Sorry, “Let’s Let Granny Die” Is A Straw Man

Sorry, “Let’s Let Granny Die” Is A Straw Man March 27, 2020; Felipe Esquivel Reed / CC BY-SA (

So earlier today, I dropped off my first batch of fabric face masks to the assisted living community where my parents live, and thought about the fact that, only a bit over a year ago, they were living in their longtime home, going out to restaurants or getting take-out, going out to the grocery store, and so on.  How much less are they at risk of COVID-19 because they now have their meals prepared for them and no longer need to (or are able to) run errands?  How much more are they at risk because they are dependent on the staff following proper precautions and not themselves being unknowingly ill?

I don’t know.

At the same time, there’s a lot of outrage about suggestions that the country be “opened back up” as a sort of anti-life “kill granny” euthanasia.

Guess what?

I don’t really think people preferring a shorter to a longer shut-down really want granny to die.

Behind the accusations being slung one way and the other, there are different underlying assumptions about facts, aren’t there?

In the first place, the generic “open back up” approach is paired with a separate assumption:  “protect granny by keeping her isolated from the infected.”  Some folks have suggested that individuals who have recovered, and are therefore not at a result of unknowingly infecting others, be recruited to care for the elderly, whether directly or by means of providing their food deliveries, etc.  Others have suggested developing and mass manufacture/use of blood tests for antibodies, to identify and clear as “safe” those who were infected without even knowing it.

Is this feasible?  Would people who know for certain they cannot infect others heed a call to help?  Would charities or government agencies have the capacity to organize this?  Are too many grannies living with younger family members with nowhere else to go?  It seems highly improbable that the logistical issues could be overcome.

What are the actual numbers of “immune by prior infection” people walking around?   We don’t have any idea at this point.

Secondly, there are real costs to a shut-down of the economy that go beyond the ability of upper middle class folk to enjoy a night on the town, or the impact of a recession on President Trump’s likelihood of re-election.

People who are of low income are more likely than others to be in ill health.  We might say “that’s irrelevant because that can be solved by expanding healthcare and providing social welfare benefits more generously rather than by keeping people in the workforce” but all the wishing in the world can’t undo the reality that a more prosperous economy can better provide for not just the material luxuries but the basic needs and well-being of its people.

At the same time, there is no simple math that says, “here are the excess deaths that would be caused by a recession.”  (Well, maybe there is some math, in some economist’s paper somewhere, but I’m guessing there are probably a truckload of such papers with contradictory answers.)

Anti-domestic violence advocates worry that victims who had not previously been able to leave their abusers will suffer all the more.  Child victims won’t have teachers to act as mandated reporters.

On the other hand, the paper reported the other day that car crashes are down, freeing up more hospital beds for covid patients.

Addicts in recovery have lost access to their 12-step meetings.

At the same time, heavy drinkers have lost access to bars (but are they drinking even more at home?).

How do you tally all this up?

Churches which can’t hold services are making pleas for people to mail in their offering.  But how many of our “spiritual service providers” will be unable to manage a long shut-down?

In Illinois, “mental health providers” are deemed an “essential service” — but pragmatically, will everyone still be able to access services?

Around here, the “PADS” homeless shelter (which rotates from church to church in the suburbs) has been shut down; will efforts to house the guests in hotel rooms work?

And let’s not forget concerns that a shut-down that lasts too long will result in people simply refusing to obey orders.

Oh, and, finally, some people have speculated that in order to reduce cases as much as remotely possible, schools will have to remain closed not just for the rest of the year, but into the fall.  In a worst-case scenario, for how long do children go without instruction?

Now, that being said, it may well be that some of the people being quoted as wanting to “open up the country” really do want to kill granny, or are indifferent to granny dying.  There are always Three Cooters, after all.  But I’d recommend rereading the quote that you’re outraged about and asking whether there’s another way of interpreting it.


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