The Grim Reality

This isn't likely to end any time soon.

As I write, we’re nearing three million known and reported cases of COVID-19 infection and 200,000 dead globally. The United States alone accounts for nearly a million cases and over 52,000 dead. Most of us are still sheltering-in-place to some degree with plenty of respectable commenters and politicians alike wondering how long we can go on.

Tyler Cowen summarizes the dilemma nicely:

If we keep the economy closed at current levels, it will continue to decay, and at some point turn into irreversible, non-linear damage. No one knows when, or how to model the course of that process. That decay also will eat into our future public health capacities, and perhaps boost hunger and poverty around the world.

If we keep people locked up at current levels, fewer of them will be exposed to the virus, and in the meantime we can develop better treatments, and also improve test and trace capabilities. No one knows how quickly those improvements will come, or how to model the course of that process, or how much net good they will do.

The relative pace of those two processes should determine our best course of action. No one knows the relative pace of either of those two processes. Yet commentators pretend to be increasingly knowledgeable, moralizing based on the pretense of knowledge they do not have.

No. One. Knows.

We’ve long since closed our county schools for the year and moved our college to teaching remotely. At work, we’re planning for a delayed start around Labor Day.

The NFL kicked off its three-day draft Thursday night, with some touching tributes to healthcare workers and others risking their lives to keep the country moving during the crisis and owners and coaches making picks from their living rooms or quarter-billion-dollar yachts. The first night drew not only the highest ratings ever for the draft but more viewers than the most recent NBA Finals.

Yet there’s no guarantee at all that we’ll be ready to begin playing football in the fall. Indeed, while I paid attention to the draft and am happy thus far with the Dallas Cowboys’ additions, I’d be rather surprised if we are.

About the only thing I’m certain about right now is: don’t drink bleach.

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture, Sports, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    About the only thing I’m certain about right now is: don’t listen to anything trump says. For that matter, anything anyone in his admin says.

  2. de stijl says:

    One thing folks have not grasped is that this is, as likely than not, a new constant and not eredicateable with a one-time vaccine. (Available perhaps next spring if we rush the process.)

    There is no back to normal.

    Normal was basically ignoring and actively pooh-poohing that we were vulnerable, and not funding programs that could have lessened the toll.

    There will be a new normal.

    We are early in the process of defining what that will be.

  3. Teve says:

    My state, and sadly, my company, are trying to go “back to normal” on May 1st. Greedy dumb assholes.

  4. de stijl says:


    Perhaps a harsh, object lesson in not electing obviously unfit folks to positions of power and authority.

  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    @de stijl:

    They won’t see this as a lesson, they’ll see it as they’re being victimized by the elites.

  6. de stijl says:

    Georgia decided to be the 1918 Denver of 2020.

    My governor is about to do the same.

    Second wave commencing. Thanks, idiots.

  7. de stijl says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Those damned elites with their scientific process and rational decision making schema!

  8. DrDaveT says:

    @de stijl:

    Normal was basically ignoring and actively pooh-poohing that we were vulnerable, and not funding programs that could have lessened the toll.

    There will be a new normal.

    I’m pretty sure the new normal will be exactly like the old normal when it comes to ignoring the even bigger gorilla in the room, climate change. As we have had confirmed repeatedly, way too many people cannot believe in a threat that is not yet killing people they know.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @DrDaveT: What we need is a link between CoVid and climate change. Not that would make any difference to the 27%.

  10. de stijl says:


    We can hope our future selves make the super obvious connection.

    This will make it more likely that people do take it more seriously and act.

    Our “control” over the natural world is limited. That is now more evident than a long time. A self delusion shattered.

    The first models got it wrong on compliance.

    People self distanced and sheltered better than the initial model projections accounted for.

    That is really good news. Fantastic. Most times fellow humans disappoint us profoundly.

    The cynics are not always right.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: Most times fellow humans disappoint us profoundly.

    It’s still early in the game. Plenty of time yet for them to come through.

  12. Stormy Dragon says:

    If we keep the economy closed at current levels, it will continue to decay, and at some point turn into irreversible, non-linear damage.

    Tyler Cowen’s mistake (driven, as per usual by his Austrian Economics religious dogma) here is assuming that the economy is being “kept” closed and that it would be humming along like nothing happened absent outside intervention. The only way to “re-open” the economy is to get control of the disease, which is going to require the sorts of top-down efforts he continues to fight against implementing.

  13. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Indeed!

    No one had to force the majority of colleges and universities to switch to virtual campuses. No one forced HEB (our regional grocery store chain here) to reduce its daily operating hours temporarily and implement safety and social distancing protocols within its stores.

    Plenty of small business owners in the personal services industries have told Governor Kemp to pound sand. Who wants to risk becoming known as The Barbershop that Killed its Employees, Customers, and Community??

    Just ask Smithfield Farms how that’s working out.

  14. de stijl says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    Plenty of small business owners know about liability laws.

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: Curse you–immutable laws of nature!

  16. Fog says:

    The new normal might end up looking like the old one. I was born in 1955 in the middle of a polio epidemic, and had my ass saved by Dr Salk. Everyone born in that year (and quite a few later) carries a scar on the shoulder and has memories of the sugar cube boosters we had to take. Back then, air travel demanded that you take the proper shots for your destination. We’ve done this dance before. Everything depends on the effectiveness and availability of the vaccine(s), and we won’t know much about that for 12-18 months, apparently.

  17. JKB says:

    About the only thing I’m certain about right now is: don’t drink bleach.

    You’ve never swallowed water from a swimming pool? Just don’t drink bleach straight from the bottle. But 6-20 drops in a gallon of water, depending on turbidity and household bleach concentration, is the recommended EPA concentrations for drinking water in an emergency. And trust me, that chlorine smell makes it a little tough to enjoy.

    Not to mention the many virucides, i.e., disinfectants, of which bleach and Lysol are ones (for surfaces), that have been developed for internal use. But like all chemo-therapy treatments, only under a doctor’s care.

    The real question on re-opening is why after 8 weeks have had no refinement of what is necessary to slow the spread? No science being applied to environmental and behavioral adaptations.

    And why no court challenges to force the panicked governors and mayors to explain how their edicts are the least intrusive infringement upon the rights of citizens to achieve the legitimate goals of the government to slow this virus?

  18. Tim says:

    For anyone working in Las Vegas, especially working in the gambling industry (it’s NOT gaming, I don’t care what their marketing people say), I’d highly recommend you start looking at employment elsewhere in another industry. Even if the casinos were to spread things out for social distancing, just WHO do you think is actually going to go there now? Sure, there will be diehards and locals, but that is just a small fraction of those who feed the beast. I expect that a year from now, there will be many, many bankruptcies among casinos, and not the kind that are about “restructuring.” The strip will be a lot less luminous as casinos shut down, and the smaller places outside the strip will be hit even worse.

    Las Vegas is STILL reeling from the 2008 financial crisis. There are still many people who are underwater on their mortgages. This will be the final nail in the coffin for many of them. It’ll be time for many of them to find a new line of work, away from the desert. That city never should have been allowed to build up as much as it did anyway.

    Whenever I see that absolutely idiotic mayor of Las Vegas do an interview, I cringe! She has no clue of what to do and seems to be ready to let the industry dictate things to the city, just the way they’ve been doing since Bugsy Siegel first started the Flamingo.