Let’s make this simple.
When we first saw COVID-19 we didn’t understand the consequences and were unsure of the actions we should take.
Then we watched it overwhelm the Italian health care system and we panicked. If/when it reached the US, we didn’t want it to overwhelm us, too.
When it arrived in the US, the question was, “How do we slow down the spread so we have the health care capacity to help those who become sick?” So our country turned to “flattening the curve” and country and state leaders created travel restrictions outside of our country, and then eventually travel and gathering restrictions inside our own country to the point where, in many states, the citizens were asked to, and forced to, remain home unless it was essential.
Let’s stop for a minute and talk about the effects of flattening the curve. (https://d.newsweek.com/en/full/1573263/flatten-curve.gif)
All things being equal, flattening the curve doesn’t prevent deaths, it spreads the deaths over a longer period of time and, in our case, allows the hospitals to be equal to the task. (https://youtu.be/Lze-rMYLf2E?t=42)
Now, to be realistic we realize that all things are never equal. And using the SIR model, which is a leading model on the transmission of communicable diseases, it takes into account the fact that someday a cure will eventually be created for those who contract COVID-19, a vaccine will be created to prevent the contraction, and in the meantime, people will die from other causes and babies will be born. So the only way “Flattening the curve” will decrease COVID-19 deaths significantly is for us to wait until a cure and a vaccine are created, which we have been told by the experts that it is at least 18 months away if not longer. But let’s come back to this.
Eventually, the question somehow became, “How do we prevent COVID-19 deaths?” Even though the question changed, we never changed the answer. It continued to be, “flatten the curve,” and citizens were forced, through executive actions and social pressure, to stay home to help save lives. Well, we just showed how flattening the curve doesn’t prevent deaths. So what went wrong?
In this stage of affairs, maybe we are now asking the wrong question.
To find the right question, let’s set the stage:
We have two options. Option #1: To prevent any more deaths, we can make everyone stay home and wait until a cure and vaccination are found, which may be a couple of years. Or Option #2: release the travel and social distancing restrictions. Why are those really the only two options? Because the death toll between the two options won’t change.
So I propose a new question: “At what point do we lift travel and social distancing restrictions?”
Unless we intend to wait until the cure and vaccinations are created in enough quantities to prevent deaths, then the answer should be NOW.
Notice we haven’t talked about the economy, mortality rates, transmission rates, whether or not masks are effective, mislabeled COVID deaths, or the violation of constitutional rights. We don’t need to talk about any of these polarizing issues. When we ask ourselves the right question we can skip the issues that divide us and focus on the one issue that will help us progress and unite us.
Why are we such a mess right now? It is because we have become a product of the substandard questions we have asked of ourselves. If we don’t ask ourselves quality questions we will focus on inferior answers.
In this case, any decision to open up between now and a cure will equate to the same number of deaths. So either keep the social distancing restrictions in place for another two years, or open up now.
“Success is not found in discovering answers, but in asking the right questions.”