World Reopening Even though Pandemic is Still Raging

The lockdowns are ending and likely not coming back.

For the first time in a century, much of the world went into lockdown in response to an epic health crisis. The crisis is far from over and, indeed, there’s no end in sight. But the lockdowns have ended.

Marc Santora for the New York Times (“The World Reopens, Despite Skyrocketing Coronavirus Cases“):

Two months ago, when there were roughly one million confirmed coronavirus cases and the primal politics of survival was sweeping the world, shutting down was the order of the day.

This week, the number of cases soared past seven million, with 136,000 new infections detected on Sunday alone, the highest single-day total since the pandemic began.

The order of the day? Reopening.

Granting that part of the reason for the record is that testing is more widespread, it seems counterintuitive. Nothing has really changed in terms of our ability to treat the underlying disease. Indeed, it’s quite possible we haven’t even reached the peak.

The initial explanation is, to say the least, unsatisfying:

Terrified after watching economies built over the course of decades hollow out in a matter of weeks, countries seem to be saying, in effect: Enough.

This is more like it:

Amid economic pain unlike anything seen in generations, there simply may not be the same political will, or even desire, to shut things down again. And while the public largely went along with restrictions (which were often not really enforceable on a wide scale, in any case), it remains to be seen if citizens would be so accommodating a second time around.

Talk of “the economy” in this situation frustrates me. It makes it seem like politicians are putting the stock market and their re-election prospects ahead of human lives. While there’s doubtless some of that, including from President Trump, the fact of the matter is that most people live paycheck to paycheck and can’t go on indefinitely without a job. And, while we could certainly be doing more to backstop them from the national treasury, we can’t keep piling up trillions of dollars in debt month after month.

Those of us fortunate enough to be able to telework could, theoretically, go into lockdown much longer. But, with no end in sight, people are simply demanding to be allowed to take a higher degree of personal risk to go about something like a normal life.

Here in Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam has handled the crisis as well as anyone. The Commonwealth has been going through a phased re-opening, with the more densely populated and mobile DC suburbs and exurbs in Northern Virginia slightly behind the rest of the state. But we’re going into Phase 2 come Friday:

Under Phase Two, the Commonwealth will maintain a Safer at Home strategy with continued recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings. The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 50 people. All businesses should still adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and continue enhanced workplace safety measures.

Restaurant and beverage establishments may offer indoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, fitness centers may open indoor areas at 30 percent occupancy, and certain recreation and entertainment venues without shared equipment may open with restrictions. These venues include museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and outdoor concert, sporting, and performing arts venues. Swimming pools may also expand operations to both indoor and outdoor exercise, diving, and swim instruction.

The current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail, and personal grooming services will largely remain the same in Phase Two. Overnight summer camps, most indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs, and carnivals will also remain closed in Phase Two.

Northam’s order begins with the premise that we’re “Safer at home” and should minimize going out. But people will naturally read an order saying restaurants are allowed to open at half capacity as the state saying “It’s okay to go to restaurants now.”

Politically and economically, this is reasonable. The lockdowns began in March and people are tired of it. But it’s not obvious to me why museums are safe but theaters aren’t. Or why botanical gardens are safe but carnivals aren’t. I’m persuadable that these decisions are based on solid epidemiological evidence but my instinct is that they’re essentially random.

The lockdowns were initially sold on the basis of “flatten[ing] the curve.” That is, we needed to slow the spread of the disease so that we didn’t overwhelm the capacity of hospitals to treat patients.

Over time, the rationale shifted: we needed to be able to “test and trace” before ending the lockdowns, so that we could quickly re-isolate anyone who was infected or came into contact with those who were. We more-or-less got testing but, for whatever reason, don’t have tracing.

And, now, here we are. We’re pretty much opening up willy nilly, with a phasing model that seems rather random. Presumably, that’s better than a full reopening simply because it allows us to see what’s happening. But I agree with Santora’s assessment: the public just isn’t going to stand for another lockdown.

Additionally, a perverse side effect of the protests over police brutality that have swept the nation and the world the past few days is that we’ve had public health officials flatly say that expressing outrage over a just cause outweighs the risks of spreading the disease. While I’m inclined to agree—and, practically, there was no legitimate way to prevent people from protesting—it likely signals the end of the road for taking social distancing seriously.

But, naturally, the result of all of this will be more people getting sick. Unless we waited until there was a cure to open up, that was always going to be the case.

FILED UNDER: COVID-19, Economics and Business
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Northerner says:

    Additionally, a perverse side effect of the protests over police brutality that have swept the nation and the world the past few days is that we’ve had public health officials flatly say that expressing outrage over a just cause outweighs the risks of spreading the disease. While I’m inclined to agree—and, practically, there was no legitimate way to prevent people from protesting—it likely signals the end of the road for taking social distancing seriously.

    I’d say that’s a major factor, both from people who support the protests (most of the population according to polls) and those who oppose them. Once the gates have been opened (ie it was admitted that there were things more important than keeping covid-19 from spreading), people are deciding for themselves what qualifies as more important.

