Poetic Justice Warrior Amesh Adalja, Senior Scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, is one voice of reason helping Americans perceive the reality of the Wuhan virus fiasco. This is essential to forming ideas about personal behavior and public policy that will help everyone live their lives with the purpose we choose. Not the infantile one being coerced by political forces.
Check Your Premises
The primary goal of public policy experts is something we have heard ad nauseum. As Hunter Hastings explained, “These mathematical technicians are the product of teaching STEM, and not developing character or accountability. We’ve abandoned civilized thinking in order to flatten the curve.” Dr. Adalja explains this policy as,
Flattening the curve was never about saving lives. It was preventing excess deaths, trying to spread out the same number of cases over a longer period of time. This is really about hospital capacity.
Today, everyone seems to be an expert on it, associating public policy with saving lives. Dr. Adalja tells us that is only true where,
There are hot spots that would have been a disaster. Hospitals in New York City would have collapsed. Focus on population density, hospital capacity, and geographic area to keep cases below where hospitals can handle them.
There are at least two problems with hospital capacity groupthink. The infamous curve (cases of infection that require hospitalization over time) is bisected twice by the horizontal line that represents hospital capacity. The presumption is that this line has a slope of zero. In economic terms, it means that supply is not elastic, that capacity does not respond to changes in demand.
Hospitals are not run by closed minds; they could quickly anticipate the need. Medical equipment manufacturers are not incapable, they could be doing what entrepreneurs instinctively do. The presumption is that both are impotent without guidance from their omniscient government overlords. The other problem is worse: “flattening the curve” deflects attention away from the real problem – crippling health care regulations.
The Package Deal
Far too many governors and health department officials have mandated capricious, supply-side economic lockdowns, for the public good. Wittingly or not, they merely provide cover for a bloated system of administrative layers – politics superseding reason.
Fortunately, the reality of the Wuhan virus is not lost on anyone. While most coronaviruses are limited to animals, when they infect people, it is serious business. There are no vaccines. In a recent interview on the Yaron Brook Show, Dr. Adalja explained the case mortality rate is now estimated to be 0.5%. This is five times greater than a typical flu virus, and that’s a big deal. It is theoretically possible that nearly everyone could become infected, and in a country of 300 million people, that would equate to nearly 1.5 million deaths.
What Dr. Adalja does is distinguish between the reality of macro statistics and public policy based on reason. Regarding infections,
Mutations have no functional significance. Hospitalization is a function of who it is infecting. Diabetes, obesity, and hypertension are common attributes. The host is what drives hospitalization. It has to do with comorbidities and where they are.
What we have are the variables of population density, hospital capacity, geographic area, infection rate, and patient health. The only thing missing is preparedness. Despite the billions spent for the World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and hundreds of health departments across the country, we get slogans like “flatten the curve” and “we’re all in this together.” Except the self-proclaimed public servants. Their salaries and benefits are essential. To them.
Knowing the attributes of the Wuhan virus, and that the health care system is corrupted by politics, is essential for understanding the underlying purpose of these slogans. Flatten the curve and we’re all in this together are anti-concepts, meaning they replace a rational conversation about the merits of an idea.
The Price of Submission
As individualists, we actively contribute and cooperate for each other’s well being, within reason. When the purpose becomes political, and you question the premises of flattening the curve, it means you want people to die! Two anti-concepts in a package deal! What could go wrong? Thirty million unemployment claims? A million small businesses ruined? Mass hospital lay-offs? Fools deciding what is essential based on emotion, politics, and guilt? Do no harm? As Dr. Adalja has repeated,
This is not a containable virus. We knew in January it had long escaped China, yet we had silly restrictions on testing. We could have avoided a lot of the shutdowns. There is no excuse for not doing this right.
But how do we do this right if it’s a highly contagious virus we’ve never seen before? Even Dr. Adalja claims that the outbreaks are asynchronous, meaning there are many little outbreaks, and the timing and rate of infection are not predictable.
We’ve been talking about this for years and years, writing report after report. This virus isn’t going anywhere. We will be dealing with it for at least two more years. We need to find the right balance of controlling the virus and keeping the economy functioning.
Dr. Adalja mentions Taiwan as a great example. They were aggressive with testing, but Taiwan’s preparedness is not being talked about because they are not a member of the World Health Organization. Instead, they were doing something right, they were respecting individual rights. Of course, island nations like Taiwan, Singapore, and New Zealand have their own identity, “they are really good at infectious diseases because they have this natural barrier.” They used reason to design their customized response. Singapore did not close schools.
Can We Get Away With It
The significant effect of the lockdown is to flatten the livelihoods of millions of Americans, and this is doing emotional damage. In Sweden, they allowed the virus limited space, and there were deaths, but economic freedom was maintained. Population density, hospital capacity, geographic area, infection rate, and patient health were the policy targets. In America, Dr. Adalja reflects,
As soon as you peel back social distancing, the cases are going to go up. We expect that. The CDC is run by scientists who are adept and expert people, yet they are constrained by their environment. There are false alternatives all over the place, it has become politicized.
Fortunately, our government overlords thought of this and have a prescription – face masks! The accepted guidance is they will reduce the spread, whether infecting others or becoming infected, and remind users not to touch their face. But do they? Dr. Adalja’s position is,
I’m not a fan of the public wearing masks if they’re not sick. There’s not much benefit, especially home made masks that cause them to touch their face to adjust. There’s no strong evidence. Now, it’s the price we have to pay to make everybody feel good.
When asked how much of public policy decisions are being influenced by politics, economics or science, Dr. Adalja explained that,
Unfortunately, politics has poisoned the science. Depending on the state, it’s “what can the governor get away with.” In Pennsylvania, 25,000 exemptions have been granted for non-essential businesses. It’s a cottage industry.
As social justice would have it, the latest cottage industry is face masks, and their entrepreneurs are adding great value. Under the morality of good intentions, they are inclusive, their efficacy is perfect on beaches and bike trails, and they conform to the virtue of signaling.