If you want to have a productive discussion on a difficult topic, start by discarding the extremes.
Very few want pure communism, pure market capitalism, zero taxes, or taxes to be doubled. If you start by accepting the solution will be a hybrid, you can often make progress, and it’s the same with this lockdown conversation.
The lockdown sucks. Everyone knows that. And virtually no one thinks that it should continue on for months in this extreme form. And most of the strongest supporters of opening back up see that some protections should be in place when we do so. So for the adults at the table, this is not a yes/no, open/close conversation. It’s a discussion about details that asks how much, and when.
I’m not a health or policy expert, but I do know a lot about risk. Much of risk comes down to balancing variables. Sure, we could give this sensitive data to these untrusted parties, but only if we have these technical and legal controls in place first. Sure, we can let employees use their personal devices for work, but only if they install some software and accept an agreement.
This is no different.
We need to return to some semblance of normal in order to revive the economy￼. But there’s risk there, and the compensating controls seem to be behavior control, vaccination/treatment, testing, and contact tracing.
The problem is we don’t have many of those yet. No vaccine. No treatment. Our testing is still dismal. And contact tracing is still theoretical. All we have is masks and social distancing. This leaves us with a primary question:
Who and where should open up—at what speed—given that population’s ability to limit infection using the controls they currently have?
I don’t know the answer to that, and unfortunately it seems that nobody does. This is art guided by science, not the other way around.
When we relax the lockdown, more people will get sick. That we know for sure. When we keep the lockdown in place, more people will suffer economically. We know that for sure as well.
So, given the data we have available—and the controls we have to work with—what is the best way to turn the knobs and slide the sliders to get the best outcomes for our hospitals, our economy, and ultimately, our people?
That’s the question.
Screaming that we should continue this lockdown until we’re all vaccinated is just as asinine as screaming that everyone should go back to normal next week.
Reality and risk are nuanced, and our policies have to be as well.
- Image from Getty.
- It does seem like things are slowly loosening even in the SF Bay Area, though, e.g., hundreds of restaurants doing pickup/delivery, Costco full of hundreds of people, etc.