    Some of that seems pretty reasonable. If it was okay to have a large funeral for George Floyd (and I’d argue it was), then its hard to argue that a family can’t have a funeral for their loved ones. If its okay to protest (and I’d say it was), then its easy to argue that it should be okay to visit dying friend or family. If its okay to join as a community in a protest (and I say it was), then how can it not be okay to join as a community in an outdoor religious gathering (even outdoor gatherings they were banned in many places).

    Things like this are almost impossible to do selectively without the appearance of double standards, and people’s tolerance for double standards is limited. And I’m mainly talking about people who support the protests — the same compassion that leads them to support or take part in protests leads them to want to connect with friends and family. Basically, many no longer believe that the virus is that deadly (as one friend put it, would they have allowed protests if they thought it was like the bubonic plague that wiped out half of Europe and Asia in the middle ages?)

    The protests were a good thing, and hopefully will continue until some real change comes. But with them goes the lockdown — if its not deadly to go outside for protests, then many believe its not deadly for anything else either.

    11
  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    We’re all Sweden now. Hopefully we won’t be Brazil.

    14
  3. steve says:

    We all knew the lockdowns couldnt last forever. We had to re open and I think, hope, we realized that the decisions about reopening would be more difficult than closing. Its just a shame that we didnt use our pre lockdown and lockdown periods as effectively as we should have. There is no national leadership. Thanks heavens at least some of the states realize that the virus doesnt recognize state borders and developed regional plans. Absent CDC leadership individual medical institutions have stepped up and done the needed research. Hospitals, including mine, have gone ahead and banded together to build their own PPE factories since we know there wont be any national leadership on this.

    Steve

    7
  4. SKI says:

    But it’s not obvious to me why museums are safe but theaters aren’t. Or why botanical gardens are safe but carnivals aren’t. I’m persuadable that these decisions are based on solid epidemiological evidence but my instinct is that they’re essentially random.

    James, you may need to have another couple cups of coffee….

    In museums, people keep moving. In theaters, they stay in immediate proximity for 1-2 hours. One is far more risky based on what we know about how this spreads today..

    How crowded are botanical gardens vs. fairs? Which has people standing in lines?

    This isn’t rocket science and it certainly isn’t random. It is guided by risk levels.

    21
  5. Barry says:

    @Northerner: “I’d say that’s a major factor, both from people who support the protests (most of the population according to polls) and those who oppose them. Once the gates have been opened (ie it was admitted that there were things more important than keeping covid-19 from spreading), people are deciding for themselves what qualifies as more important. ”

    I disagree. We were seeing the anti-lockdown riots 3-4 weeks ago, from the right. I use ‘riot’ because when a crowd of armed men try to push onto the floor of a state legislature, that’s a riot. Because they were white right-wingers, the police didn’t use harsh measures.

    We also saw GOP governors opening their states ~3 weeks ago, and the current case spikes are due to that, there is a 2-4 week lag.

    4
  6. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @James

    And, now, here we are. We’re pretty much opening up willy nilly, with a phasing model that seems rather random.

    There is a simple reason for this: Generally speaking, people are morons.

    9
  7. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    In museums, people keep moving. In theaters, they stay in immediate proximity for 1-2 hours. One is far more risky based on what we know about how this spreads today..

    I don’t pretend to be an expert on this stuff but I’m skeptical. A lot of people indoors breathing recirculated air for a couple hours in both places.

    How crowded are botanical gardens vs. fairs? Which has people standing in lines?

    Here, I agree. My sense is that both are crowded, outdoor events. The only botanical garden around here I’ve attended is the main one in DC, which is quite crowded. But, yes, they’re probably not as crowded as the average fair.

    3
  8. Kathy says:

    I’m going into belated lock down on Jun 17th through the 30th. In theory it’s my vacation. I intend to stay home, and perhaps go out twice for groceries during that time.

    We were supposed to work from home the last days of April and until the end of May. But we had to come to the office once a week, and some weeks twice. All told it was a period of 24 working days (there was the May 1st holiday), of which I was supposed to come to the office 6 days. Due to the work, and the demands of the boss, I wound up not going to the office only seven days.

    Some lock down, eh?

    I thought about going away to some state with fewer active cases. But then that means a hotel or Airbnb of who knows what standard of hygiene, plus ordering in or eating out, plus driving all the way there. So, no.

    To be frank, I thought the widespread lock downs all over would let us lick this thing by the end of April, and be rather safe by now. That was back in March, when the full insidiousness of this virus wasn’t really known. Now, I wonder if the pandemic won’t burn out until late 2021 absent a vaccine.

    3
  9. Northerner says:

    @Barry:

    I disagree. We were seeing the anti-lockdown riots 3-4 weeks ago, from the right. I use ‘riot’ because when a crowd of armed men try to push onto the floor of a state legislature, that’s a riot. Because they were white right-wingers, the police didn’t use harsh measures.
    We also saw GOP governors opening their states ~3 weeks ago, and the current case spikes are due to that, there is a 2-4 week lag.

