Last week, noisy demonstrators appeared in several state capitals, including Richmond and Annapolis, calling for governors to lift stay-at-home orders and allow people to go back to work. The underlying sentiment is understandable. Everyone wants to get out of lockdown. And we need to restart the economy.
But the “reopening” process is fraught with complex considerations, many of which are interconnected. The lockdown and related personal protective equipment directives are not just designed to flatten the curve in order to reduce demand for medical facilities — they are also designed to protect us from those who could be carrying the virus and unknowingly infect others, and others from us. As such, those who choose to flout government directives — whether in the name of restarting the economy or as a means of a personal expression of freedom — jeopardize themselves and threaten everyone else. And they also interfere with our ability to reopen the economy. The coronavirus is highly contagious, and spreads exponentially. Proper use of PPE is both an act of altruism as well as self-protection.
We now know that COVID-19 is especially deadly for two groups: African Americans and the elderly — African Americans because of a higher than average incidence of poverty and poor health and reduced access to health insurance and good medical care; the elderly because of frailer health and weakened immune systems.
Those advocating to “open the economy now,” who suggest that those who are at risk or otherwise concerned simply stay home, are foolish and shortsighted. Any mass re-entry from the lockdown must be preceded by proper and comprehensive pre-screening, testing, and clearance. Anything less is doomed to fail. And reintegration without appropriate testing, screening, and safeguards will likely accelerate infection, illness, and death among those who think they are healthy but are also susceptible to the virus and its destructive path.
We’ve heard twisted and dangerous musings for solutions to the seniors “problem.” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) suggested that grandparents sacrifice their lives to support the economy. We invite Patrick, who just turned 70, to show us the way. Let’s see what kind of a leader he really is. Our tradition teaches us to “choose life.” It is a principle we embrace, and we have little sympathy for those who don’t, like the Annapolis protester whose sign read “I need a haircut.”
Resolution will all turn on testing — and proper interpretation of data to make informed decisions about next steps. We don’t ignore the urgency of the need to restart the economy. But we cannot abide doing so at the risk of untold numbers of lives.
None of us is dispensable. No segment of the population can be abandoned while everyone else goes about their business. We urge you to speak up in support of those who need your advocacy. If we are really “all in this together,” we also need to emerge from this “together.”