Northam’s Indefensible Philosophical Premise

by James A. Bacon

Virginia tax revenue fell $700 million in April compared to the same month a year ago, a 26.2% drop. That decline, of course, reflects the nose dive in the economy that generates tax revenues. In response to this news, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Governor Ralph Northam made a telling comment yesterday that sums up his approach to the COVID-19 epidemic:

As anticipated, this is the first monthly revenue report to reflect the significant negative impacts of COVID-19 on the health of our commonwealth’s finances. We are facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis, and we must combat this virus before we can begin to repair our economy. My top priorities continue to be protecting the health and safety of all Virginians.

Northam is hardly alone in holding these sentiments. They are shared by most Democratic elected officials, a few Republicans, almost the entirely of the news media, and much of the public. The belief that “we must combat this virus before we can begin to repair our economy” is driving public policy in Virginia and many other states.

Thank you, Governor, for stating the philosophical principle at stake so plainly.

There are so many flaws in this reasoning, it’s hard to know where to begin, but I shall address the most obvious.

The monomaniacal focus on the virus, which we can measure in real-time, ignores health issues we cannot measure in real time. There are many deficiencies in the COVID-19 statistics reported by the state, but they do give us a rough idea of what’s happening day by day. By contrast, the adverse health effects of the economic shutdown and soaring unemployment — anxiety, depression, suicides, substance abuse, domestic abuse, child neglect, child malnutrition, delayed surgeries and procedures — are largely invisible. Either no one collects the statistics, or the statistics are reported after lengthy delays, typically a year or more. By focusing exclusively on what we can measure right now, we ignore the potentially devastating human toll the shutdown is taking. In Northam’s reckoning, if he can’t see it, it doesn’t count.

If the economy collapses, we lose our ability to fight the virus — and provide health care to all. Our society needs tax revenue to fight the virus and maintain the health care system, which now consumes almost one fifth of the economy. COVID-19 patients are not the only people in the commonwealth who require health care.

So far the COVID-19 epidemic has accounted for 3,657 hospitalizations. We have hardly seen the end to the epidemic, so let’s say the number doubles. Hell’s bells, let’s say the number quadruples before the virus dies down. Let’s say 15,000 Virginians are ultimately hospitalized because of the virus. That compares to 850,000 hospitalizations in 2015 (the most recent year for which I could find data) from other causes. That’s a whole lot of people suffering from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, gunshots, automobile accidents, and whatever else sends people to the hospital.

If you cripple the economy, you cripple the healthcare system. Virginia hospitals lost roughly $200 million from the prolonged shutdown of elective surgery. Some hospitals have the financial wherewithal to survive. Others don’t, particularly rural hospitals. Beyond that shutdown, which Northam finally ended, we have to worry what happens when hundreds of thousands of Virginians lose their jobs. How many will lose their company-provided insurance? Even if they get picked up by Virginia’s expanded Medicaid program, what is the financial impact on hospitals from shifting a couple hundred thousand workers from profitable private insurance patients to unprofitable Medicaid patients? Moreover, what is the difference in the quality of healthcare provided by private insurance and Medicaid for the patients?

Speaking of Medicaid, how much Medicaid can the state afford if the tax base shrinks by 26% long-term?

Virginia can walk and chew gum at the same time. The idea that we must combat the virus before addressing the economy is based on the flawed premise that it’s an either/or situation. We can combat the virus and accelerate the reopening of the economy. For example:

  • We can more rapidly reopen the economy in regions where the virus is spreading slowly, particularly in western Virginia.
  • We can focus resources on controlling outbreaks (10 or more infections in the same location) in higher-risk settings such as nursing homes, correctional facilities, schools, collages, and entertainment venues rather than in low-risk settings such as… hiking trails and the  beachfront.
  • We can count on the elderly and medically vulnerable to continue maintaining social distancing voluntarily.
  • We can count on business enterprises to adopt measures — plastic screens at checkout counters, continual cleaning, maintaining social distancing, employees wearing face masks — that will significantly reduce the spread of the virus.
  • We can continue maintaining the restrictions that provide the most bang for the buck, so to speak, such as restricting large-scale gatherings.

There is no such thing as zero risk.

It is impossible for state government action to exterminate the COVID-19 virus. The name of the game is weighing and balancing risks. Northam is focusing on reducing one set of risks stemming from the virus. Meanwhile, his actions increase the risks associated with devastating the economy, laying waste to the health care system, and undermining the financial strength of not only state and local governments, but universities, port and airport authorities, mass transit systems, housing authorities, economic development authorities, and a host of other institutions.