    If you’re talking about the rise in Covid-19, yes its too early for the George Floyd protests to have an influence.

    But I was talking about behavior, ie people going out, and the anti-lockdown protests were tiny (how many hundreds out of a population of 330 million people — its not even a rounding error), and the number of their sympathizers were also very small. Even the majority of conservatives (as reading sites like National Review would show) supported a temporary lockdown. Yes, the right wingers going to those protests were ignoring the lockdown anyway, but there numbers were too small to be much of an influence.

    The George Floyd protests are different. For a start, they are much bigger. Secondly, most of the population supports them. And supporting the protests means believing that stopping the spread of Covid-19 is no longer the most important issue for them — and once it wasn’t number one, for many people it quickly dropped to not even top three, or five, or ten. Seeing isolated family, seeing friends, getting outdoors, religious gatherings, dating … the lockdown was supported because going out was considered to be deadly either for you or for your loved ones. The George Floyd protests changed that perception. How could it not? If I go out to protest (and I did) and it felt safe (and at least in terms of Covid-19 it did), how can that not change my perception of the safety of other things that I consider equally important (friends and family being the big one for most folks)?

    6
  10. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t pretend to be an expert on this stuff but I’m skeptical. A lot of people indoors breathing recirculated air for a couple hours in both places.

    1. Recycled air isn’t as big a risk as directly being breathed upon.
    2. In museums people don’t sit in the same place for 2 hours. They move around between different handlers. The sole study we have that indicates that air conditioning is a material risk was the one from China in late March/early April from a single event in a restaurant. In that case, which has not been replicated in a lab, many of the patrons in direct path of the air flow got infected but those outside of it didn’t.

    The risks aren’t the same.

    Skepticism is fine. Instinctively always thinking the professionals who make recommendations are idiots or capricious isn’t.

    10
  11. charon says:

    @Northerner:

    The protests were about caring about other people. Most of the non-lockdown stuff you cite is about caring for only yourself plus maybe your family or perhaps your friends. If your spreading the virus around, sucks to be *you – i.e., people you don’t know.

    2
  12. SKI says:

    @Northerner: The memorial day and other crowds predate the protests and were large public gatherings particularly in the states seeking a spike.

    6
  13. Northerner says:

    @charon:

    The protests were about caring about other people. Most of the non-lockdown stuff you cite is about caring for only yourself plus maybe your family or perhaps your friends. If your spreading the virus around, sucks to be *you – i.e., people you don’t know.

    Caring for family and friends isn’t caring for other people? Seriously?

    If being outdoors in gatherings is endangering other people, then I endangered far more people taking part in the George Floyd protests than by visiting friends and family, and I doubt any of the people I endangered in those protests would say my presence was worth a single death.

    If being outdoors in gathers isn’t spreading death, then visiting an old family member in her dying days is probably bringing more direct comfort to the world than my presence in a protest.

    You know its possible to care for both people you know and people you don’t know? And in fact, I doubt anyone who doesn’t care for people they know really cares for people they don’t know either.

    3
  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    The purpose of the lockdown was first and foremost to flatten the curve so as to avoid overwhelming hospitals. That appears to have been mostly successful.

    Once the curve had been flattened it became a question of how long people can cope with unemployment and cabin fever. There was some hope we might get, if not a cure, then at least some useful treatment options. @Steve will know better than I, but that appears not to have happened. We were never going to be able to sustain lockdowns until a vaccine was found. If a vaccine is ever found.

    What we’re moving into now is the rich-get-healthier phase. More and more working people back at it. More people in small apartments, often with kids, reaching their breaking point. People who can telework, people with nice big houses will self-isolate, poorer people will get sicker. Covid picks on the weak – elderly people and poor people.

    Clearly the demonstrations – right-wingers needing haircuts real bad, and people who don’t think cops should murder people – will result in thousands, maybe tens of thousands of new cases, and subsequent deaths. Let’s not bullshit ourselves about that.

    20
  15. Jen says:

    I’m introverted and hate dealing with crowds anyway, so it’s looking like I should just stick with what I feel comfortable with and avoid crowded areas.

    To me, there’s a big difference between museums and movie theaters, as it’s been demonstrated that direct, prolonged exposure to an infected person has a big difference on transmission. Sitting next to or in front of an infected person in a movie theater is going to expose one to a much larger viral load than wandering around a museum, with only occasional interaction with an infected person.

    What is going to be interesting is the economic impact of a potential second wave that coincides with cold & flu season, as that also happens to be holiday shopping season.

    5
  16. Northerner says:

    @SKI:

    I agree, as I said above I don’t think the BLM protests have had time to affect the Covid-19 rates. I was talking about behavior — more people are going outdoors, and the protests are a significant factor, though obviously not the sole factor.

    1
  17. Kathy says:

    Here you can see a reasonable idea being misused.

    salient quote:

    Dr Jerome Williams Jr, cardiologist and senior vice-president of consumer engagement at Novant Health, says they have had multiple people test positive in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, after attending “coronavirus parties” – gathering unprotected with positive people – in the hope of getting infected.

