"I imagine a man must have a good deal of vanity who believes that all the doctrines he holds are true, and all he rejects are false." -- Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, May 23, 2020

When Can We Reopen?

     My wife B is going more crazy than I am during the Coronavirus pandemic. She has less tolerance for staying home and doing, essentially, nothing.

     So B, who is more of a bleeding heart liberal than I am, is arguing in favor of reopening the economy. She says people should be able to go to the store if they wear masks, meet up with friends if they keep a six foot distance, attend concerts if they're held outdoors. She of course is worried about the virus. But she is also worried about the people who are losing their jobs or losing their businesses, who can't pay their rent and who may soon be out on the streets.

     It's easy for us to stay at home, she says, because we still get our Social Security, our pension checks and annuities. But what about Manuel? He works for our landscaping company. He was "furloughed" back in March. The company sent out an email to customers inviting them to send a donation to Manuel -- but it doesn't sound like the landscaping company is paying him, or if it is, it's a fraction of his usual salary. We sent in $50; but no matter how many customers joined us, it's not going to last very long. Manuel has a wife and a child. How long before they have to give up their car? How long before they get evicted from their apartment?

     Or what about the restaurants in town that employ waiters and cooks and dishwashers? These people are now on unemployment, with an extra boost from the federal government, but all that's going to end before long. And what about the people who own and run the restaurants and small shops? These shops often represent lots of dreams and years of hard work, and now a lot of that is going down the drain because the only thing they are allowed to provide is curbside pickup -- and business is down by 50% to 80%.

     The reopen vs. stay-closed debate has been framed as a political argument. Republicans want to reopen . . . because they are greedy. Democrats want to stay closed . . . because they like the government to tell them what to do.

     For example, in Why Are Liberals More Afraid of the Coronavirus Than Conservatives? Ezra Klein analyzes some of the psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. He points out, quite correctly I think, that conservatives tend to be more skeptical of change and less welcoming to outsiders, while liberals are more comfortable with novelty, disruption and diversity. But by that reasoning conservatives should be more fearful of the Coronavirus than liberals. The author twists himself in knots trying to provide an explanation, but it doesn't make sense -- because the difference is due more to an individual's personal experience. Not everything is political.

     I myself think we should continue to self-isolate . . . not because I'm liberal or conservative but because I'm a bit of a hypochondriac. B, who is more liberal than I am, wants to go out . . . because she's antsy and doesn't think it can happen to her.

     It's not just us. Look at Sweden. If Sweden is as socialistic as it's supposed to be, why is it one of the few countries that didn't issue stay-at-home orders at all?

     No, I think the question of reopening is more a function of personality, and personal circumstances. Some people simply have to stay busy. It drives them crazy to sit around at home all day. They can't do it! They have to get in the car, go to a store, meet up with a friend. Others can sit at home, read a book, watch TV, they are comfortable with their own company.

     Also, B has never been sick a day in her life. She has no conception -- and thus very little fear -- of what's it's like to feel so horrible that you can't get out of bed, to be lying helpless in a hospital, to be unable to breathe and choking on some claustrophobic machine. I don't even think she's ever had an MRI.

     People who want to reopen just think it won't happen to them. Perhaps they care more about the new unemployed. They also likely have more at stake in the economy. If you're over 65 and especially if you have an underlying medical condition you should be worried about Covid-19. But if you're in your 20s or 30s, and you're perfectly healthy, but you have car payments and a college loan and rent due at the end of the month, you might think it's worth the pretty minimal risk of disease in order to keep your family together. After all, they might reason, you're more likely to be injured in a traffic accident on the way to work than fall victim to Covid-19.

     As the summer unfolds, no matter what our personal beliefs, we will all be going out more, seeing more people. So take a look at The Risks -- Know Them -- Avoid Them by Erin Bromage, biology professor at the University of Massachusetts. He has better advice than I could ever give about how to understand the virus, how it spreads, and how to protect ourselves as we do reopen.


Wisewebwoman said...

I'm one of those who is never bored and very easily entertained both by my inner and outer selves.

But I do understand those who have the jitters with "nothing" to do.

We have had no new cases here for 15 days now but still following the lead of NZ on the lockdown of ferries and flights coming in. The second wave will hit, of that I have no doubt.

but for now, I have pulled away from all engagement with the news and social media. It is too exhausting.

I also know that one whiff of Covid, with all my underlying health issues, I would be dead.


Rian said...

Tom, I find this a pretty good assessment of what is going on. We have both "thoughts" in our family... the ones who want to continue to self-isolate and those that want to get out now and resume their lives (with caution). Both ways of thinking are understandable.

Being in our 70's, with possible immune system impairment due to Cancer, and a predisposition to the science/medical side of the argument, we go for the continue to self-isolate. We understand those who need to work to feed their families... but from what we see, many are NOT using caution, wearing masks, and social distancing. This could easily just keep the virus spreading. THAT is our concern.

If we could open up and somehow enforce these regulations (which apparently can't happen as it infringes on people's 'freedom'...??) the theory of opening up gradually could work. But there are always going to be some that just won't follow medical/science advice.