We can always scale back. If we accelerate the return to normalcy and the virus begins spreading more rapidly than before, and the price paid gets too high, we can always re-calibrate and re-introduce restrictions where they are most needed.

Frankly, I find the Governor’s philosophical position to be indefensible. When all the numbers come in — not just the COVID-19 statistics, but the economic data, the job loss numbers, the tax-revenue numbers, the hospital finance numbers, the mental health numbers, the non-COVID mortality numbers — we could well find that the unnecessarily prolonged shutdown did far more harm than good.

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48 responses to “Northam’s Indefensible Philosophical Premise”

  1. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    For the detail wonks, there are the spreadsheets. This still reflects some activity before the full impact hit, and next month will be worse. In particular pages 4 and 5 show the drop in the fuel and vehicle taxes, and page 10 shows the Rainy Day Fund balance, which cannot be tapped until a new revenue forecast confirms what we all know.

  2. sbostian Avatar

    I would add one additional philosophical premise that Northam and many who support him and/or his methods subscribe to: The death of a person who displays presence of the COVID 19 virus is so much more tragic than other deaths that collateral damage from coronavirus mitigation strategies is irrelevant. Before you deny it, I have seen that sentiment expressed here ad infinitum. I would love to hear why those of that mindset justify the premise. Why have we inflated our dealing with this particular pandemic to the status of an existential battle?

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Trump. Next question?

      1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        See, you know the problem by name.

    2. vaconsumeradvocate Avatar

      For many people the fact that one can carry the virus and not know it and thus infect others without knowing it, is a real driver in the decision making process. It isn’t that these deaths count more – it’s the fear of things getting out of hand and many more dying from a disease we don’t fully understand that attacks in ways we aren’t used to. It’s hard to protect from something we don’t understand.

      There’s really no way for the governor or anyone to win here. If you do one thing one group yells If you do another, another one yells. The way everything – including whether to wear masks or stay away from others to try to stop the spread of the disease until we know more about it and understand the best ways to protect ourselves against it – is read, there’s going to be a divide and it’s going to become political. Sadly, everyone just digs in and holds to their position and yells more instead of looking for ways to calm things.

    3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      I don’t recall anyone on this blog saying, or even implying, that a death resulting from COVID-19 is more tragic than the deaths that are “collateral damage from coronavirus mitigation strategies, and that those latter deaths are “irrelevant”. There has been discussion of the damage resulting from unemployment, stress, depression, domestic abuse, substance abuse, etc. I don’t think anyone has dismissed those concerns, but there is balancing of risks and different people come up with different answers.

  3. LGABRIEL Avatar

    Frankly, I am not concerned with the Governor’s philosophy. What he does owe to the Virginia citizenry is a totally open, honest, transparent reasoning for his decisions. Without that, we have little way of knowing to what extent his decisions are based on hard scientific data or on some other considerations. Exactly what models does he rely on and what goes into those models? Many citizens might not understand the inner workings of computer simulations, but there are many experts who do, who could then inform us to what extent they are valid, or where questions remain. He could come up with criteria for reopening phases that are objective and not subject to interpretation. For those wanting to keep politics out, they should be clamoring for this type of openness. Behind closed doors decision-making only leads to mistrust.

  4. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    This is one of Jim Bacon’s best posts ever.

    With this post, Jim is filling a very big and much needed void in today’s news. Never was a post more timely and needed than this one.

  5. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Not looking like Armageddon in Texas or Georgia, not yet. If VA wants to look like those results, perhaps it should follow their lead….

    Here’s VA on the same Johns Hopkins tracker:

    And another state further along on the opening road:

  6. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Great story just posted by M. Martz at RTD. As we fight the battle of the barber shop and bar, this disease rages and kills somewhere else. For weeks the energy and assets and piles and piles of money have all gone to exactly the wrong places. Incompetence kills.

    1. MAdams Avatar

      Isn’t is just maddening that the most vulnerable have been neglected even to this point. It was known since the beginning that those facilities were going to be hit, and hit very hard.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        The New York Governor’s mother was covered, fully protected as Governor made clear again and again on national TV. Funny, actually not so at all, but quite the reverse, how the world works.

  7. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    “India’s Kerala state has just faced an outbreak of the Nipah virus and seventeen people have died so far. This may seem like a small number, but only one of the eighteen people infected survived. ”

    And, I’ll bet the posts and comments wouldn’t change an iota.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Is the Nipah virus new? Is there a cure? Is there a vaccine? How does it spread? Is there a danger it could develop into a pandemic?