    Without knowing exactly how immunity works, the parties are, he says, “a bad idea all round”.

    With a mortality rate of around 5%, it’s a really stupid idea to get infected on purpose.

    I did wonder for a while whether a variant of variolation could work for SARS-CoV-2.

    This seems reasonable, given many people have a mild disease, and some apparently go asymptomatic throughout. I know of no such attempts.

    Eventually more people will need to get back to work, hopefully most will take precautions not to spread the virus around (I don’t expect this, but I do hope). More cases will result, until the pandemic burns out. It’s going to be long, it’s going to be grim, and the economy won’t recover as much as we’d like.

  18. SKI says:

    @Northerner: My point was that they followed, not preceded, to move towards more public gatherings.

    2
  19. Northerner says:

    @SKI: That’s true, I misread what you meant. I think they’re significant element in the change of people’s mindset (even once the lockdown was relaxed many people were initially cautious), but as you say, they didn’t initiate the relaxing of the lockdown.

  20. Bill says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    More people in small apartments, often with kids, reaching their breaking point.

    Due to my stage IV cancer, for a little over two months I have been restricted* to the over 55 community I live in. I did go to the grocery store once with the wife.

    To keep me busy, I write, play strat-0-matic baseball, read Outside the Beltway and comment here, read books on my kindle, or watch old television shows such as the original Hawaii Five-0, The West Wing, Get Smart, or Murder She Wrote depending on my mood. So far I have preserved my sanity.

    On second thought, some of you may disagree with that last sentence.

    *- I take early morning walks for 30 minutes and run laundry around 5 times a week.

    6
  21. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    I’m introverted and hate dealing with crowds anyway, so it’s looking like I should just stick with what I feel comfortable with and avoid crowded areas.

    Great minds etc., etc. 🙂

    I’ll have to return to work July 1st. But I intend to keep a partial lock down until either the pandemic burns out or there is a vaccine. Past going to work, I don’t intend to go out anywhere other than the supermarket at most once a week. And if the place starts getting too crowded, even at 7 am, I’ll start ordering online.

    I very much want to see the next Wonder Woman movie, but I won’t go to a theater if the pandemic is still raging, no matter what measures movie theaters take.

    Odd interlude: not long ago I attended the showing of Aquaman mid-afternoon. I usually sit close to the screen (I like my movies HUGE), and go in a bit late to skip the ads before the previews. So I didn’t notice until the movie ended and the lights came up, that I had been the only person in the theater.

    I’ve no great desire to visit any museums, though I wanted to take a tour of nearby archaeological sites. Those have stood centuries, and I’m sure they’ll stand another year.

    1
  22. mistermix says:

    In New York, I’m not panicking about re-opening, because we’re doing it thoughtfully with the best science we can get, and being governed by facts. We have massive testing (50-60K tests daily), a huge test and trace program is a prerequisite for re-opening a region, and leadership that is focused on using fact-based metrics to govern re-opening. If a region re-opens and positive tests spike to a level that can’t be handled by hospitals, we will backtrack, and nobody who listens to Cuomo regularly thinks he won’t close things down if necessary.

    Also, on the protests, we are encouraging protesters to get tested, but so far we haven’t seen a spike, probably because the protests were outdoors and almost universally masked. The degree to which masks work is becoming clearer as time goes by, but it’s looking like they work surprisingly well — especially outside, especially if everyone wears one. That’s what’s so toxic about politicization of masks. Here, we are at 100% masking indoors at grocery stores and other essential businesses, enforced by store owners and, really, by social convention.

    5
  23. Jen says:

    @Kathy:

    I’m sure they’ll stand another year.

    Well, given the way this year is going…

    Pardon the gallows humor, it’s all I’ve got right now…

    2
  24. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    There are always Trump jokes:

    Q: How do you define gross stupidity?
    A: 144 Donald Trumps

    8
  25. MarkedMan says:

    There is no handbook on how best to deal with this pandemic and all we can do is figure it out as we get new data. Over the past 24 hours I came across two things that gave me hope.

    The first is from Kevin Drum, and is so counterintuitive I’m almost reluctant to share it. It seems that three separate studies have shown that there has been no substantial benefit to shutting down schools. It’s early days, etc, etc and even if it holds up it doesn’t necessarily mean there is a positive effect of having kids in school but may be just that the negatives of school equals the negatives of kids at home , but it’s at least a sign of hope.

    The second comes via Talking Points Memo, and concerns the two hair stylists in Missouri that exposed 140 customers in the first week of reopening. They wore masks and took time to wipe down surfaces between customers and, as far as can be traced, none of their customers were infected. We don’t know the type of mask the stylists wore but it’s a good bet that most of the customers wore cloth masks, and it’s good news that the cloth masks didn’t appear to do any harm to the potential infectee (is that a word?). From a Missouri newspaper:

    type of mask the stylists wore

    2
  26. KM says:

    @Kathy:
    Getting infected on purpose only works with things that are either minor inconveniences or diseases you really need to get young because they get progressively more fatal as you age. The usual example is chicken pox: have a party, get all the kids sick and move on with life. Very few stop to think about WHY that’s a tradition in the first place. Chicken pox before the vaccine was something you wanted to deal with as soon as possible and in the most expedient manner available. Get all the kids in the neighborhood sick and you can split the child care duties by dumping them all in the same room. Poxed kids don’t need intensive care so as long as someone’s stopping them from scratching, anyone can be caretaker. Since most children wouldn’t need to be hospitalized over it but an adult might, it was better to have restless children picking at scabs then fevered adults with seizures.

