An excellent article in The New York Times, “A Warning for the United States From the Author of ‘The Great Influenza’” by John M. Barry, professor of public health at Tulane University and author of several books on historic pandemics, sets out the priorities for the future, and above all highlights the false dichotomy between bringing the pandemic under control and protecting the economy. His argument is simple: we must do everything that needs to be done to stop the spread of COVID-19, using every measure at our disposal; the economy will recover later.
Biology is biology, and it’s not interested in what we think. What’s more, the economy is a human entelechy that can be redefined in countless ways. Now, more than half a year after the first cases were detected in Wuhan and several months after the declaration of a pandemic by the World Health Organization, we know more about the transmission of COVID-19 than we did then, and what we do know is very worrying: social distancing within enclosed spaces is not preventing the spread of infection. Indoor transmission of the virus can take place between people who are several meters away, meaning that returning to work in offices or reopening schools is nothing short of reckless, and will only ensure that the numbers of infections and victims will continue to rise.
The interdependencies of the economy are obvious: if we don’t open schools, many parents can’t go to work, and the economy slows down. But this is all based on a falsehood: that with certain safety measures, it makes sense to reopen schools. This is not true. Reopening schools is irresponsible, because we know from several countries that have done so, that the transmission rate has soared and because we also know that children’s capacity to transmit the disease is higher than previously thought. Opening schools is a way of spreading the infection, and secondly, a guarantee that we will have to close them within weeks. Read more >>