The other shoe has dropped. In my last post, I was wondering why Governor DeWine would remove the lockdown so soon. It didn’t make sense, given his initial cautious policies. Now I get it. The lockdown is still in place until May 29th. Theoretically, that is. However, businesses are still slated to re-open on May 12th. In what world does that adhere in the slightest to any rules of logic? The stay-at-home order says that people should only go out to purchase groceries or other essentials, gas up their cars, and so on; no unnecessary trips. So….why re-open stores, nail salons, tattoo parlors, and bowling alleys, if no one is supposed to go to them? In no way could any of those establishments be said to supply actual needs. In other words, DeWine is saying we should stay home unless we want to go somewhere. Leaving aside the safety factor, the result of the latest announcement is a mixed message, confusing no matter how it’s parsed.
But there’s a method to this very real madness. In DeWine’s eyes, he’s satisfying the edicts of his GOP masters by allowing service businesses to open up and, as the propaganda goes, start getting back to normal. This move is at least as likely as not to result in more financial stress on small businesses, due to lack of customers. People are afraid to go back out this early in the pandemic cycle, and rightly so, according to guidance from many healthcare organizations. A bar owner in Georgia summed up the situation the other day when he said that if he opened this week, per Governor Kemp’s order, he’d be closed again in two weeks, probably forever. Mr. Kemp doesn’t care about that, of course, nor does Mr. DeWine in his state. The appearance is all: as long as these Republican governors say they’re re-opening, they get a gold star from their leaders.
At the same time, the stay-at-home order remains in place, a tactic that is meant to pacify those who criticize ginning up business as usual at this time. Both the afore-mentioned governors can assert that they’re looking out for their citizens, when in reality, that’s the last thing they’re doing. Neither Ohio nor Georgia has so far met the minimum guidelines from the White House, which say that a state should not re-open until it experiences two weeks of declining coronavirus cases. Again, though, this fact doesn’t worry either governor. In essence, it’s the concept of plausible deniability writ large — surely, they had no idea that virus cases would spike so high once tattoo parlors were open again.
A Washington Post article from May 1st mentioned that DeWine and Kemp still had their states under lockdown, but failed to note the concurrent return of most businesses. The same article mentioned that there is no real safety until a vaccine is formulated, but there is less risk after herd immunity has been achieved; that is, after a large percentage of the population has contracted the virus and recovered from it. At this point, stating that such immunity can be achieved, and then basing policy on it, is dangerously premature, because the World Health Organization has stated that it has found no evidence of such immunity thus far. Not to say that it absolutely doesn’t exist, but declaring it an accepted fact absent any proof is extremely irresponsible. So much for media integrity and fact-checking. Nevertheless, it would appear that officials such as Mr. DeWine, Mr. Kemp, along with the current Oval Office resident, are banking on it that the U.S. quickly gets to the level of collective immunity. It will be interesting to see how such callous disregard for the people of this country gets walked back if COVID19 is worse than ever, a few weeks from now.