    COVID’s issues don’t work under that rubric. You’re likely to end up needing medical care or being hospitalized if you get anything other then a “mild” case. Getting everyone sick at once can easily overwhelms the caretakers and specialized training may be required. Getting it young seems to be more dangerous then we thought as Kawasaki Syndrome is now a concern. It’s simply a different beast: people’s limited medical knowledge and “everything a nail if you only have a hammer” attitude literally kills in this case. It makes ZERO sense to intentionally infect yourself with a new pathogen we don’t fully understand that can have health implications years from now. I mean, even chicken pox comes back to bite you in the ass when you’re elderly so god only knows what COVID’s got for future us!

    6
  27. Kathy says:

    @KM:

    And all that is if you don’t die of it instead.

    If any vaccine moves on to a human challenge phase (deliberately exposing vaccinated subjects to the virus in order to measure the effectiveness), the volunteers will be true heroes. Those trying to get infected to get immunity after getting the disease, are true morons.

    2
  28. Sleeping Dog says:

    @KM:

    To add, there is also a significant chance that Covid 19 will leave some survivors with long term after affects that may become increasingly debilitating over time.

    5
  29. Scott F. says:

    …the fact of the matter is that most people live paycheck to paycheck and can’t go on indefinitely without a job.

    More should be made of this.

    Though the salient point is that most people living paycheck to paycheck can’t go even a couple of weeks without a job, it should be sobering that a time in history of such abundance in this country, at the peak of an economic trend that was the strongest in the history of strong economies to hear POTUS tell it, we have a situation when an epic, yet inevitable, event such as a pandemic so quickly forces people to choose between being safe and being solvent.

    3
  30. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    In our little corner of the world here in Cowlitz County, Washington, we went from about 77 total cases to 92 and from 10 active cases to 25 over the course of a weekend. With a population of ~105,000, we’re still well under a 1% infection rate, but the spike came during the second week of phase 2 reopening and the first week where most everybody who could open actually did. Not good news–and the newspaper reports that virtually no one was wearing masks at the high school graduation celebration attended by 25o some seniors and who knows how many parents and grandparents. Laissez les bon temps roullez.

    2
  31. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Bill:
    Somehow I never noted that you had health issues separate and apart from Covid. Good thoughts don’t really do anything, but you have mine for what they’re worth.

    My wife and I are very conscious that we have a privileged position in dealing with this. We’re both healthy, we both work from home, and we have a nice house with a lot of outdoor space. Plus she’s still got a fair bit of OCD, so we are all over the hand-washing thing. My fingers are half an inch shorter just from washing.

    5
  32. CSK says:

    @Bill:
    Ah, you’re no nuttier than any of the rest of us.

    4
  33. Bill says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Somehow I never noted that you had health issues separate and apart from Covid.

    Michael,

    In 2008 I was diagnosed with Stage IV malignant melanoma with both brain and lung mets. Even though the median survival rate is 11 months, I’ve hung on for 12 years*. My health has been real bad at times and I have been close to death but pulled back some how. Around five years ago my condition stabilized. Until I was hospitalized with pulmonary edema back in March, I hadn’t been overnight in a hospital since 2015. The pulmonary edema, something that’s recurred with me due to the lung mets I have, was what probably made you think I have had Covid 19. Thank God I don’t come down with that, because it would probably kill me.

    My primary and oncologist are advising their stage IV patients to stay home. I’ve taken it seriously. Dear wife does the shopping not me. She’s overshopped. Around a week ago, I counted how many rolls of toilet paper we have. Would you believe 155?

    Right now I’m working on two separate ebooks. One is a full blown novel and the other is a short story collection.

    *- 12 isn’t a record for Stage IV Malignant melanoma. Kimberly Wheeler, who I met a long time ago, was diagnosed in 1976 and lived till 2003. My oncologist says there is a Stage IV patient who’s still around 16 years later.

    7
  34. MarkedMan says:

    This isn’t a prediction, more like a thought experiment.

    It looks like Trump is moving the Republican convention, or at least the big night, the one where he takes the stage, out of North Carolina and into Jacksonville, FL.

    Florida is seeing an extremely steep rise in number of cases. While there is some possibility the rise in cases is due to increased testing, this seems unlikely in Florida. Although it is a battleground state, it’s current government is extremely Trumpian and seems to have no plan whatsoever to meet the C19 crisis, so standing up a testing regime would be completely out of character, and I haven’t seen any news articles about such a regime.