      1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        Does grab your attention, don’t it? It is one of some 40 zoonotic viruses carried by bats, of which SARS is but one, uh, make that two.

        Covid is the wake up call. Don’t hit the snooze button.

      2. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        I did not answer your question. 1998 was that outbreak. But, 20 years and no vaccine. Treatments? Well, maybe in the next outbreak of Nipah, hydroxychloroquine will work.

  8. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    The reasons set out above by vaconsumeradvocate are why this virus is so difficult to deal with. Persons can be infected with the virus and show absolutely no symptoms but still spread the disease. Older people and those with chronic medical problems are the most susceptible, but the disease, and death, are not confined to those categories. Then there are the side effects, even for the asymptomatic, that are beginning show up later—strokes for relatively young adults, a rare disease for children—that we are learning about.

    At the same time, society cannot just stop and go into hiding. As Jim has pointed out, the economy needs to keep functioning, if no other reason than to produce revenue to fight the virus. There seems to be a general agreement that, in order to open up the economy as safely as possible, there needs to be widespread testing, contract tracing, and isolation of those found positive.

    I have given up on this administration. Northam and his officials may say the right words about testing, but it is evident they have no idea how to implement any coherent program. I called the Henrico/Richmond health department and asked about my wife and I, who have shown no symptoms, getting tested. First, I was told that only those having symptoms, or preparing for surgery or undergoing cancer treatments, could get tested. Then, the lady gave me the name of a clinic in Henrico that might be doing “walk-in” testing. I called that clinic and confirmed that they indeed were conducting “drive-through” testing for anyone.

    What kind of program is this? It is not a program; it is hodge-podge, random activity in which one hand does not know what the other is doing. For the general public to feel somewhat safe, people need to know that (i) there is widespread, random testing of asymptomatic persons, as well as those who have some symptoms (ii) there is a concerted effort to identify any person with whom a person testing positive had contact in the last week or so, and (iii) those testing positive are required to isolate for 14 days.

    Not only does Virginia not have an organized testing effort, I have heard of no effort to establish any sort of contact tracing program.

    It would be a no-brainer to design a comprehensive testing program, centered around the state’s regional health departments and using private labs to analyze the tests. It would take some time and organizational know-how to implement such a program. This administration has not been able to do either of these tasks. It just seems to bumble around.

    Not only does it seem clueless on testing, the actions it takes to begin to open up the economy are inconsistent and do not make sense. Why should I be able to go to a barber shop or the dentist or to church or to Walmart, but not to a restaurant in which the tables are six feet apart or there is an empty booth on both sides of me and the wait staff wear masks? Why does a store in Scott’s Addition (Richmond city) have to be closed whereas stores in Willow Lawn (Henrico County), five minutes up Broad St., can be open?

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Historical note to readers: Dick and I (part of DJ’s Richmond insider mob) were both doing our best to defend the Northam team just a few short weeks ago…..Just watched the tap dance during the Friday briefing on the antibody testing kerfuffle, and it warn’t pretty.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        You two are the best of the best, irreplaceable. The state and nation are forever grateful and in your debt.

      2. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        You two are the best of the best, irreplaceable. The state and nation are forever grateful and in your debt.

        1. Steve Haner Avatar
          Steve Haner

          This one’s for you, NN, in honor of Kerry…..:)

          1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

            Well now, thanks Steve, but there are just far too many examples of injustice in our “justice” system for me to shed a tear for the latest boondoggle of a screeching, self-admitted man-stealing, beach-combing, crocodile tear shedding irrelevant on this site.

            It’s good she has a hobby now that she’s an unemployed, unedited, and very much unread opinion-writer, who wasted ink for far too long in a soon-to-be dead newspaper.

          2. Wow, Nancy Naïve, it sounds like you have a deep personal grudge against Kerry. I mean personal. What did she ever do to you?

          3. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            Odd, indeed.

            I fine Kerry’s work to be a superb. It is highly informed, and deeply insightful, on a whole variety of timely and important issues and events of the day that impact real people living real lives. So her articles resonate deeply with readers.

            She is also a far more accomplished and skillful journalists than all but a very few writers at the Washington Post. This is because Kerry obviously has very high emotional intelligence that shines through her words along with her obviously deeply lived, well learned and integrated personal experiences. All of this, most Washington Post writers lack altogether. All the typical Post reporter can fall back on are their sheltered and parochial lives in the hot house of insufferable executive editors, chattering and wildly liberal peers, and the DC cocktail party circuit when the Post reporters are not glued to their seats before computer monitors, and Google searches.

