It’s mid-April, and we’re watching the numbers of new coronavirus cases per day decline, and yet — the media still hasn’t come out and said “We’ve peaked.” We have, and we’re on the other side of things, but reassuring people that the worst is over doesn’t seem important to an organization that benefits from tragedy. What many people are beginning wonder now is, “What will re-opening after coronavirus look like, and when will it happen?”
It’s a valid question, that politicians are wrestling with, too. It’s not selfish to ask, as a few people have tried to imply. While coronavirus has killed people (just over 25,000 in the US), that is not the only impact this is having. Nearly 17 million have lost their jobs so far. The food supply has been disrupted. We are facing a recession — and possible depression — unlike anything we have ever seen.
All of these are real issues. We can’t favor one over another; we have to think about them all.
Re-Opening After Coronavirus
Right now, the answer we’re getting is mostly: “We don’t know.”
Many politicians are hesitating to even there’s a plan yet. We’re supposed to wait days or weeks longer to see what happens. Many are also saying that things won’t get back to normal until there’s a vaccine.
But the citizens aren’t satisfied with that answer.
Some are already upset that their rights have been violated. Others are worried about the uncertainty of it all. Many want to know if their businesses will be able to open again…or if they’re going to lose everything. And of course, they’re right to worry about all of those things.
At this point in time, we need to be demanding the politicians give us better answers. They don’t have a crystal ball, they can’t predict the future, and things will need to be flexible. But they can’t keep saying “We don’t know, let’s get a vaccine.” A vaccine is not a viable answer, for several reasons.
Why a Vaccine Isn’t the Answer
This has been many politician’s — and doctor’s — number one response. That we need a vaccine in order to re-open the country. But placing all our hopes in a vaccine is not a good idea.
#1: Previous Attempts to Create a Coronavirus Vaccine FAILED
COVID-19 is not the first coronavirus, as some think. It is just a new strain in a family of viruses that were discovered in the 1930s. It is the same family of viruses responsible for the SARS and MERS outbreaks in the early 2000s. Researchers have been trying to develop a vaccine for decades, but have never managed to come up with one for any strain of coronavirus.
If they’ve made no real progress over the last 25 years, what makes them think that they will be able to develop a vaccine right now? Before the outbreak is over? History says they can’t.
Further, some of the previous attempts led to some pretty serious side effects. A 2012 study on 4 different SARS vaccines in development showed that while these vaccines appeared to “work,” (based on titres and lack of virus in the lungs) they also caused a hypersensitivity reaction when subjects were exposed to the actual live illness — which would mean, a worse-than-ever case of the disease. Since people would be exposed to the illness during a pandemic, and the goal is to avoid serious illness, that’s a significant concern.
A 2019 study looking at the history of coronavirus vaccine development notes the same issue: “…IWV vaccine is the most rapid approach for vaccine production following a new outbreak. However, the use of IWV as a vaccine in MERS was reported to be associated with hypersensitivity-type lung immunopathologic reaction in the mouse model.”
Is the IWV approach what they’re using to develop a vaccine right now? Are the test subjects who were vaccinated going to experience this lung hypersensitivity once they are challenged with the illness?
#2: Developing a Vaccine Takes a Long Time
Even supposing developing a safe and effective vaccine were possible, which currently doesn’t seem likely, it would take a long time. The 18-month timeline we’ve all been given seems optimistic, at best. The illness would likely work its way through the population before a vaccine was actually available.
There’s no guarantee —whatsoever — that a vaccine would be ready in 2021, so our re-opening plans can’t hinge on one.
Other concerns include rapid antigenic drift (just like the flu, coronaviruses mutate often, and many experts are saying that an annual vaccination would be required), non-responders (we don’t know how many people would fail to develop titres, or would develop them but still be susceptible or even become asymptomatic carriers), and long-term effects of the vaccine.
Basically? A vaccine is a wish and a prayer right now, nothing more. (Not that many people want it, anyway.)
So why do all the politicians’ plans seem to hang on a vaccine? Do they have Plan B?
The Devastating Effects of the Shut-Down
We heard all about the horrible effects the coronavirus would have on the country. The modeling in Ohio predicted as many as 62,000 cases per day at the peak; it was actually only around 400. (The US peak as a whole was only 35,000 per day.) The models have been vastly wrong. We can say that it was all the social distancing and closures taking effect, but the truth is, we don’t actually know.
In Ohio, the peak was originally predicted to occur on Mar. 22, with that 62,000 new cases per day. At that point, we had closed the schools a week prior and the stay-at-home order was just taking effect. Travel had dropped by maybe 20 – 30%. If the incubation is really 14 days…how did we only have 250 new cases on that day? Could the minimal, recent efforts up to that point have actually decreased the peak by 24,800%? I don’t think so. The only rational conclusion is that the models were always wrong.
But the shut-down is having a lot of other effects that are only too real.
Nearly 17 million people have filed for unemployment since the third week of March, which is almost double the number of people who filed in all of 2019. It’s wildly unprecedented. Over 700,000 jobs have been permanently lost so far, and more will likely come.
This is affecting people at all levels. Restaurant servers are out, and so are executives for rapidly-shrinking companies. One group can weather it better than the other, for now…but long-term everyone will be hurting.
Food Supply Disruptions
Several meat-packing plants have closed for cleaning after employees tested positive for the virus. None would be a big deal by themselves; but it’s not just one. Farmers who supplied restaurants are unable to find buyers for their crops, and are allowing produce to rot in the fields or be plowed under. Millions of gallons of milk are being dumped everyday.
It’s easy to say that the food that’s being waste should get to the consumers. But the reality is different. Farmers can’t afford to harvest and transport millions of pounds of crops for free. Food banks, who are struggling for volunteers, can’t store huge amounts of perishable foods or deliver them in time. Major infrastructure shifts would be needed, and no one has the money, time, or energy to do that right now.
