Loosening Restrictions Now Would Be Disastrous
All the talk of loosening restrictions to “restart” the economy is extremely dangerous:
“We haven’t yet even seen signs that the growth is slowing, much less reversing. Now is the time to tighten restrictions on contacts that could transmit the virus, not loosen them [bold mine-DL],” Lipsitch said. “If we let up now we can be virtually certain that health care will be overwhelmed in many if not all parts of the country. This is the view of every well-informed infectious epidemiologist I know of.”
Reversing course and backtracking on the restrictions that have already been put in place would be as foolish as can be. If we think of the virus as a raging fire, social isolation and closing non-essential businesses serve as the suppressants that deprive the fire of fuel and smother it. To ease up on those suppressants at a time when the fire is still raging out of control is to give up on trying to stop it from spreading. Attempting to go back to business as usual in the middle of this amounts to fanning the flames and ensuring that the conflagration consumes more lives. It would be exceptionally short-sighted and irresponsible to lessen restrictions after just a few weeks. The U.S. is just beginning to take the measures that we should have started taking months ago, and stopping them now would put us even deeper in the hole that we find ourselves in. There can be no going back to a relatively normal way of life until the spread of the virus is put in check and the rate of infection has been slowed to a point where our hospitals are not overwhelmed. It is lunacy that this is even being debated in the White House when the effort to bring this outbreak under control has barely begun.
Gabriel Sherman reports on the increasing tensions between the president and Dr. Anthony Fauci:
Sources say that Trump is leaning toward telling at least some Americans to return to work after the 15-day social-distancing period ends on March 31. This puts Trump on a potential collision course with Fauci that many fear will end with Fauci being fired or quitting. “Fauci is the best medical expert we have. We can’t lose him,” a former White House official said. Signs of tension between Trump and Fauci have been emerging. Over the weekend, Fauci gave a series of candid interviews. “I’ve been telling the president things he doesn’t want to hear,” Fauci told Maureen Dowd. “I have publicly had to say something different with what he states. It’s a risky business.” Fauci told Science magazine: “When you’re dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things one, two, three, four times, and then it happens. So, I’m going to keep pushing.”
Trump’s view that he can ignore Fauci’s opinion may be influenced by advice he’s getting from Jared Kushner, whose outside-the-box efforts have often rankled those in charge of managing the crisis. According to two sources, Kushner has told Trump about experimental treatments he’s heard about from executives in Silicon Valley. “Jared is bringing conspiracy theories to Trump about potential treatments,” a Republican briefed on the conversations told me. Another former West Wing official told me: “Trump is like an 11-year-old boy waiting for the fairy godmother to bring him a magic pill.”
According to this report, Trump is “increasingly frustrated” with Fauci and various state governors because they are urging the costly but necessary measures for protecting public health. According to The New York Times‘ report today, the president doesn’t like that Fauci contradicts his erroneous statements:
But Mr. Trump has become frustrated with Dr. Fauci’s blunt approach at the briefing lectern, which often contradicts things the president has just said, according to two people familiar with the dynamic.
Fauci wouldn’t have to contradict the president if Trump said as little as possible or simply stuck to the facts, but neither of those seems likely. The problem here is that the president is interested in a quick fix, or the appearance of a quick fix, and Fauci is interested in finding a genuine solution. They will inevitably contradict each other because one of them wants to be perceived as successfully handling the crisis while doing as little as possible and the other wants to do the work required to manage the crisis effectively. The informed experts that understand the nature of the problem know that there can be no quick fix, and the danger is that the impatient and impulsive president sooner or later just stops paying any attention to what they have to say.
The administration should be working overtime with Congress to deliver workers and businesses essential relief. Hospitals are in desperate need of equipment and funding. These are the things that should be occupying the energies of everyone in the White House, and it is obvious from these reports that this isn’t happening.