Sheltering at home is not that difficult for DH and myself. We find plenty to do between chores, hobbies, walks, and communicating digitally with family and friends. But I know it is more difficult for some... not just those with financial needs, but those who simply need to get out.

However, I agree with the article by Erin Bromage that "if you don't solve the biology, the economy won't recover".

Fred said...

The reopening is well underway. With this being an election year there is absolutely nothing that will stop it or slow it down. I personally believe we will not shut down again under any circumstance.
We will try and not catch it while waiting for a vaccine. Remember the joke about the bear? I don't have to outrun the bear I just have to outrun you!
The only thing left to do is make personal decisions about our levels of interaction. I believe the data so far shows it is airborne and there is reason to believe it will get worse later this year. Masks work. We will not be having anyone in our home.

gigi-hawaii said...

I don't have any strong feelings about re-opening or remaining isolated. But, it makes me sad that so many concerts and shows were canceled. We donated the tickets back to the box office so they can keep the money. I guess we will just have to sit and see what happens next.

Barb said...

As somone who lives with a thirty someone who self isolated for five weeks and then when back to work because he HAD to, I agree with B's sentiment in moderation. My son would tell you that twenty five percent capacity will not save restaurants, their margins are not that good. His restaurant plans to have those who refuse masks or the other guidelines sign a waver when they come in. he' already had someone ignore said guidelines and try and put a large table together. It's all well and good to way, well, everyone is getting unemployment (some more than they are making) but eventually uemployment ends and what if there is no job to find or go back to.

Having said all that, I just read about a great clips where a guest or hairdresser infected fourteen people-even though both employees and staff were wering masks. So I am of the "I'm still staying at home" persuasiona-although others are occasionally entering and exiting the house-and waiting to see the opening statistics and let everyone else be test cases. And yes, here I am the mom on the pension and social security and the only one with a regular pay check in the house.

Celia said...

I'll be staying home, do not like it. I was out everyday until this happened but I'm 78 with "underlying" issues, I'm sure if I catch it I'm toast. Both my sons are still working, one from home (with 9 offspring and his wife). She's a dental hygienist and she decided not to go back when the office opens this Monday. She doesn't think they can keep themselves and especially this patients safe. And she's not interested in bringing something home to their large household.

Oldest son works as Quality Control for a vegetable processor. All "essential." He needs his job. The processing plant is risky (crowding) so I never see my son. One grandgirl works in a grocery. Another is a working apprentice plumber. Our biggest outbreak was in a Tyson's meat processing plant about 30 miles from here. Many of those folks live here in town. We are a "wine" tourist town so the pressure to open is great. Brings in dollars but brings in strangers from larger cities which sounds like an invitation for a second round of Covid to me.

What I don't understand is the refusal to wear masks or distance yourself out of consideration for our fellow humans. How selfish is that? I suspect we will ulimately be stuck with biting it and moving on. I am very happy that I live in WA State though. I think our governor is doing a good job. And tRump hated him always a good sign. Ha ha ha.

DJan said...

I watch from what seems are the sidelines, as we are way into our seventies, almost eighty, and we both think we probably had it in late March. I see my doctor on June 3rd and hope she will agree to an antibody test. We feel so lucky to have an monthly income. I worry for all those who have lost their jobs. It's a terrible time worldwide. :-(

Tabor said...

It is a nightmare economically for our capitalistic society. The more socialist countries are weathering it better...it seems. I do think the cultural homogeneity of some countries means less need for rules and less fear. Hubby is going crazy and I am thrilled that there are far fewer meetings in my life. I really do miss the opportunity to see family and to travel, though.

Arkansas Patti said...

I know, it is easy for me who gets her check every month and is someone who can take isolation--if not thrilled with it, to continue. I really feel for those trying to support families and to keep food and roofs over their heads. Personally, I will continue this isolation long after the reopening happens. As my neighbor said, if she has to wear a mask to go into a restaurant then it is not a safe place to be.

Olga said...

My brother was telling me that his wife used to nag him for too much couch time watching TV. He said now he is able to respond with "Hey, I'm saving lives by staying hoe and watching TV. You're welcome!" Always look for the silver lining.

tahoegirl.blog said...

Well, I'm sorry for your wife that she is bored or antsy at home. But my husband spent a month in a Bone Marrow unit last year and you can'tt go out of your room, anyone going is suited up with protective gear, etc. Then it was a month in isolation at the Kiwanis house. At least out of the room but the big adventure was going to the clinic once a day. I have Muliple Myeloma, also concerned for getting Covid-19.
All I'm saying Tom, is your wife needs to broaden how she sees this especially if she's never even had an "MRI'.

It can happen to any of us. So any of the 'sheltering in place' orders are fine with me till it's safe to do so otherwise.
Also, I am pretty sure we will see a huge resurgence after it's lifted and then what ? We are already at almost 100,000 people in 2 months.

AWmom said...