Mental and Physical Health Changes
Many people are reporting that their mental health is struggling right now. Being closed up in their homes, socially shamed if they dare take a walk, drones flying overhead to make sure people are in compliance, police pulling people over and harassing them for being out, not knowing what will happen next…. It’s worse in some areas than others, but it’s a big deal.
It’s not about petulantly wanting to go clothes shopping or eat in a restaurant, as some have tried to portray it. It’s real stressors that will lead to a mental health crisis for many.
As far as physical health, there are significant issue there, too. Primary care doctors and dentists’ offices are closed. People who were planning to undergo elective procedures and tests have been unable to do so for a month now. Many of those people are now getting to a point where those needs are more of an emergency than an elective, yet those services still can’t be provided. The hospital will soon be flooded with people whose conditions have worsened significantly due to this lack of care.
Surveillance and Privacy Loss
As I mentioned, some areas are dealing with a heavy police presence, facing harassment and arrest for being out in public (even if it’s for an “essential” function). Drones are flying around, watching people. Politicians and “philanthropists” are suggesting that people might be required to get tested for antibodies, and have a smartphone app that has their current ‘health status’ on it — and they might have to show this (the digital equivalent of “papers”) to access public spaces.
Previously-unimaginable privacy intrusions are being discussed like they’re rational and necessary now. Where will it stop? Have we become China?
Long-Term Economic Changes
We don’t know what these will be yet. We know that many small and medium businesses will be lost forever. We know that people close to retirement age may have lost all their savings, due to the drop in the stock market. We know that some industries have been severely disrupted and may not go back to normal.
It’s unlikely that things will bounce back when the country re-opens. It will take months, possibly years, to figure out what all the effects have actually been. We’re talking homelessness, joblessness, food insecurity, and more. The lower-income groups are and will continue to be most impacted by this.
What We Need to Do Now
It’s time for the politicians to realize what a serious impact this is actually having on our country, and to make more common-sense decisions that do not prioritize “pandemic health” over all other forms of health. We, the citizens, need to be writing to and calling all our legislators and asking them the tough questions, and demanding the answers.
Questions to Ask the Politicians:
- What is your proposed timeline for re-opening the country? Upon what science is this based?
- Will you be suggesting any kind of testing for re-opening? How can citizens who don’t want their personal health data to become government knowledge avoid that?
- How will you verify that any suggested testing is reliable and accurate?
- What is your long-term plan if the development of a vaccine is not possible? Do you have one?
- How will you be compensating all of the small businesses who have gone under and lost everything due to your policies?
They need to have answers to these questions. How are they going to protect our rights? How will they be paying us back for the destruction they created in our lives? What plan do they even have that doesn’t revolve around a vaccine?
Please take the time to write to your governor and other elected officials right now. If your officials are the few who have fought for our freedoms and have taken common-sense steps, please thank them first for the bravery.
I am writing to you today to express concern about the situation surrounding coronavirus. Over the last few weeks, we have watched as most of the country has been shut down, millions have lost the jobs, and the models predicting doom and gloom have been proven wrong over and over again.
It is time to re-open the country, and take common-sense measures to protect the vulnerable, while allowing the rest of us to return to work and restart the economy. If we don’t want to face a serious depression, and the accompanying loss of lives due to poverty, we must take steps immediately.
Right now, most politicians seem to believe that the only way forward is to wait for a vaccine. The most optimistic projections are that one would be ready in the fall of 2021, about 18 months from now. Given the staggering losses we have seen in the last three weeks, the country would not survive that long on any kind of lock down. Further, researchers have been attempting to create vaccines for other coronavirus strains for at least 25 years, with no luck. Several vaccines that were created for SARS and MERS, previous coronavirus outbreaks, caused severe lung issues and worse disease when the vaccinated were exposed to the wild disease.
We cannot wait for a vaccine that may never come, or may even make the outbreak worse. What is your plan if a vaccine does not get released? Do you plan to hold the country hostage indefinitely? If you have not considered this, it’s time to do so.
At this time, these are my suggestions:
- Keep nursing homes and other medical facilities that house vulnerable patients closed to the public
- Continue to encourage frequent handwashing and social distancing
- Immediately re-open all businesses (with restaurants, movie theaters, and other crowded places operating at 1/3 – 1/2 capacity initially to allow social distancing)
- Apologize to all of the business owners, people near retirement age, and others who have lost their savings and their life’s work because of bad policy; consider how you will financially assist them to make up for your impact
If businesses are not re-opened no later than May 1, protests will increase. Citizens are facing the loss of their homes, the inability to buy food, and their basic needs are or will be going unmet. This is not acceptable, when a simple announcement would give them a fighting chance again.
Further, I hope your plans do not include violating citizens’ privacy. There have been discussions of smartphone apps that would “track” citizens’ health status and would need to be swiped in order to access work or public buildings. This is not acceptable. It is akin to “showing your papers” and is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
A tragedy like this pandemic is not an easy situation to deal with, and any move you make will result in some negative outcomes. The goal is obviously to minimize those. But this goal cannot be achieved by stripping citizens of their basic rights and fragmenting the country for months or years to come.
I look forward to your announcement hat the country has been re-opened and that Americans will be heading back to work.
PLEASE send this letter, or your own version, to your legislators now! It is time to stand up for what is right, and minimize the impact of this pandemic on the citizens. We must care about the people who do not consider this a “vacation,” but who are left with nothing and are facing bankruptcy, health challenges, and worse. With all of us, we can make a difference.
How do you feel about this pandemic? Do you think it has been handled well? Will you get involved now?
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