    By the time August rolls around Florida hospitals could be overflowing, with refrigerated tractor trailers standing in for mortuaries as happened in NYC. The Republicans may be willing to go forward (because, Republicans), but I don’t think Trump will. He has rolled the dice on the virus magically disappearing in the summer and the death rate continuing to decline. Somewhere in that walnut sized rat brain of his he is aware that it was all just a roll of the dice (with other peoples lives, but he doesn’t care about other people). When things are looking bad he will not want to stand up in front of tens of thousands of people screaming coronavirus into the air. What will he do?

    For that, it’s instructive to look at his various fiascos early in his career, when people he looked up to actually took him seriously and his failure was viscerally humiliating. The casinos, the airline, the football league – what did he do when it was obvious they were failing, and specifically failing because of his personal decisions, the ones he had bragged proved he was a genius? If my memory serves, in each of them he simply disappeared. Once the court appearances were over he stopped going out in public, stopped trying to get press attention, and simply waited for it to blow over.

    So this thought experiment ends like this: sometime in the first half of August, with the convention shaping up to be a disaster and dangerous to his own personal safety, Trump will announce a health problem. He will say that due to that health problem he cannot run for his second term. The Republicans will be thrown into confusion but at least some of them will believe it gives them their only chance to stand up a candidate that can avert catastrophe in the Senate. Trump will remain on the sidelines, and once the election is over will disappear until January at least.

  35. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Trump admit a health problem? Never. That would be admitting a weakness. And we all know Trump has no weaknesses, mentally or physically. Why, he’s the healthiest man ever to occupy the office of the president.

    4
  36. senyordave says:

    @MarkedMan: I don’t see it, because Trump will face a very unpleasant future unless he wins a second term. Investigations galore, both politically and personally. I think he has a couple lawsuits against him personally (one is definitely a defamation suit by one of the women who accuses him of molesting her). Then we have to look at the Trump Organization which is leveraged to the hilt. Once he’s not president maybe the few banks who will lend to him won’t be quite so friendly. And the New York can start looking at his business practices. I think that Donald will find his life as an ex-president won’t be so much fun.

    3
  37. Sleeping Dog says:

    @MarkedMan:

    We need to consider this a bad news-good news conundrum. The bad news is that people, some innocent are going to die, the good news is that they are Tiny voters.

    You are right about he’s handled personal disasters in the past, but his ego won’t let him disappear. More likely he has DeSantis take the blame if he becomes too freaked about being in a room full of super-spreaders. Tiny will make the speech from a remote location to the assembled, admiring throng and say it was at the insistence of the Secret Service an DeSantis.

    1
  38. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    He will say that due to that health problem he cannot run for his second term.

    I’d love to see that. I’d pay to see that. But I don’t think he’ll do that.

    For the convention specifically, I’m sure El PITO will savage anyone who even hints he may have considered not attending, loudly proclaiming he’ll be there and it will be the most memorable, yadda, yadda, yadda, ever.

    And then he’ll appear at the convention via video link while he hides in the world’s most beautiful bunker. He has the best bunkers, you know.

    1
  39. CSK says:

    @senyordave:
    Here’s the best case scenario for him: He gets voted back into office this November and dies on Jan. 20, 2025, at 9 a.m., having reduced the country to rubble.

  40. Monala says:

    @James Joyner: At botanical gardens, the guests walk around and observe, but touch very little. At fairs, people frequently touch a lot of common surfaces: the safety bars on rides, the various balls and mallets of carnival prize games. Unless staff are disinfecting surfaces continually, there is a lot of chance for germs to spread.

    2
  41. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    If Trump is terrified of being in a room of superspreaders, which I’m sure he is, how is he going to handle the rallies he wants to begin in the next two weeks? He’ll be in an enclosed space for 2-3 hours with tens of thousands of people who refuse to wear masks, will be jammed next to each other, and breathing recirculated air. And, not to sound mean, but a lot of those culties are going to be grossly overweight and old, much like Trump himself, so the risk for all of them increases. Not that Trump cares about the risk to anyone but himself.

    3
  42. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: There was a time when deliberately trying to give your kids chicken pox was a reasonable decision. There was no vaccine, and on average there were significantly fewer serious side effects and deaths for children then for adults. Many parents and doctors thought it best to get it over with.

    1
  43. Sleeping Dog says:

    @CSK:

    Right now he’s in denial about the virus, so he’s gung ho for the rallies. But over time the constant drip of new cases and likely cases close to him will begin to terrorize him. He’s dumb and he’s a coward. Not a good combination when you’re trying to save face.

    Of course if he does go through with his campaign plans, he might catch the virus well before the election, that scares me more than a major Joe Biden faux pas.

    2
  44. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK: Good point. Ok, I amend my thought experiment (not a prediction): Trump will pull a Palin, i.e. his cause is so much more important than being President that he is going to go off and do that, better than anyone every has.

    And what will that cause be? Maybe a news network to compete with Fox? It would be something competitive, in any case.

