A friend in Holland in is his 60s and therefore beginning to enter the real risk window for COVID-19. When I call to check on him, he is usually out in the busy square of his university town. “Some students just walked by with six crates of beer,” he remarked. Holland never truly shut down. Unlike Sweden, however, the schools closed. “The teachers are unionized,” my friend said. “So they knew they’d get paid whether or not they went to work. Of course they immediately refused to work and said that the schools had to be closed in the name of protecting everyone.” How about the stores? “Everything is open except for the red light district,” he responded. (If the gals working there could somehow make it to Boston, they could earn a lot more than they’d been getting in Amsterdam!)
(How’s Holland doing? The Population is 17 million. As of April 9, they’d suffered 2,248 deaths compared to 10,853 in France, population 67 million. I.e., the Netherlands has had a lower death rate than France. France began locking down on March 13.)
If people making the decisions on shutting down continue to get paid, when would they ever suggest reopening? Who is involved in or has influenced decision-making in the U.S. on this issue?
- State governors
- CDC bureaucrats
- NIH bureaucrats (such as Dr. Anthony Fauci)
- WHO bureaucrats
- Tenured professors at top research universities
One thing the above folks all have in common: they will still have the same job at the same pay regardless of the length of the shutdown. What’s their lockdown experience like? I was on FaceTime yesterday with a (flying friend) professor of “science and public policy,” i.e., exactly the kind of person whom a government might turn to for advice. He is suffering through the lockdown at a 20-acre family property right on the ocean.
If your job is engineering or manufacturing widgets, on the other hand, every additional day of shutdown is additional risk that a customer will decide to buy widgets from Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, or Chinese suppliers that remain up and running. You will come back after the shutdown to reduced revenue and a much tougher competitive environment in direct proportion to the length of the shutdown.
Given that even one death is one death too many from COVID-19 and that we should always act out of an abundance of caution and that we assume that our shutdown has had a tremendous life-saving effect, when would folks who are immune to any negative effects of economic/societal shutdown ever decide that it is time to reopen?