One of the toughest parts of leading a government during this pandemic is having to make "life or death" decisions. It pits the lives of your citizens against the market imperatives of the economy.
Imposing a lockdown - social distancing, self-isolation or quarantine, closing non-essential businesses and restricting travel - is the easy part. You're more at risk of catching hell for not going far enough, soon enough, especially when Aunt Tilley dies in the nursing home.
Lifting the lockdown, that's the hard part. Everyone knows that it's going to cost lives. If you get it wrong it could be a lot of lives. If you make the call prematurely, go too far too fast, you'll catch hell from all sides.
That's a tough call, potentially excruciating for those with a strong sense of empathy. Sociopaths such as that pernicious prick in the White House or his play pals like Bolsonaro don't anguish over these decisions. They're much more worried about their personal political fortunes, the more so if they have an election looming. As Nicholas Kristof writes, when it comes to kickstarting the economy, Trump and Pence are happily flying blind.
“By Memorial Day Weekend we will largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us,” Pence told Fox News only two weeks ago. That magical thinking seems to be shared by many politicians and investors alike.For Trump and Pence this boils down to electoral politics and who they'll scapegoat if it blows up in America's face.
Let’s be very clear: There’s huge uncertainty, so we need great humility in looking ahead, but most epidemiologists anticipate a long, wrenching struggle against the virus.
“If we have a big wave in the fall, it’ll make everything we’ve had so far seem not all that serious,” said Osterholm, whose infectious disease institute recently issued an excellent and sobering report about the road ahead. “But that’s the reality of this. I tell people my job isn’t to scare you out of your wits; it’s to scare you into your wits.”
A new Columbia University study suggests that we may face a rebound in deaths by late this month because of the easing of restrictions, just as a model used by the Trump administration shows deaths increasing to 3,000 daily by June 1.
“This is here to stay, in all likelihood, until we have a vaccine, and a vaccine could be a year or two away,” said Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Or it could be never.”