            So Kerry is far better armed for her trade having come up through the real world, the rough and tumble trenches.

            Hence, she has a far keener eye for detail. She deploys a far sharper nose for a good story. She delivers a big punch.


            Her every word carries a far heavier payload than most Washington Post writers. So her pieces carry five fold the punch at a quarter the length typically found in a Washington Post article that too often is too full of words too light on substance and clarity. Indeed, a typical Post article contains no reality at all, or only glimmers of reality.

          4. Nancy_Naive Avatar

            According to her, James, she stole ma’ man. Remember? Maybe I just cannot abide those who think they are always right. It irritates those of us who are. Maybe I’m feigning outrage. Ya know, I think I am.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      Yep, I too am becoming convinced that Northam and company are not excellent the sharpest knives in the drawer, and yes.. they’re shucking and jiving way more than they should.

      Very few, if any, of our elected Gov were “pandemic-ready” when they took office. Some have stepped up and done the leadership roles and some have not and some have “bumbled” and now I’m convinced that Northam and company are in that group.

      Having said that – criticisms flying at him from all directions is not going to fix anything. If anything, they’ll pull back and engage even less… that’s human nature… He’s just not made of the leadership stuff that most want – and expected. But he is who he is – you’re not going to get anything better by non-stop attacks either. It is what it is.

  9. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    The problem with an epidemic is that it is proof that Conservatives and Libertarians are not elites. They HATE being hit in the face that their health actually depends on the health of the poor. They cannot be aloof and make trickle down pronouncements.

    1. MAdams Avatar

      I wasn’t aware that Libertarians considered themselves elite, that’s news to me and I’m one of them. My health depends on me and me alone, there are very little consequences that others can play in it.

      Your problem seems to be that you connect laissez-faire with “trickle down” economics, while related they are not the same concept. I can understand how you can’t seem to differentiate between those concepts as they are beyond your intellectual ability.

      Ironically you’re the second person today complaining about Libertarians who have zero understanding of what it means. I don’t find that coincidental, but rather just poor education.

      What you fail to realize is that Government is not he solution, and eventually when the tax revenue runs out your pension will dry up. As will all the social programs that the Government incorrectly funds.

      The health of the poor is an issue, but instead of handing them things because we think they cannot do for themselves, perhaps we should provide them with the tools to better themselves.

      The only elites who profess to know what’s better for someone are those who think Big Government is the answer and faux liberals. Of which you can be counted.

      1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        “My health depends on me and me alone, there are very little consequences that others can play in it.”

        I am a rock, I am an island. The very definition of elitism. And no, I do know the difference between liassez-faire and trickle-down. Laissez-faire has a thousand year history of free market failures while trickle-down, cumulatively, meh, maybe 20.

        The is no greater aggression than to let people die. “Here, here’s a hammer. Fix your healthcare.”

        1. MAdams Avatar

          That’s called personal responsibly, I understand that can be a foreign concept to some people. The notion that you consider that elitism smacks of your inability to construct a salient argument.

          Umm trickle down was Reagan he was elected in 1980, that was 40 years. I can assume that since you don’t know what it took rise, you don’t understand it’s concept either.

          Healthcare isn’t free, those that provide it are not altruist. They deserve a salary too that offsets the amount of education required to hold that position. Your love for big Government is what has driven that price up because it’s allowed insurance to take control.

          What COVID-19 has show for all to see is that without a profit hospitals lay people off and shutter them. That includes the Dr’s and Nurses which to laud as hero’s, but secretly think they get paid too much.

          The problem with big government (your love) is that it cannot be sustained (CCCP taught us this).

          Now, if you can form a coherent arguemnt that lacks snark, go for it. Otherwise, it’s just further proof that yourself and Larry have zero understanding beyond your cushy Federal Pensions.

          1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

            Ah, personal responsibility… Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the Serpent, and the Libertarian Party was born.

          2. MAdams Avatar

            Religious beliefs have very little to do with political ideology, I get that you couldn’t form a coherent response thought. However, you should’ve just left it at not responding at all.

            You should perhaps have listened to Mark Twain.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        Hey this is for you:

        Do you concur with this?


        1. MAdams Avatar

          Concur what with? The fact that you attempted to bemoan Libertarianism yesterday and now have sourced a document I’m sure you didn’t read and understand?

