This was a textbook virus. Why didn't we act more like it?
We have plenty of problems right here in Montana, especially in my county (https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-10-24/whitefish-montana-coronavirus-outbreak), but one thing our governor did right (in my opinion) was to keep outside recreational opportunities open (except for National Parks, and that was because the gateway communities were becoming overwhelmed and asked to close for a bit) when some states were closing them. Granted, we have gazillions of acres of public land to spread out in, but people do tend to flock to popular trails close to home anyway, and during lockdown and the summer that was even more true. I read a piece where some trails were getting a lot of use, abuse, and disrespect (litter, etc.), but the non-profits who maintain them took it in stride, saying that it was a lot easier to clean up and repair trails than to do the same for people's mental (and physical) health. There is a lot more to learn and navigate, but it was good to know we could get out when we needed.
I appreciate the points about epistemic humility. Sometimes it almost feels like the refrain "there's too much we don't know" is used as a tool to excuse government inaction. Not everywhere, obviously, but heightening the uncertainty can serve some ends--similarly to climate change.
On schools - in our local schools, it is an open secret amongst students and teachers (maybe not administrators...) that many infected kids are not getting tested, and some are even coming to school. Second, while classrooms do not seem to be superspreading, school-related events are another matter completely. At one local school, homecoming - held outdoors - became a superspreader event (they then went virtual until after Thanksgiving). And other schools are still going forward with homecoming. So like colleges, where "off campus" events seem to be driving transmission, I think K-12 schools (especially HS) need to rethink non-classroom activities, like sports, clubs, and dances. But the call to "keep schools open" I think can be easily misconstrued to mean "business as usual" with just a bunch of hygiene "theatre" like temperature checks, wiping surfaces, and the like...
Reading this, I'm thinking a lot about the role the deification of scolding politicians might have played in the way people weren't encouraged to take advantage of the summer. At least in my corner of the internet (urban planning and food focused/moderately left-wing), there was a lot of blending of:
- "look at these irresponsible people picnicking/at the beach/at the hiking trail"; and
- stanning for certain politicians (especially Cuomo).
And of course, Twitter isn't journalistic media isn't the TV news, but I feel a certain amount of the scolding I saw crossed the look at these people with the breathless admiration for Cuomo and such. (IIRC you referenced this crossover in your Atlantic piece too!)
So I'm wondering if some of the hyper-alarmism on beaches and parks might have been reduced had there not been that sort of celebration of inappropriately targeted scolding from certain political figures.
Thank you for this. I was driven batty by the hand-wringing about immunity in particular – "we don't know if you could get re-infected two months after you had it!" True, we didn't (~April) know that for sure, but that would require this virus to be entirely unlike almost every other disease we've ever seen.
Another seasonal thing we may be behind on is whether some masking and social-distancing requirements can be modified in rainy, windy weather. It's important to be outside no matter what the weather is doing (and in rain and wind I feel pretty comfortable without a mask in my not-very-dense neighborhood.) Perhaps even more important is getting some good information on what happens when various types of masks and filters get wet.
I thought the summer surge in the states in the South (TX, AZ) was at least partially due to people heading indoors because it was *too hot*. So there seem to be two aspects of seasonality - one related to the virus (UV, temperature, humidity, etc.) and one related to human behavior (time indoors). Was this "known" and part of the "standard playbook"? How does one predict the "net effect" of those two factors in opposite directions? Of course in winter this means a "double whammy" where both effects are in the same (bad) direction... though maybe it also explains why the surge was "delayed" in southern states... Additionally, how "safe" it is outdoors also depends on density and masking, right? The White House and Sturgis motorcycle festival were mostly outdoors... but it seems it is hard to communicate the continuum of "safer" and "riskier" activities, as opposed to a hard threshold of "safe" vs. "not safe." It's many shades of grey, not black and white -- how do we communicate that effectively?