In the early days of the COVID-19 panic – back in mid-March – articles began to appear pushing the idea of “flattening the curve” (the Washington Post ran an article called “Flatten the Curve” on March 14). This idea was premised on spreading out the total number of COVID-19 infections over time, so as to not overburden the healthcare infrastructure.
A March 11 article for Statnews, summed it up: “I think the whole notion of flattening the curve is to slow things down so that this doesn’t hit us like a brick wall,” said Michael Mina, associate medical director of clinical microbiology at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It’s really all borne out of the risk of our health care infrastructure pulling apart at the seams if the virus spreads too quickly and too many people start showing up at the emergency room at any given time.”
In those days, it was still considered madness to suggest outlawing jobs for millions of Americans or “shutting down” entire national economies in an effort to “flatten the curve.” Thus, the article lists for more moderate mitigation strategies:
By taking certain steps—canceling large public gatherings, for instance, and encouraging some people to restrict their contact with others—governments have a shot at stamping out new chains of transmission, while also trying to mitigate the damage of the spread that isn’t under control.
What we got, of course, was something much more far reaching, radical, and disastrous for both the economy and for long-term health problems.
For the next two weeks or so, governments mostly sold the idea of forced social distancing as a measure to “flatten the curve” and the phrase began appearing everywhere in social media, media publications and government announcements.
Many people found this message to be reasonable enough, especially when coupled with claims that hospitals and governments would seek to buy up large numbers of ventilators and expand capacity with temporary hospitals. This flatten the curve narrative persisted for two weeks or so, but at some point in late March and early April, the narrative switched to something new.
The new narrative was this: the death toll will simply be too gruesome and unbearable to allow people to continue on with some semblance of an ordinary life. So, we must keep society locked down indefinitely until a vaccine is found or until there can be enough testing and tracking for surveillance of infections among the entire population. Until then, only minimal “essential” activities will be allowed. This could last eighteen months, or two years, or more. And even then, there will need to be “COVID passports” and official freedom-to-work documents issued by governments. – READ MORE
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