    1
  45. gVOR08 says:

    I went to introduce this with the usual John Stuart Mill quote. I stumbled across a more complete version, which is frighteningly relevant,

    Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives…
    I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it. Suppose any party, in addition to whatever share it may possess of the ability of the community, has nearly the whole of its stupidity, that party must, by the law of its constitution, be the stupidest party; and I do not see why honorable gentlemen should see that position as at all offensive to them, for it ensures their being always an extremely powerful party . . . There is so much dense, solid force in sheer stupidity, that any body of able men with that force pressing behind them may ensure victory in many a struggle, and many a victory the Conservative party has gained through that power.

    If these two papers are even in the ballpark, the shutdowns were highly effective in blunting the virus.

    Bhatt’s team analyzed infection and death rates in 11 European nations through May 4. They estimate that an additional 3.1 million people in those countries would have died if lockdowns had not been put in place.

    There may have been some overreaction, but given our state of ignorance was it not better to err on the side of safety? But the second guessing is well underway.

    It’s looking like fairly minimal restrictions going forward would be sufficient. Continuing to restrict obvious hazards like movies, megachurch services, and political rallies and wearing masks routinely, like the Chinese and Japanese, may be enough to keep the famous R < 1. But we won’t be able to do it. Why, first ordering mask use would highlight the failures that led to our primary source of masks for the general public being ETSY for fwck sake. But the other reason is that half the country would react with, “You’re not the boss of me.” Why? Because half the country are below average and Republicans have weaponized stupid. (Not to repeat Mitt Romney’s error. He seemed to believe his three separate groups of 47% were the same group. But the Venn diagrams of Republican voter and below average are going to significantly overlap.) Trump is doing nothing about the virus and he’s running on not doing anything. And once it ceased being an international traveler and ski lodge thing and became a working poor, POC, prisoner, and out of sight olds thing you knew we wouldn't do anything.

    Something like a quarter million Americans are going to die unnecessarily just because we’re collectively too fwcking stupid to prevent it.

    3
  46. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Why does it scare you that Trump might get the virus? Because he’ll get the sympathy vote?

    1
  47. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    Not to speak for Sleeping Dog, but it would worry me because Pence would get the sympathy vote.

    1
  48. Sleeping Dog says:

    @CSK:
    @Kathy:

    Kathy, you anticipated my response. I’ll race a cop to a donut shop if Tiny got the virus an didn’t die. I want Biden running against Trump and not anyone else. Tiny is beating himself and Joe is letting him. I’m not confident that Joe can beat anyone else.

    5
  49. CSK says:

    @Kathy: @Sleeping Dog:
    Ah, okay. You both make good points.

  50. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy: I wouldn’t assume that if Trump becomes unavailable that whatever panicked process the GOPs would go through to select a new nominee would necessarily ralph up Pence.

  51. Moosebreath says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Isn’t a thought experiment involving the Trump campaign an oxymoron?

    3
  52. Kathy says:

    @gVOR08:

    He’d be the incumbent.

    But then, the Trump spawn are Trumps down to the marrow. I can see Jr and whatshisname fight Ivanka for the nomination.

  53. An Interested Party says:

    I can see Jr and whatshisname fight Ivanka for the nomination.

    Oh great, just what we need, yet another soap opera, The Young and the Sleaziness…

    2
  54. DrDaveT says:

    @Northerner:

    Caring for family and friends isn’t caring for other people? Seriously?

    Psychologically, no. It’s not. Seriously.

    “Empathy” is, precisely, the propensity/ability to care about people who are not special to you for other reasons. Friends and family are special, in an attenuated version of the way you are special to yourself. They get second-hand selfishness, if you will.

    There is an established literature on the relationship between empathy and political leanings. You can probably guess what it shows. Causality is tricky, though — do conservatives have less empathy because they are conservative, or are they conservative because they lack empathy? Or is there some confounding factor that leads to both conservatism and reduced empathy? I incline toward that last theory, but these are open questions.

    3
  55. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy: More likely Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and Mitt Romney would be fighting for the nomination. I don’t know what RNC rules are if the nominee, or presumptive nominee dies, but I doubt the veep nominee, if there is one, has any automatic claim to be prez nominee.

  56. Northerner says:

    @DrDaveT:

    “Empathy” is, precisely, the propensity/ability to care about people who are not special to you for other reasons. Friends and family are special, in an attenuated version of the way you are special to yourself. They get second-hand selfishness, if you will.

    There are so many cases of people abusing and generally being cruel to family (and old friends) that I strongly question the suggestion that they are always (or even usually) an attenuated version of the way people feel about themselves. Is abusing a family member a type of self-abuse? If so, should it be treated that way by the court system (actually I wonder if that’s the argument that did legally allow abuse within families in the past). We’re allowed to hit ourselves, should we also be allowed to hit family members, as your definition implies?

    Moreover, the hatred between family members is often much stronger than what is felt towards strangers. My own observations suggests many people find it much easier to be kind to strangers than their own families.

    Looking online at several psychology sites definitions of empathy, they all simply say others, rather than ‘non-special others”. Same for online dictionaries. I’m curious where you found your definition, it doesn’t seem to be common.

  57. Gustopher says:

    The lockdowns are ending and likely not coming back.

