Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Value of Human Life

One of the most vexing aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic, at least for me, is the question of the value we all must place on human life. It's a gruesome question at least slightly akin to who gets a seat on an overcrowded lifeboat. We have to be clear-eyed, recognizing that there's very little chance our society will emerge from this whole.

Some, such as the goons we have watched storm state houses across the US aren't particularly troubled by the issue. They want the lockdowns lifted and the economy, as they imagine it, reactivated.  To them, it seems, this is a question of some constitutionally guaranteed rights which, in today's America, is often restated as the right of an individual to do pretty much whatever in hell that person feels like doing.

You can find that attitude utterly repugnant but we all must draw a line somewhere. We all have to find some balance between preserving life and preventing irreparable harm to the economy. We're all pressed to formulate some value for human life.

Even in lockdown the coronavirus is claiming lives. The protesters know that lifting requirements for quarantine and physical distancing will up the death rate. How many deaths doesn't seem to matter to them.  They claim to be prepared to accept the risk and, for that, everyone else should accept that same risk.

America's revered virologist, Dr. Tony Fauci, testifies today before a Senate committee. So confident was he in the committee's integrity that Fauci chose to release a summary of his views, in advance, to the New York Times, lest his evidence be twisted and spun out of context by his Senate interrogators.

Fauci intends to testify that Covid-19 is not the "one and done" threat that those clamoring to re-open the economy imply. He will testify that the pandemic will revisit the American people this autumn when parents anticipate their kids will be safe to return to school. There will be no virus available for kids to safely return to school in September. He will also testify that the progress made in dampening the contagion at such great cost, including the lives of 81,000 Americans to date, can be squandered by lifting the lockdown prematurely which, he argues, could put America back to square one.

Fauci's evidence adds a layer of complexity to the question of how many deaths are too steep a price to pay for re-opening the economy.  Not just future deaths but the deaths already logged rendered irrelevant, inconsequential - squandered.

If Fauci's worst-case scenario is allowed to happen - all those lives and the existing damage to the economy will be for nothing. The pandemic will be unchecked, able to return, mutate and spread to many of those who have so far dodged that bullet.

Under incredible pressure, America's healthcare establishment has formulated a three-tier process by which the lockdown can be lifted. But it's a tentative process at best. If it doesn't work, if the virus flares again, governments, state and federal, will have to move  very quickly to restore the lockdown before something even worse than what they've seen already befalls the American people.

The lockdown is taking a toll on the economy, no question. But the very purpose of the lockdown recognizes that the virus, unchecked, can do far greater damage not just to the economy but to the public. It can take a huge toll in GDP and also in lives.

We need to start working on what we can do lest we fall into this same trap. Perhaps nationalizing Canada's nursing homes would be a good first start. The private sector's dismal record has been the stuff of front page headlines in our newspapers.  As kids we were told that the Innu would dispose of their elderly by putting them on ice floes where they might freeze or be taken by polar bears. In our time we do something gruesomely similar, perhaps even less humane, by discarding the elderly into glorified charnal houses.

We also need to work on parameters of how many deaths we'll tolerate as the cost of lifting the lockdowns and re-opening the economy. We have to recalculate the value of human life. For those who will die, we owe them no less.


Toby said...

The Swedish approach to Covid-19 is interesting to watch.


Not all Swedes take the same risks.


The Swedish government may have to answer for the higher rates of infection.

In Canada we also have to be more decisive. Alberta should shut down those two meat packers and keep them shut until the companies can prove they are safe. There are managers in some companies (meat packers, nursing homes, tar sands) that ought to be charged with criminal negligence.

The US is a basket case. We need to keep that border closed.

Anonymous said...

I find this analysis rather light and not particularly enlightening.

You speak of "goons" in the US storming legislatures to get workplaces reinstated now. Americans are not being supported by things like CERB, and many cannot get through to register for unemployment because of the useless government websites and phone centres. I've read many articles on the situation in the alternative press, places you seem to eschew for the Democrat establishment view. Things have boiled over among common people. These people are desperate, they got nuthin'. Most of them aren't goons, I'd argue. The ones doing it in Canada who are financially supported but bray like jackasses anyway, like those idiots who stormed a Vancouver hospital two days ago, they're MAJOR goons. They have full stomachs and they're anti-vaxxers to boot. They're Ring-a-ling types of moronic wit.

