20/20 Hindsight, We Were Never Going to Stop COVID – Our Response should have been This.
This is going to be a bit of a rant, so bear with me. While I recall thinking this in the early days of COVID, it could just be my brain saying “I told you so.”
We were never going to stop COVID.
This is very simple, either you get the vaccine or you get the disease in the passage of time (2 years, 5 years, 10 years), you cannot count on anything else. We were never going to stop the disease by isolating the patients, masks or social distancing. Herd immunity was never within reach. China was already allowing it to spread around the world, there was no keeping it out or keeping it from large population centers. Americans do not have the heart to exterminate or otherwise mistreat diseased people (which would likely have saved 100’s of thousands during the AIDS epidemic…), we are not willing to throw away our Constitution quite so easily, even in the face of life and death conditions.
We needed to resign ourselves to the condition that COVID was here to stay. Only China could have prevented a worldwide epidemic, and they were not cooperating. Our only goal at that point should have been to make sure that our hospitals were not overwhelmed, that people who got the disease had access to treatment, and that vulnerable populations (mostly the old folks) were protected as much as possible until the vaccine was available. Locking down was a good tool to try to keep the disease at bay, but trying to prevent any and all contagion was foolish. And still is.
If I were starting this over again, the right feedback loop is to watch the hospitals and make sure we have the capacity for the patients. The social measures should be throttled accordingly. When hospital beds are open, social measures should relax. When hospital beds are close to full, increase the social measures where it makes sense and only to the extent that we don’t exceed hospital capacity. And all of this should be a DELAYING TACTIC until the vaccine was prepared. Thereafter, the vaccine should be is the only measure necessary. Many local governments have actually followed this (wittingly or unwittingly). It makes sense.
Once we found out that the young were in almost no danger, we should have embraced that and (much like parents used to do with Chickenpox), expended our efforts making sure that they DID get the disease and got over it (or in later stages, get the vaccine). Schools should never have been closed, at least not for more than the first month, while we were getting the parameters for the disease. Kids were major carriers but in no danger themselves. This should have been obvious.
I believe that the correct focus would have shortened the COVID crisis and mitigated the economic damage by a factor of ten. The over-reaction of some officials caused a great deal of unnecessary damage. I don’t believe that lives were saved.
The very early Trump response was that probably COVID would not be an issue. Why did he say that (100% supported by his advisors)? Very simple, history indicated that epidemics like this were not likely, there was not a lot that anyone could do, and he didn’t want people to panic. There were just a handful of cases in America at that point.
But later, as new data indicated that this was a serious threat for epidemic, Trump issued the orders and guidance, based on the advice of his advisors, to start with masks, do social distancing, etc. He started distributing resources, ventilators, hospital resources, etc. and using federal funds to pay for the production of supplies.
More importantly, he started the most massive effort in history to develop the vaccine, funding billions in research from multiple sources, which resulted in the fastest start to finish vaccine development in history.
The partisan attacks on Trump and the vaccine by the Democrats gained them power in the 2020 elections, but opened a chasm between political factions. The resulting resistance costs thousands of lives and $100’s of Billions in economic damage.
Initially, attacks on Trump damaged the reputation of the vaccine, causing doubt in many people’s minds. The Biden Administration has an existing vaccine (thanks, Donald), but has failed to inspire the level of vaccine usage that would reduce contagion. Biden has allowed a new resurgence in COVID, there was absolutely no reason for this to have happened.
Make no mistake, I blame the Democrats (because I always do, and it is usually their fault) but this was a failure on both sides. And it was a failure of previous administrations not developing the proper plan for dealing with an epidemic. With 20/20 hindsight, this is obvious.
And we have not quite learned yet. We still see people being harassed or fired for not getting the vaccine, we still have mask mandates that don’t make sense, and those damned social distancing stickers are still on the floors of many supermarkets.
And approvals for vaccines for children are just now getting underway. That should have been done a year ago.
Again, we were never going to stop COVID.
COVID is very similar to every other kind of flu, it is contagious and it will not go away. It will be with us from now on. The vaccine for it will have to adapt, much like the regular flu vaccine does now. COVID will be normal, hopefully the B.S. that came with it will not be.