My son is in medicine before elective surgery was reinstated he worked with Covid 19 patients! They still don’t know enough about this disease . It can turn on a dime..people can be fine one second and dead the next. And normally when you get a code blue everyone runs but now you must gown up first. I also note that everyone is not in our boat and for many people we must reopen the economy for them to survive. So we will each have to decide what our risk tolerances will be. I need a haircut but I just read in Springfield Missouri although everyone wore masks the hairdresser had Covid 19 and they are looking for 91 clients who might have contacted it. So I think I will wait a little longer when my state reopens to get that haircut. Be safe!

Red said...

I agree with you about opening up. The economy will come back over time. People will continue but maybe at a lower life standard. The coronavirus? For too many of us we won't be coming back with covid 19..

Tom said...

Gigi, I too am sad about the concerts and shows, esp. since my son is in the concert business. So far B and I are mostly staying home; but we're watching carefully what happens in those states/regions that are reopening. I hope things go well, that there's no resurgence, but only time will tell. Meanwhile, we're following best practices as outlined by Bromage.

Janette said...

I haven't, quite, figured out the mask thing. There really is no evidence that home made masks stop anything. Saying that, I wear one to make others comfortable.
I only go out once a week anyway--anyplace that I normally would have gone as a retired person, is closed. Now that they have stated that the idea that surfaces spread the virus is bologna, why are libraries not open? I promise not to touch anyone. How about my church? I promise to sit farrrrr away from you (I never sat near lots of people anyway). And now that they have proven that chlorine also kills the virus,I look forward to my gym opening up. My family has not visited us once- they are so scared- and that is the ONLY reason we moved here. Yup, I am done!
My nephew opened his bowling alley place in AZ this week, while another was laid off from senior management at Hertz. My sister in law is working in a "surgery center" to deliver babies while my niece is laid off from surgery at the hospital. We need to figure this all out---fast!

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! You offer a good explanation of why some of us are having a hard time of the "shelter in place" thing and others are all for getting things open. But I had a very wise man I know tell me that EVERYTHING is political" and I've tried to punch holes in that ever since but most of the time he was right. I say most because I haven't explored everything yet! When it gets down to personality, I think many psychologists have showed that we tend to divide ourselves politically based on personality traits. As the one article points out, there are reasons people are more conservative and others are more liberal....then our personal circumstances do play into as well so it isn't quite cut and dry. But what you didn't mention is that your view of stay at home or go out is often motivated by the church you attend AND the news you watch...and let's face it...that is politically motivated whether people believe it or not...and what you do with that new and/or that Sunday message decides how you vote AND whether you believe that the virus is going to be a problem for you. Just my opinion of course...However...as a "Gemini" if you believe such a thing...I go back and forth between the two! ~Kathy

carol cassara said...

I have very strong feelings about both remaining safe and making sure that I do not infect others since I do not know if I am asymptomatic. I personally believe that we are all in this together.

Linda Myers said...

We live in Tucson right now and we are mostly sheltering in place, though I have ventured out twice to sit a safe distance from a friend for conversation. I miss the hugs most of all.

This week I am in Seattle which is much more locked down. I feel safer indoors here.

My husband is high risk but I am not so much. We are watching out for each other.

If we do open up, there will be a surge. But just because we CAN do things doesn't mean we HAVE TO.

I am grateful to be safe and solvent, and for all my Zoom meetings.

Rita said...

I think it's the conservatives who want to open up the economy.

I'm liberal and I'm staying home. Eating in a restaurant or getting a haircut isn't worth dying for.

I wrote an article advising people to have a barbecue with their house for Memorial Day and skip eating out the the beach. Here's my article: https://boomersurvive-thriveguide.typepad.com/the_survive_and_thrive_bo/2020/05/how-to-celebrate-memorial-day-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic.html

A surge is going to happen and it will happen way before November.

Tom said...

Linda -- How did you get to Seattle ... airplane? Would love to see a blogpost on the experience, pro and con. Rita -- Thanks for the idea. We're firing up the grill on Mem. Day.

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Nancy L Coiner said...

So difficult now that we have choices! My husband went and got his hair cut. I'm still cutting my own (badly). We're having some friends over -- outdoors, six feet apart, everyone bringing their own food. Like many of your other commenters, I have some health issues (minor in my case -- I really feel for the people who are recovering from cancer or whatever), so I'll need to be careful, ESPECIALLY since we're hearing about so many asympotomatic carriers these days. Sigh.

As to the "everything is political," yes, but. Everything is also personal, and psychological, and gendered, and spiritual, and how one was raised, and . . . Which of our identities surfaces most in any decision depends of what chords get struck, but they all operate all the time. It's complicated, being a human!

Anonymous said...

Wow, an interesting blog:) they're so rare these days. Anyway, just my quick take on this covid scam: the business closings have economically sodomized young people, and have been committed against them INTENTIONALLY. Many of our young people will never get past this very REAL trauma.

Kay said...

Sweden is not doing well now and feel they've made a mistake. Hawaii has started to open up a bit and after the Memorial Day (celebrations) our numbers have gone from 0 to 9 infections a day. I guess we do have to start opening up, but everyone must be cautious. Luckily, people in Hawaii do wear masks and try to keep their distance. We believe what the scientists say.

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