Horse to Water: Summary
What level of risk justifies extraordinary government decrees?
Our fear of close human contact is well beyond the real measurable risk.
Government policies are focused on the wrong metric (declining cases) and are far too strict.
We can only hope to return to normality by fully re-opening our societies.
The coronavirus pandemic is actually not the social problem of the moment.
No, the most pressing problem for us all is the social response to the pandemic and, in particular, the widespread fear of mixing with other people in close quarters.
It is a collective psychological problem and so can only be resolved in our minds.
Fear is the main factor. And, specifically, fear of an invisible foe, a coronavirus that is potentially carried and transmitted in every breath we breathe.
The only way to assuage this fear is to wean people off their isolation and deliberately expose them to others. With repetition and the observation that renewed human contact is safe, a hesitant start will eventually turn into a habit and finally an un-self-conscious daily practice.
To do this, we need to accelerate the re-opening of our societies in all locations where the pandemic has peaked and then moderated to stable levels.
At a risk setting commensurate with other infectious diseases like the flu, or other social ills like suicide, workplace accidents, or auto collisions, we can then gradually expect to see a social response that is proportionate to a normal risk.
Using the US as an example, we know that the health risk of key non-chronic events (accidents, suicides, flu and pneumonia) is equivalent to a death rate of just over 0.08%. For those under age 65, it is less than 0.06%.
These threats do not call forth economic lockdowns or stay-at-home orders or any other coercive measures to ensure public compliance.
Rather, we have a set of socially accepted rules and practices that moderate the risk, ranging from workplace regulation and car design to counselling and vaccine programs. Given this backdrop, we go about our daily lives relatively free of fear.
So, our real risk trigger should call forth only normal regulation as a public policy response, since it is equal to the existing non-chronic risks that operate that way.
Right now, only 12 US states (in the North East, Mid-West, South, and South West) are above that level, with annualized death rates in excess of 0.08%, and 5 others are just under that level. By contrast, 22 states have rates at less than half of that level.
Interestingly, given current media concern, big states like Florida and Texas are not in the higher risk group, while Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey are included.
Applying this policy guidance around the world, we can see that there are only 9 countries in the same higher risk situation (and all of them except Sweden are in the Balkans or Latin America). By contrast, over 180 countries have annualized current death rates that are less than half of the 0.08% level.
This suggests that current government public health policy around the world is far too tight.
We can play with other variations on this theme but the answer will be the same: the real risk of the coronavirus, as measured by mortality rates, is too low to justify the current heavy-handed public policies.
Will governments respond by taking their foot off the brakes?
Will the media publicize the relatively low death rates and the relatively tight public policies?
Will people eventually relax as they renew their social relations?
Sadly and probably not, as you can lead a horse to water …
The full article can be found here.