End the Shutdown, All the Way, Right Now

(Image by Ann San from Pixabay.)

Lost in the shuffle of all the riot news, Italian officials report that the deadly Wuhan virus is losing its potency and “clinically no longer exists” in the country.

Disrn’s Peter Heck reports that “new infections of coronavirus in the country are showing a staggering decline in potency.”

Alberto Zangrillo, chief of Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital, told RAI television that recent tests “showed a viral load in quantitative terms that was absolutely infinitesimal compared to the ones carried out a month or two months ago.”

Back in March, the situation in Italy was so dire that officials were forced to issue “guidelines for rationing care as hospitals there struggle to keep up with the surge of patients infected with the coronavirus.”

It was such a horror show that panic over what was happening in Italy helped lead directly to the nationwide shutdown in this country. That shutdown has squashed the economy and created a 20% unemployment rate, rivaling the Great Depression.

But there’s a very hopeful global trend going on.

On Thursday of last week, PJ’s own Stacey Lennox reported that “revised testing guidelines, slower rates of infection and expedited opening are all indicated in the experience in Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland might be better than expected.” Sweden famously — or infamously, if you’re a Karen — rejected lockdowns and social distancing in favor of rapidly achieving herd immunity. They seem to have done so without causing anything like what was once endured in northern Italy.

And at Oxford University, testing on a potential COVID-19 vaccine has slowed down because they don’t have enough infected people to test it on.

Imagine a scene at your doctor’s office like this one:

You: Give me the bad news first, doc. I can take it.

Doc: We don’t have a treatment for your kind of cancer.

You: Oh no. But you said there’s good news?

Doc: Yes. You don’t have cancer.

When the bad news is good news, that’s great news.

In fact, the worst coronavirus outbreak in recent weeks came out of China, where the disease flared up again far from Wuhan in the country’s northeast. Beijing ordered over 100 million people under lockdown in mid-May. Since then, there have been no new reports of major outbreaks or new piles of corpses on Chinese streets.

In this country, Florida has enjoyed some of the best results in fighting the pandemic, despite shutting down later and opening back up sooner than most other states. Part of that is undoubtedly due to Florida’s climate, and that the state isn’t nearly as crowded (or as reliant on public transportation) as the harder-hit Northeast. But there’s also no doubt that for most of the country, the total shutdown was a total overreaction.

Our worst outbreaks have been limited almost exclusively to nursing homes, where Democratic governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer demanded that nursing homes take in COVID-19 patients. Those moves were made over protests (and science) that putting the sick in with the vulnerable was a very, very bad idea.

We’ve reached the point where the shutdown isn’t just overlong, but even this gradual reopening is too slow and nonsensical.

Here in suburban southern Colorado, the statewide rules under which all restaurants must operate could drive them into bankruptcy just as surely as extending the shutdown would. My wife and I took the kids out to dinner for the first time in weeks on Thursday, to an awesome local place, Beasts & Brews. Chef Noah Siebenaller came out to greet us as he always does and explained the new rules dictated from on high in far-off, urban Denver. Restaurants are allowed to take in no more than 50% of their pre-pandemic seating capacity, or 50 people, whichever is fewer people. So his restaurant, which sits on a very pricy piece of real estate and can seat more than 250 people in comfort, is limited to just 50 paying customers at a time.

Our waitress joked that we’d have to leave at eight sharp for the next set of guests, but like much humor, her joke was based on a bitter truth.

As the Colorado Springs Gazette opined on Friday:

Consider Casa Bonita, the legendary Lakewood restaurant made world-famous by an episode of “South Park.” With 52,000-square-feet, the business seats up to 1,100 patrons surrounded by caves and a make-believe Mexican festival of actors, music and cliff divers.

The reopening guidelines make no distinction between the state’s largest restaurants and a Taco Bell. The rules make no accommodation for resorts, hotels and convention centers that serve food in ballrooms with 150,000-square-feet of space or more. The guidelines leave the industry confused about food service at bowling alleys, poolside and other unique settings.

Unlike Beast & Brews, which stayed in business during the shutdown by providing curb service and delivery of a limited menu cooked by a limited staff, destination restaurants are in no better shape under Governor Jared Polis’ half-assed “reopening” than they were during the shutdown.

All of this shutdown insanity is going on in the safest parts of the United States even as the worst-hit parts of Italy recover.

A new CDC report indicates that the Wuhan virus was already spreading in this country as early as January, a month earlier than first thought. There’s also evidence, albeit inconclusive, that the virus might have hit our shores as early as December of last year.

What we have here then by almost any reckoning is a virus that while highly infectious, is not nearly as deadly as first thought, and is weakening all on its own. As for face masks, even Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted last week that they’re only a “symbol” of “the kind of thing you should be doing.” We could use fewer symbols right now and more hard sense.

Clearly, the cure is worse than the disease and has been for weeks.

If you’re sick, stay home. If you’re in a risk group, ditto. But quarantining the healthy has proven to be a huge and frighteningly expensive mistake. And hobbling American businesses at a time when we need the swiftest possible recovery is sheer madness.

What we need to do in light of new evidence is quarantine the sick, protect the vulnerable (I’m looking at you, governors Cuomo and Whitmer), and reopen this economy — STAT.