As for Fauci being revered, you also seem uninformed as to his professional career, and the people he stepped on and took credit for their work on hisway to the top. He's as ambitious as anyone. It's the American way. All one can say is he's about as bright as the average doc CBC dredges up to offer advice, which is a marked improvement on the rest of the US feds. Remember state governments cannot run a deficit, so even if the occasional governor has a brain, they cannot do much. Cuomo explained this last week to Colbert.

So, all you're really saying is: drag out the actuaries to put a price on life and make decisions from there. Pretty much the standard conservative view.

As for old folks homes here in Canada, many are non-profits or municipals. The one with by far the worst record here in NS is a non-profit, and people still won't have anything bad said about it, because it is empathetically if amateurishly run. The outbreak wasn't due to people being dehydrated or not fed or exercised. Sometimes bad shit happens to good people.

My idea for retirement home regulation is far more simple than nationalizing them. Make these homes a public utility subject to the local provincial utility boards. We have mixed public and private utilities in water, electricity and gas. Why not elder long term care? Set standards, go over books, scrutinize what these mnagements are up to, make them justify increases in fees. Screw the federal nationalization - the feds are not equipped to do meaningful day-to-day inspections. Look at railway non-inspections, half-assed food inspection with statistical analysis replacing physical work. Same with Weights and Measures, it's hands-off stats. No, having been involved with the Feds for decades, I'd go for for local control as a public utility every time. Especially as the "product" is care of actual people. Also local makes it easier for blame to be pinpointed and laid than some massive federal organization trying to be all things to all people, mouthing JT type platitudes and generalities.


The Disaffected Lib said...

Well, BM, "the people" who storm the state houses got the government they voted for. They put Trump in power. They handed the Republicans the Senate. They pretty much get what they deserve.

Sorry if you don't like my analysis. Could you direct me to yours?

The Disaffected Lib said...

Toby there were two Cargill plants that had Covid outbreaks. The first was in Alberta. The most recent was in Quebec.

The Disaffected Lib said...

BM, the feds are indispensible. If it wasn't for the Canada Health Act many provinces would have succumbed to a private, for-profit healthcare regime long ago. It's too bad you don't understand that especially given the hard fought struggle to implement universal healthcare in Canada.

And, yes, protesters who block hospitals, angrily confront nurses and walk into state houses brandishing assault rifles are goons. You should know that much.

Trailblazer said...

The US is a basket case. We need to keep that border closed.

John Horgan has just chastised Justin Trudeau for considering re opening the US border in couple of weeks.
As I have said before, I believe it was Horgan that first persuaded Trudeau to close it!
I hope Horgan's wishes come true; keep them out!
In fact; why do we not stand at the Peace Arch crossing and all shout...You guessed it.
Keep them out,keep them out!!


Toby said...

Mound, the two meat packers in Alberta with Covid run-amok are Cargill and JBS Food. At one point those two plants have more infections than Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador combined.

The Alberta government should shut them down until they clean up but Jason Kenny won't hear of it. Should the Feds step in? Probably not but I would feel better if BC stopped casual traffic across our mutual border. We see an awful lot of Alberta license plates here in the Okanagan and I really doubt that their drivers are essential workers.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Toby, from photos of these plants I've seen, cleaning them up isn't an option. Long conveyor belts with workers elbow-to-elbow on either side. Physical distancing is defeated.

These plants could be forced to change their floor plans to provide much longer conveyor belts with workers spaced appropriately. That would cost a bundle and probably bump the consumer prices of their products.

There may be other options. I know next to nothing about meat processing. Whatever the solution, continuing with the status quo is no longer viable.

Harper eliminated federal health inspectors on site in these packing plants that led to the listeria problem as the industry self-regulated. I don't know if the Liberals have reset that. Do you?

The Disaffected Lib said...

Trailblazer. You're old enough to remember when health authorities had the power to quarantine entire houses and their occupants. It sounds like what you have in mind for the Canada-US border. The idea has some merit but I can't see Ottawa or Washington tolerating it.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Toby, before we considered closing our border with Alberta we would have to strike some arrangement for the movement of goods and resources. Alberta would probably cut off our supply of oil and many in the BC interior would be furious.

I suppose that's my way of saying 'don't hold your breath.'

Anonymous said...

