America Has a Big Decision to Make - How Do We End Shelter In Place?

Thom plus logo Dr. David Nabarro of the World Health Organization says that until a vaccine is developed, the coronavirus will likely "stalk the human race" for quite a while. Shelter in place and all the other efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus are designed to do, basically, only one thing: protect hospitals. When enough people get really sick really fast, our healthcare system is overwhelmed, so the goal of shelter in place is to slow the spread of the disease, not to stop it. But, as Dr. Anthony Fauci pointed out yesterday on CNN, Trump missed our opportunity several months ago to contain the virus like South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Norway, Denmark and Germany have done. Now the United States is purely in what is called mitigation. We're trying to reduce its destructive hit on our healthcare system.

Because Trump failed in preventing the virus from spreading across the United States back in January, February, and March the only option we have now is to try to lessen the damage to our healthcare system by slowing the spread. But the spread of this disease is now inevitable all across the United States, so the debate is shifting to how to slowly infect pretty much everybody in the United States without creating hotspots or outbreaks that crash our hospitals. The only thing that could change this is the development of a highly effective vaccine, but that is months and maybe years away. Since younger people are less severely affected, expect that soon Trump and some states will be talking about letting young people out of quarantine. This, too, will increase the number of people who die and increase the spread to older people, although at a rate that our hospitals can handle.

Other countries that have done well with this did so through massive, widespread testing and contact tracing on an ongoing basis. The Trump administration, however, has taken both those things off the table for the United States. and because the virus does not respect state borders, this can only be done at the federal level: no governor has the ability to do this. Because Trump utterly failed in keeping the virus away from the United States and refuses to fund and implement a nationwide testing and contract tracing program, simply slowing down hundreds of thousands of coming deaths may well be all we have left.


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