    I think they will be back. They will lag behind people’s behavior though. Official shutdowns to recognize what happens on the streets and in the community when Covid hits places as hard as it hit NYC.

    If you’re a reasonable governor, and people in your state are afraid to show up for work because of Covid and losing their jobs, declaring a shutdown means they are eligible for unemployment rather than that they abandoned their jobs and are ineligible.

    2
  58. Jen says:

    @gVOR08: It would depend on a number of things, the biggest one being when the death happens. Because we’re at a point when primaries have already occurred, a great deal would depend on each state’s rules about binding delegates. Bound delegates could, conceivably, be forced to cast their Trump ballots for Pence, as he’d be the incumbent. I have a feeling the whole thing would end up in court.

  59. Tyrell says:

    Our county had two cases back in March and none since. No deaths. The surrounding counties are about the same. Most everything is open now. People wore masks at first, but now with sweltering humidity the masks are coming off.
    The police were not going to enforce those rules anyway.
    Governors seem strangely inconsistent in their picking and choosing what can open what can’t. Bars can’t open but liquor stores can. People can’t walk on a beach, but can gather to protest. Lesson there is that if you want to have a gathering for a cookout or something, call it a “protest barbecue” and it’s okay.
    A mayor threatens people who go to church, but ignores the dozens of shootings over the weekend. One mayor threatened to arrest people in their own boats, but her husband took his boat out. Another closed beauty shops, but admitted having her hair cut.
    A small family run business has to close, but not the huge store owned by a corporation. It’s evident what is going on: someone is getting a payoff.
    People complied at first, but after the flip-flopping and changing advice from the so-called experts who work in a university or big corporation lab, they decided that’s it. “Use common sense”

  60. Nightcrawler says:

    I found this yesterday while researching something for a client. Looks like most companies aren’t buying the GOP line that COVID-19 is a hoax, has vanished, etc. They’re gearing up for long-term remote work:

    “In anticipation of a second wave of COVID-19, expected by three-quarters of respondents, 51% plan to move more applications to the cloud to prepare. Four in 10 respondents expect to be 100% migrated to the cloud.”

    Source: https://www.ciodive.com/news/cloud-adoption-cornavirus-mariaDB/579032/

    That’s good news for anyone who works in infosec or cloud.

    1
  61. Nightcrawler says:

    @Gustopher:

    The key word being “reasonable.” DeSantis is not reasonable. Neither are most of the other red state governors.

    Now that the GOP circus is coming to Jax, I’m torn between being glad I no longer live there and feeling really bad for the decent people who do. Probably about half the city does not want this.

    1
  62. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell:

    A mayor threatens people who go to church, but ignores the dozens of shootings over the weekend.

    Whoa there, Tyrell! If you’re gonna expect the mayor of your city to start fussing about shootings, you’re gonna end up on the business end of some officer’s gun. Police have rights, you know!

    1
  63. Raoul says:

    Official lockdowns may end but until there is a vaccine people will not go back to behaving normally- I doubt greatly that theaters can stay in business- restaurants are going to have it tough, etc. – in other words we will have an unofficial lockdown for a year and yes people will be without work- I see no other choice than still spending trillions.

    2
  64. Nightcrawler says:

    @Raoul:

    That CIO Dive article makes it clear that most companies know damn well they cannot trust the feds and will not reopen their offices, at least not at at full capacity, until there’s a vaccine or an effective treatment.

    The reason why Starbucks is closing all those stores is that the majority of their customers were white-collar workers. Now that most of those people are WFH and will be doing so for the foreseeable future, they’re not bothering with Starbucks.

    A lot of jobs cannot be done remotely, and a lot of employers will force their white-collar workers into the office no matter what, even if their jobs can be done remotely. However, what employers cannot force people to do is go on vacations, eat out at restaurants, go to the gym, etc. Even if only 50% of the population refuses to do anything but commute to and from work and perform only essential errands, that’s a very steep dropoff in business for any company to swallow.

    There are also domestic supply chain issues at play. Consider a factory run by a Branch Trumpidian who thinks that COVID-19 is a hoax, etc. However, to make widgets, that factory needs a part from a factory run by someone who shuttered because their area is a COVID-19 hotspot. The reverse could also occur, where the open factory is manufacturing parts for factories that are closed. If no one is buying their parts, they cannot afford to keep making them.

    There are a lot of moving parts here, more than most people realize. Bottom line: Reopening is not going to work the way the GOP is claiming it will.

    1
  65. DrDaveT says:

    @Tyrell:

    Our county had two cases back in March and none since. No deaths. The surrounding counties are about the same.

    Remember to thank the New Yorkers who lost their livelihoods (and sometimes their lives) to keep your county safe.

    1
  66. de stijl says:

    Once it became clear this was not an extinction level event, backsliding and nonchalance were due to happen.

    It’s truly happening too soon.

    In a way, we have ignored C19 both from the left and right, since Floyd. That was a mistake.

    Just because things got real and meaningful in a racial equality and justice sense does not mean ignoring C19 prophylaxis measures. We can do two things at once.

    This is a year future historians will examine clisely.

    1