clear to shelter in place. Isolate in your homes as much as possible. That’s what most of the Governors are telling us, too. Don’t leave your home except under specific conditions, like food shopping. I trust the healthcare experts; I’m not a Republican. Science is real, as many people’s front-yard signs say here in Oakland.

Then there are the economic people—the big businessmen whom Trump likes and listens to. Their argument is: Look, if we go out of business, you’re going to have an apocalypse anyway. Unemployment could go up to 25%, 30%. The service industry will simply evaporate. If you think store shelves are empty now, just wait. Eventually, the planes will stop flying, the Internet will shut down, your phone won’t work. So, the businessmen say, you, the American people via your politicians, have two choices: Either you relax these stay-at-home regulations and let people return to work, or you bail us out with hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars. And trust us to do the right thing with the money.

It’s hard knowing whom to listen to. Common sense tells me that both sides have a point. Is there a compromise in the middle we can agree to?

Maybe. One thing I heard that makes sense is: Keep the stay-at-home orders in place in the hardest-hit areas, while relaxing them in places that aren’t at high risk. This means, in effect, that the nation’s urban areas would remain under shelter-in-place until the curve flattens and begins to decline, while the rural areas could do business as usual. Urban vs. rural: Does that split remind you of another split in America? Sure it does: red states and blue states. Red states tend to be rural and Republican (and red districts are the most conservative of all). Blue states tend to be urban and Democratic, and blue counties and cities are the most liberal of all.

So that could be a possible compromise. Let Idaho stay open for business, if that’s what they want. And let places like the Bay Area, New York City and New Orleans (which I hear is about to explode in coronavirus cases) keep their stay-at-home orders, and enforce them rigorously if people don’t obey.

Beyond finding a compromise, we have to keep our eye on the prize, which is the upcoming election. I am seriously worried—and I think you may be, too—that Trump will find some reason to cancel it. It would be typical of him to find a plausible excuse—coronavirus—claim that we have a national health emergency, and that the election will “sadly” have to be postponed to some future date, which would mean, of course, that Trump would be “pulling a Putin” and remain in office longer than the Constitution allows a president to. At its most extreme and absurd (but I wouldn’t put it past him), Trump could try to prevent voting in blue “unsafe” areas, while allowing it in red “safe” areas. That would guarantee his re-election.

But November is still a long way off. The “curve” could very well flatten by then. There are reports that some scientists expect the coming warm season will slow it down. Flus normally run their course, and coronavirus, after all is said and done, is a form of the flu. The best we can hope for, then, is for this disease to begin slowing down and, eventually, stop, as it apparently has in China and South Korea.

If that happens, we’ll be able to have an election, and campaigning prior to it, without the burden of dealing with coronavirus. If Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee, and I assume he will be, even if the Democratic National Convention is postponed, he’ll have his talking points clear: Donald Trump said in February that coronavirus was a Democrat hoax. That was a lie. Donald Trump said that the number of infected Americans would soon be down to zero. That was a lie. Can you believe anything Donald Trump says about anything?

The American people, even most Republicans, know that Trump is a pathological liar. I still think that his personality is his most vulnerable point. Forget the economy; forget foreign affairs; forget immigration and climate change. People are split right down the middle on those things, but just about everyone except for the most purblind Republican can agree on Trump’s indecency and moral unfitness. That should be the central issue of the election.

  1. Bob Henry says:

    Let me use your blog to promote another blog’s “primer” on the coronavirus.

    The author is Swedish scientist David Morrison Ph.D.


    The blog: The Wine Gourd

    “There seems to be a lot of public misunderstanding about the coronavirus”


    And let me add a supplemental Q & A between David and me that addresses topics that I have not seen publicized in the mainstream print media.

    Q: If a person is “hosting” the coronavirus, but symptom-free (e.g., not coughing, not sneezing), then how does that person transmit it to someone else if s/he is not aerosolizing [a word?] the virus by expelling it from her/his lungs through the mouth (coughing) or nose (sneezing)?

    A: It can come out any time you breathe; and you cough more than you are aware of. But perhaps more common is you getting on your hands, and then leaving it on some surface, where other people pick it up.

    Q: I have not seen any print media reports stating that one’s normal breath exhalation is how a person can spread it.  Just coughing and sneezing — forcefully expelled from my lungs.

    A: It has been assumed until recently that everyone gets the disease, and therefore coughs. Now they know otherwise, that you can be infectious before you get the cough. New instructions will be forthcoming, I think.

    Q: If a person is “hosting” the coronavirus but symptom-free, spreading the virus by one’s exhaled breath, then that person is a walking-around-in-society “Typhoid Mary.”

    [“Mary Mallon, also known as Typhoid Mary, was an Irish cook believed to have infected 51 people, three of whom died, with typhoid fever, and the first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the disease.” Mary Mallon — Wikipedia]

    How long before that seemingly healthy person stops spreading the virus and disease?   From that person’s perspective, s/he is disease-free — and questions “why” s/he is not moving about in society, not working, not fully participating in life?

    A: Only until your body deals with the virus. You will eventually be virus-free. We are not sure how long that takes — days, weeks? Hence the shutdowns that last weeks. 

    This attitude among Americans is why your government has a lockdown. They have no idea whether you are contagious or not, or even whether you have had the virus or not. So, they keep you away from others, for your safety and theirs.

  2. Bob Henry says:

    According to journalist Benjamin Wittes, co-author of the book “Unmaking the Presidency,” there is no exception under our U.S. Constitution to postpone the upcoming presidential election.

    You can hear his interview on NPR show “Fresh Air.”

    Episode: “Trump Has Declared ‘War’ On The Presidency, Author Says”


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