In dealing with the coronavirus Governors who, like Arkansas’ Asa Hutchinson and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, have refused to shut down their states with the sort “shelter in place” orders of the sort favored by Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo are attacked almost daily in the media as “uncaring,” or “reckless.”
It would seem that there is only one way to deal with the virus and that is to shut down virtually everything and order people to “shelter in place” and maintain “social distancing” when leaving one’s home to buy groceries or other essentials like marijuana. Any governor suggesting anything else is pictured as irresponsibly putting the people of his or her state at risk of infection and death.
This is a phenomenon not limited to the United States. Sweden has been pursuing a “middle way” in dealing with the virus. Public health professionals there believe no one will be out of the woods until such time as we have access to a reliable vaccine which could realistically take months or achieve what the experts call herd immunity.
They decided early they wouldn’t shut down there entire economy and have instead relied on targeted restrictions combined with suggestions that the public adopt “social distancing” and keep away from large crowds so as to “flatten the curve” and prevent a run on the nation’s medical facilities while allowing the virus to spread at a slower rate to achieve herd immunity.
Thus, they have placed heavy emphasis on protecting the elderly either at home or in the retirement homes so prone to group infections while refusing to close their elementary schools because the data suggests children are the least likely to face serious consequences if they become infected. The European media has been as hostile to Sweden’s leaders as the US media has been to the Governors who haven’t gone along with more stringent restrictions.
Their approach makes sense in the eyes of some experts not just because it saves jobs and allows them to keep their economy at least partially open but also because strict “shelter in place” rules mean it will take much, much longer to achieve herd immunity and risks a massive “second wave” when these economies open up. If achieving this immunity requires a certain percentage of the population to actually contract the virus either approach would theoretically lead to roughly the same number of deaths per million, but a targeted approach might protect those most likely to face complications from infection and allow a society to open up more quickly. There is logic behind both approaches, but the hostility toward those who go for targeted rather than mass restrictive orders is explained by something else entirely.
A Swedish journalist hit on it recently when a French television reporter admitted to him when he asked why the media has been so hostile to anything but a complete shutdown with harsh restrictions. The reporter admitted that “it’s almost as if we want Sweden to fail because then we would know it is you and not us that there is something wrong with …”
Exactly. If it happens that we didn’t have to shut down everything, threaten civil liberties, drive businesses to the brink of bankruptcy and destroy the jobs of millions of Americans, will the Whitmers, Cuomos and others like them admit they may have overreacted and that the Hutchinsons and Noems got it right.
If you think that will happen, you don’t know much about politicians.