There are two Cargill plants in Alberta. The first is located in High River ...... it was first to come down Clovis. The second is located in Brooks. Quebec is somewhere in the middle of those two. The cargill family are all billionaires. They treat their employees miserably. Jason Kenney will do nothing to call this company out for their insistence for employees to return to work in appalling conditions. This company is out of the US. Clovis is something they do not care about. Anyong

Anonymous said...

Nursing homes are owned by China. in B C

the salamander said...

.. Apologies.. been quiet lately.. but following closely, very closely.. 'gathering my thoughts' so to speak.. before I squeak.. The broad context is blowaway shite.. Welcome to Your Nightmare.. on the macro level - Ground Zero Canada Eh.. we have plenty of examples to examine. Tyee as usual nails some home.. as does Twitter.. Lots of chaff to weed through, no surprise. We can listen to the sermons of favored son in law Jared Kushner or Jason Kenney.. or the recent batshittery of Ms Diane Francis op-ending known reality to screetch at Dr Fauci.. or hell man.. go full tilt into Tucker Carlson.. or inject mainline WhiteHouse nuttery.. bang the needle eh.. MAGA wugga Bullfrog leap o faith mumbo jumbo .. swallow some regurgitated pond scum effluent from Matt Wolf

Saw a micro cause this ayem.. pissed me off big time
Lady on a bus defended two women from untoward scumbaggery .. the usual crime.. Asian heritage, on a public bus, wearing masks.. just trying to get where they going. A scumbag loser white male mouths them off. Oops, the brave defender gets a beat down, scumbag runs off.

What is wrong with this picture ? It took one month.. for Van police to ask for help ID'ing the perp. OK?. They have time dated stamped photo of the violent 'alleged' offender on da bus.. Crystal clear shot - face - his easily recognized clothing - where he boarded, where he disembarked.. ONE MONTH.. ?

My point.. we really have no leg to stand on in our Canadian society.. when this kind of shite gets a pass as 'normal' .. It reminds of the assault you described recently.. goombahs night raiding a First Nations outpost on their all terrain vehicles, doing photo ops and going public. Ramming the homes.. This shite gets an RCMP pass ? Are you serious ?

Earth to Mr Horgan.. anybody home ? Hello .. hell.. hel.. .....

the salamander said...

.. please excuse my insolence.. or viewpoint..
I find it fascinating how LTC facilities death rate
evolves into 'meat packing' commentary, Mound

I will go off the stern viewing deck.. of a Disney Tour
(or the highest deck access I can afford)
and perform a full twisting Russian invert with toe grab and triple rotation
with a 10 lb cannonade & chain welded to my ankle
over the Marianis Trench.. or uncharted waters off Haida Gwaii
before surrendering to uh.. Matt Wolf or Pierre Poilievre
ot the pricks of Post Media Americanos Religiosos

Go big or don't go ..
but before I go.. get yer weighted frak jacket on Jason
you too.. Ms Diane Francis.. Mr Ezra - Mr Harper - Mr wolf
and keep yer 'flotation - building for the nation' devices handy

I have lots of chain.. we go down together brother.. sistah
The idea of some sort of 'separation' is a trifle..
we go down together .. glub glub.. and I have a vicious grip.. ...
I will see you to the seabed of your so precious 'tidewater' personally
and trust me on this..

I will not be alone

Northern PoV said...

It ain't just the flesh packing plants ...

"'Alberta didn’t contain it': COVID-19 outbreak at oilsands camp has spread across the country"

Alberta Doc Watson

Alberta let your hair hang low
I saw her first on an april morn'
As she walked through the mist in a field of hay
Her hair lit the world with it's golden glow
And the smile on her face burned my heart away
Alberta let your hair hang low
Alberta let your hair hang low
I'll give you more gold than your apron can hold
If you'll only let your hair hang low
I thought my golden time would last
But the field of hay was soon cut down
In a short few weeks it all was past
And my golden girl just a painful song
Alberta what's on your mind
Alberta what's on your mind
My heart is so sad 'cause you treat me so bad
Alberta what's on your mind
Alberta let your hair hang low

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Doc Watson
Alberta lyrics © David Platz Music, Dipiu S.r.l., Zabogaubhi Music, Bucks Music, Hillgreen Music

the salamander said...

.. ergh .. Northern POV nails it..