Sunday, January 10, 2021

1889 Institute: Eliminate social distancing, focus resources to protect the vulnerable

Eliminate social distancing and focus resources to protect the vulnerable
By Brad Galbraith

In the military, reliable intelligence is a critical component of reducing risk in engagement. Knowledge reduces risk and minimizes casualties and collateral damage. Similarly, in the fight against COVID-19, governments must continually gather information and respond with greater agility as new knowledge necessitates a policy change.

Upon the outbreak of COVID-19, little was known about it. Symptomatically, it was challenging to confirm one had the disease given the expanding list of symptoms. Despite what little information existed, numerous state and local governments began imposing extreme measures to “flatten the curve.” Meanwhile, bona fide experts prepared for the worst while acknowledging a significant lack of knowledge.

However, over the last several months, our knowledge about the coronavirus has grown. Initial policies, arising from swift action, must now yield to better strategies founded on reliable science and which are responsive to new knowledge. For example, we now know that universal lockdowns have significant repercussions on our economic, mental, and physical health. We also know of one crucial attribute of COVID-19 – it has an asymmetric fatality rate. That is, the virus is particularly dangerous for the aged and individuals with specific pre-existing adverse health conditions while the risk to life is almost nonexistent for the young.

With this knowledge, we can mount a strategic defense, enacting targeted policies that reduce risk and protect against COVID-19. Steve Trost, in a recent 1889 Institute publication, proposes just such an approach.

Trost’s recommendation is a sensible, targeted policy grounded in science. It “aggressively shield[s] the vulnerable” while allowing the more resilient to resume social and economic activity. Under this policy, those that need protection get it while those that can get back to some semblance of a normal life are free to do so. The dichotomy between individual liberty and our health, safety, and welfare can be eliminated. Through thoughtful public policy, we can achieve both.

Specifically, governments at every level should:

  • Repeal all current, universally applied, social distancing mandates;
  • Make N95 respirators (or their equivalents) available to all vulnerable individuals;
  • Encourage self-quarantine only for individuals manifesting symptoms;
  • Establish and enforce policies that “protect vulnerable members of the population who rely upon non-family support, such as those in assisted living facilities”; and
  • Facilitate innovation among community organizations to assist those who must be isolated.

As Trost notes in his research, “This approach simultaneously reduces the level of COVID health harm to the vulnerable and reduces the level of overall health and economic harm to the non-vulnerable.” By targeting known risks, we can begin “increasing the economic, mental, and spiritual well-being of all members of society.”

About the 1889 Institute
The 1889 Institute is an Oklahoma think tank committed to independent, principled state policy fostering limited and responsible government, free enterprise and a robust civil society.


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