          That article states everything I did yesterday, I’m sorry you got embarrassed by someone your junior. It’s okay though, the fact that you felt the need to reply here just tells me that I’m still under your skin.

          It’s okay to be wrong, but in most cases people admit that they were wrong and learn form it, you have not.

          Your gotcha backfired the moment you didn’t read your source.

        2. Nancy_Naive Avatar

          Larry, Libertarians vote at 3% so they don’t have to make a meaningful choice.

          1. MAdams Avatar

            Lots of independents are Libertarians, I’m sorry their thinking for themselves offended a Big Government aficionado such as yourself.

            Give the amount of snark you throw, one would think you’d at least have a handle on the concepts you discussed, alas that’s not the case.

  10. Terry Carter Avatar
    Terry Carter

    Rambling alert…….I think you left out the most categorically pertinent fact in setting up this piece. Northam’s comment that “we must combat this virus before we can begin to repair our economy” obviously is based on medical/health concerns as paramount, and you touch on that aspect later. But at this beginning point you say Northam’s sentiments “are shared by most Democratic elected officials, a few Republicans, almost the entirety of the news media, and much of the public.” You did not note that Northam shares the sentiments of probably a majority of infectious disease experts. (Not, say, the opining of a neuro-radiologist on Fox News.) The judgment of those experts is that it would be worse to re-open on a significant scale. You say, “We can always scale back.” Those experts put that into their own equation and say your way very likely leads to revisiting “Mr. Goodwrench,” who must be paid eventually, and if later, more than the original job would have cost.
    You catalog the somewhat safe practices some businesses can develop, and acknowledge that there might be some lives lost. I must say I miss Sarah Palin’s lectures on the horror of “death panels” created by Democrats because they favored end-of-life counseling as part of medical care. Counseling. In the face of death. Besides the Covid-19 death count, we keep learning it has more and horrible long-term effects. Early on I gave up hope that Covid-19 knows that 70 is the new 50. I’m following the experts.
    As for the economy, I’m gonna be scattershot here because the day is beautiful outside, and it calls me: Granted Covid-19 already has done and has the potential for doing much greater radical damage to the economy. But then, it’s an economy that pre-Covid-19 hasn’t been able to do much for the salt-of-the-earth folks who weren’t born with the drive and smarts to create businesses and make stuff, and, not being mere takers, are satisfied to trade hours for dollars at a job; this is increasingly worsening in part because of AI and automation (from my own perspective and research, I’d say watch AI devour much of the legal profession in the coming years); and opportunities for a living wage had already been decreasing significantly. Please note that Walmart probably can’t have more than half their employees working as managers, so there goes that. Throw all kinds of job stats around, but I’m most impressed by the discrepancies in the cost of living compared to available jobs and wages. That harsh reality isn’t new, but the spotlight is now at a different angle and intensity, and the economy is going to be radically restructured in some ways, both naturally and by legislation, regulation and policy. I see all kinds of news analysis on changes we’re gonna go through, but haven’t seen much about what’s going to happen when in low-income areas of the inner cities and similar pockets in suburbia, people become more than restive in the face of greater poverty.
    Meanwhile, a group of armed terrorists took over the Michigan Statehouse this week. They know our president is on their side. That’s today’s America.

  11. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    He’s back:
    “But then, it’s an economy that pre-Covid-19 hasn’t been able to do much for the salt-of-the-earth folks who weren’t born with the drive and smarts to create businesses and make stuff, and, not being mere takers, are satisfied to trade hours for dollars at a job;”

    That is quite a statement, such a humanist.

    So is this Yin to the humanist’s yang:

    “Meanwhile, a group of armed terrorists took over the Michigan Statehouse this week. They know our president is on their side. That’s today’s America.”

    Now we have Yin and yang. What a guy!

  12. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Lockdown is over in Warrenton. On main streets they roped off most of the parking to serve as spaces for outdoor seating at the bars and restaurants. Very little social distancing, few masks, plenty of pints and big smiles. Cars every where. Kids out and about on the sidewalks. Just an observation. Not saying who is right or wrong but it does seem that folks are going to get back to living. Here we go.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Let Freedom Ring!

  13. Top-GUN Avatar

    Here we go again,,, the guvner says “My top priorities continue to be protecting the health and safety of all Virginians.”
    Well if he was really interested in our health and safety he’d stop people from smoking,,, including pot,,,

  14. Dick, you said, “It would be a no-brainer to design a comprehensive testing program, centered around the state’s regional health departments and using private labs to analyze the tests. It would take some time and organizational know-how to implement such a program. This administration has not been able to do either of these tasks. It just seems to bumble around.”

