In the local news: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has extended the stay-at-home order from its original end date of April 30, until a new date of May 31, with some small modifications: some state parks will reopen to hiking, fishing, and boating; some golf courses will re-open; greenhouses, garden centers, nurseries, and pet groomers will be deemed “essential”; some elective/nonemergency medical procedures will now be permitted; and non-essential retailers will be permitted to take telephone/online orders for outside pickup or delivery. But at the same time, a face-covering requirement has been added, and “essential” stores will now be required to limit the number of customers in the store at any given time. And even the permission for fishing and boating is very narrowly-defined: only two people in a boat, with no apparent exception for family members. Also still unclear to me at this point: will dental procedures be possible as a sub-type of “medical procedure”? Will libraries be able to provide curbside pick-up as a form of “retailer”?
(The dental procedure is of particular relevance to me because (a) Mom needs a dental procedure which is not strictly speaking an emergency but does meaningfully affect her well-being and (b) my kid has been anxious to move closer to getting his braces off.)
At the same time, being outdoors, getting exercise – that’s important to one’s health, and being cooped up will harm one’s health. That’s clear in the long term. Will it affect one’s susceptibility to COVID-19, or the severity of an infection? I don’t know. But it does trouble me when elected officials, worried about too many people congregating in open spaces, simply shut them down entirely, as is the case now with six of the forest preserves in Cook County. (For non-Chicago readers, “forest preserve” is the label the Chicago area gives to its large county park system; elsewhere, these are just “county parks.” They have walking/biking paths, picnic groves, sledding hills, and the like rather than merely being, as their name implies, sites to preserve forests. It’s a bit like “currency exchanges,” which it took me a while to figure out are the label the Chicago area gives to the businesses which provide check-cashing, money orders, utility payments, and other banking services, rather than actually exchanging currency.)
The way this is expressed on twitter is that this is a variation of “the beatings will continue until morale improves,” and I know that’s not quite the right analogy, but it sure as heck seems counter-productive.
I continue to be somewhere in the middle — knowing that we simply can’t resume business as usual, but that it is reasonable and appropriate to worry about the economic consequences of these actions, and know that somewhere along the way, this has to be factored in. In particular, with respect to the new Illinois order, it has me very frustrated that the governor extended the order for a whole further month, rather than a smaller length of time, with the possibility of yet further extensions. And when I say “frustrated” I mean not that I’m about to start waving my Gadsen flag at the state capitol, but that it has really affected me today.
And again, this is not about sacrificing granny so my family can go to a baseball game. I find myself asking, “how did the disputes about re-opening become partisan?” — that is, rather than opinions on the extremity of the shut-down being spread across partisan lines. And part of it seems to be a matter of red/rural areas more impacted by the shut downs even with few or no COVID cases. But I presume that a part of it is also a greater degree of confidence by “blue” folk that the government has the ability to meet Americans’ basic needs by turning on the money spigot for as long as it lasts, and by restarting the economy afterwards. But I worry — a lot — that this confidence is woefully misplaced, that it simply is not possible for central planners to adequately define what is and isn’t an “essential” and that we’ll find that a lot of things classified as unneeded will prove, in their absence, to have serious consequences, in a “for want of a nail” sort of way.
Here’s one small example: “how many Americans will die because cancer screenings aren’t happening?” That’s the title of an article at The Federalist. But there are so many effects that go beyond simply the loss of any one job. (And yes, regarding unemployment, I’m now seeing increasing numbers of reports that employers can’t rehire employees, PPP loans in hand, because those workers refuse to return to work, due to the $600/week extra unemployment benefit.)
Is this a “Republican” reaction? Am I bad? Do I want granny to die? No. But neither do I have any confidence that our elected officials — yes, including Trump, but also locally — are making sound decisions.
Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AJ.B._Pritzker_speaks_to_the_Evanston_chapter_of_Action_for_a_Better_Tomorrow_IMG_2370_(cropped2).jpg; By SecretName101 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Yes, there are probably better Public Domain pics of Prizker now that he’s governor; oh, well.