As is evident in my social media posts and writing to this point, I am in the camp that thinks we have probably gone too far with what is essentially a nationwide lockdown. the damage to the economy and small businesses is profound. The costs of delayed treatment to preserve health capacity for the COVID peak will be calculated for years to come. And many of us have been living a perpetual fourteen days of quarantine. We live with essential employees.
For millions of Americans, they or someone in their household is an essential employee. I have two such family members. They get in their car, leave and go to work with members of the public for hours at a time. Because they venture out anyway, they also do the necessary shopping and errand running. The rest of us limit ourselves to walking the dog and going to walk at the local park.
Then they come home and we interact pretty much as we always have as a family. The biggest changes are a change of clothes, a shower and increased hand washing. However, we do not not maintain six feet between us at the dinner table, while watching TV or navigating our lives together. It is is allergy season in Georgia. We even have occasional coughs and sneezes into a tissue or our sleeve. I imagine many households are in a similar situation.
The biggest change is the precautions we take to protect our loved ones who may be in a high risk category. We don’t visit my parents in person and likely will not in the foreseeable future. Our full family gathering in late summer is on pause for now as well. I will likely not see one of my best friends who is on long term topical chemo until something changes.
We understand either one of these essential workers could be inadvertently carrying this virus in their nasal passages and pass it to us at home. Their employers have implemented precautions, but the risk is still there. We also know they could carry it and never have so much as a sniffle. Never mind a fever or shortness of breath. Clearly this was the case for thousands in Santa Clara, Los Angeles and New York based on early antibody testing.
For families like mine, every day is day one of the recommended fourteen day quarantine. Our essential employees could have been infected on any day they go to work in spite of the precautions they take. So we act as if we are infected towards those at high risk. And we continue to live our life at home in largely normal ways. This is why I find the apocalyptic freak out related to reopening the economy so ridiculous.
All the states that are moving in this direction are doing so using precautions similar to those taken by my essential employees at work. Masks, distancing and reduced capacity indoors along with upgraded sanitation are all in the plans for reopening businesses. I fail to see how I am in any more jeopardy from my hairdresser. We will be both wearing masks and I will be six feet away from other clients. I am in my own family room unmasked every night of the week.
Further the recommendations nationwide clearly state that those in high risk populations are under the same recommendations they have been. If you are over 60 or have pre-existing conditions, the same stay at home measures are still the guidance. Nursing homes and hospitals will still be extremely limited to visitors. And no one is pushing people who don’t want to go out through their front door.
However, it is unrealistic to expect people to stay locked in their homes until there is a cure or a vaccine. Either one of these could be years away. We need to find ways to navigate the world that protects the most vulnerable. Meanwhile we need to allow those who can and wish to to return to some semblance of a normal life. This may shock you, but Americans all assess their personal risk in different ways. And millions of Americans deemed essential employees and their families have been taking the risk of contracting COVID-19 the entire time.
So screaming at people like me about not caring about elderly people dying or putting you at risk is not going to phase us. We have been managing living with the risk of contracting COVID-19 for months while protecting our loved ones at higher risk.
Nothing about managing COVID-19 going forward is a binary choice between staying locked down and throwing 80 year olds into a crowded movie theater. And if you present it as such you are simply being dishonest. And millions of us are just not going to take you seriously.
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