This won’t end well

This won’t end well May 2, 2020

More than a month ago we responded to this pandemic by shutting everything down. This hadn’t happened in more than a century, but we all (mostly) recognized that this is what we had to do, for a while, until we had the testing capacity to identify and isolate the sick and the contagious.

That’s what we all went home and waited for: universal, rapid testing. That’s what this has always been about. We’ve been doing this because we didn’t yet have that. We need to do this until we have that.

Once we have that — once we have universal, rapid testing — then we can at last move beyond universal isolation and stay-at-home policies. We could then begin to gradually “re-open” some businesses and public gatherings that now need to remain closed. We could, for example, allow funerals where families and loved ones could gather to mourn without having to worry that such gatherings would result in the further exponential spread of the virus. That spread could be throttled by more confidently identifying confirmed cases and by rigorously testing and temporarily quarantining and testing those who have come in contact with them.

In the absence of that, the only alternative is what we did all through April — mass quarantine and mass isolation, shutting down everything.

But now we’re talking about easing and ending this mass quarantine, not because the conditions that necessitated have changed, but because, basically, we’ve grown weary of it. Do we have the universal testing capacity that would allow us to responsibly ease our stay-at-home policies? No. Not even close. But we’ve grown tired of keeping this up. And we’re tired of waiting for the federal government to get its act together on testing. We miss the way things were and we just want to get back to that. So we’re starting to give up on the whole still-necessary business of mass isolation.

Responsible action? Been there, done that. Next. That’s the feeling I’m getting now, and it’s dreadful.

This is what seems to be happening now at the Big Box. We had scaled back our hours of business and limited the number of customers allowed in the store. Those limits have now been eased — adding two hours of operation to each day and an additional 50 customers in the building. What prompted this change? Nothing other than a loss of fortitude. We flipped a page on the calendar and apparently couldn’t bear such restrictions for another month, so we loosened them up even though absolutely nothing about the reality of the pandemic or the still-nonexistent testing regimen indicated that such a change was any less reckless than it would have been a month ago.

How many of those 150 customers have been tested to ensure they’re not carrying this virus? None. How many of our 100+ associated have been tested? Also none. Yet we’re relaxing our restrictions and, I fear, will relax them even further in the weeks to come.

The hope, I suppose, is that the virus has gotten just as tired as we have. Maybe it’s also bored with this whole business and ready to move on too. I’m not a biologist, but I don’t think that’s how viruses work. And I don’t think this is going to end soon or end well.


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