    So where’s UVA’s responsibility in all this? The Governor said “The Virginia Department of Health asked Biocomplexity Institute researchers in January to model the spread of COVID-19 within the state, and to provide tools to help policymakers make sound science-based disease mitigation decisions.”

    Wouldn’t a sound testing program be a key component to modeling and mitigation decisions? The Biocomplexity Institute pointed to its experience in providing “support to U.S. government officials during other major epidemics, including flu outbreaks, MERS, Ebola and Zika.” So who dropped the ball on the state’s testing? UVA or the Commonwealth? If the VDH got good advice and ignored it, then why didn’t UVA speak up? In all their PR, where did UVA say what they advised or where Virginia could improve?

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Here is an Iron Rule in Virginia since 2012:

      UVA never fails to disappoint, over promise, over spend, and over lecture everyone else in Virginia on how superior UVA is to everyone else in Virginia, and how good and great UVA is versus everyone else in Virginia.

      Remember UVA’s Honor Code?

      How UVA was going to fix all the flaws in its honor code, and bring that flawed Honor Code into the 21th Century so as to match UVA’s great virtue today. It’s all there to read in UVA Magazine.

      The results are in and plain for everyone to see, plainer each passing day now.

  15. LarrytheG Avatar

    I think a comprehensive testing and contact tracing program is central to any strategy to open businesses and to keep them open by detecting when one or more of their workforce has become infected.

    To detect the infected and isolate them and to follow their contacts.

    If you do not do that then asymptomatic people will show up for work and infect others – what we are calling “hotspots” and for small businesses especially, several infected will shut them down again.

    This particular aspect is entirely separate from keeping statistics or modelling but do agree that GOOD modelling has the POTENTIAL to show what strategies are effective – but in order for that to be true, it would mean that the models could be calibrated with prccision as to the numerical values associated with each particular strategy.

    For instance, are you testing every day and doing contact tracing every day and if so – how wide and deep is the contact tracing?

    There are so many variables that are in play and we have almost no real data to precisely say what the value should be so a lot of this is educated guesses from professionals in the field but still those numbers are more based on predictions not previously collected and calculated data.

    But the bottom line is – for any given workplace – whether it be 5 or 50 employees – if one person becomes infected – he/she can spread it to others in that workplace if we do not test. This is known already – look at the meatpacking plants. Look at some of the problems that distribution centers like Amazon is having. Look at the nursing homes, prisons, and even some grocery stores.

    Look at the POTUS – not only testing everyday but questions about the accuracy of the test themselves.

    So we have this strange dichotomy where not everyone is really convinced that testing and contact tracing is “needed” – even at the White House – but then their response is more testing and contact tracing even as they make public statements that they’re not sure if it is really needed.

    It’s needed. Just about every single epidemiologists is saying just that.

    It’s mind boggling that we’re still debating it and arguing about other things… if we don’t do testing and contact tracing… all we’re doing instead is just watching what is happening with our “numbers”.

  16. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    While social distancing this morning at Giant (waiting for someone to finish selecting items), I overheard one store employee tell another about a drive home to Warrenton yesterday. Westbound traffic was about as bad as normal with all the people driving from Fairfax to partake in “Open Virginia.”

    Res ipsa loquitor.

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead V

      I love Latin. My favorite class at Stonewall Jackson HS. Bravo!

  17. virginiagal2 Avatar

    Below is a link to an article that does a very nice job of explaining why those are not the two choices, and why testing matters for both health and the economy. The two goals are not in opposition.

    1. virginiagal2 Avatar

      Added the summary quote “ How do we know that testing, tracing and supported isolation would work? It already has worked in New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan — where there have been few to no new daily cases recently. Taiwan never had to shut down its economy, while New Zealand and South Korea are returning to normal. It would work here, too.

      Since March, Congress has passed relief bills totaling $3.6 trillion to support an economy devastated by a virus — and $3 trillion more is on the table. We should attack the disease directly so we can stop spending to alleviate symptoms. Following this road map, we can defeat the coronavirus and be celebrating life, liberty and livelihood by the Fourth of July.”

      Authors are Alex Tabarrok of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and Puja Ahluwalia Ohlhaver, who per WaPo “is a senior fellow at the RadicalxChange Foundation and chief executive of ClearPath Surgical. She contributed to the report “Pandemic Resilience: Getting It Done,” by the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.“

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