As we have all recently experienced, panic and fear lead to decisions that, in hindsight, we should all regret. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, world leaders decided that instead of learning more about this virus, the communities most at high risk, and how populations around the world could best avoid a high mortality rate, global leaders decided that they would crush economic prosperity based on a “do anything” response to quench fear.
All of us should think twice about applauding a “do anything” response to any event because, as is true in everyday life, without real facts, we are led to action where inaction is more prudent. The draconian measures undertaken that locked down billions of people worldwide to “save lives” may have been well intentioned but will have crushed the economic and long term health of many people worldwide. It has been said that, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” and as such, prudence in the face of fear is the better approach.
The first problem with the “do anything response” is, it generally relies on “experts” opinions based on their research and experience not on facts after study and discernment specific to the current event. In the case of a novel pathogen like Sars-Cov-2, the “experts” experience while vast, may not be truly informative on how to respond. When something is novel, it means “not seen before” and prior experience while helpful, is not enough to craft a proper response, especially when the response asks people to starve their family’s economic wellbeing. The “appeal to authority” that is, “Well Dr. Fauci is an expert in HIV/AIDS so, when it comes to virology he knows what is best,” is not a logically deduced conclusion. While Dr. Fauci’s bona fides and study of HIV/AIDS must surely be lauded, to depend on his conclusions when it comes to a novel virus certainly cannot be counted as determinative when setting a policy response.
The next problem we face is, the “do anything response” coming from a place of fear and panic, tends to cause those in charge to make decisions that are haphazardly “too safe.” For instance, when politicians set policy related to the novel coronavirus, it was reactionary and protective to their own political interest.
When you have to face the voters in time, you fear a backlash for erring on the side doing “too little.” This is a practice undertaken in regard to self-preservation from a political perspective, also known as “CYA.” If you are not familiar with the acronym, “google” it, you will certainly see its applicability. The politically protective responses to this virus have thus played out to destroy many millions of lives from a economic perspective and have not yet proved to have been necessary or proper from a public health or mortality perspective. The data may show that the lockdowns were completely unnecessary and in fact did far more harm from a long-term mortality view than the short-term fear driven view under which most politicians took action.
The final problem is, “now what?” Now that we have seen these responses which any fair mind would deem to have been overblown and ineffective, what do we do? Are we ever going to be able to trust politician’s ability to respond to public health crises? Should we ever be able to rely on them to not run to the absolute most drastic measures to try and cover their “you know what” in order to be able to take on the least political liability?
Our takeaway from all of this should be that when the unknown comes, do not react from a place of fear. We should listen to many “experts” and discern what makes for the most reasonable response in face of the unknown. We should think through how the immediate mortality rates would compare to the long-term mortality rates of destroying people’s economic opportunity and keeping them away from interaction, a hallmark need of human beings.
This is in no way meant to serve as Monday morning quarterbacking, because that would completely miss the point of this missive. This piece is meant to call on people to understand that when faced with the unknown, the very natural reaction, snap-decisions based in fear, generally are worse than what would have happened if we waited and discerned a proper measured logical response. COVID-19’s worldwide and regional responses should serve to educate, inform, and hopefully produce a capacity for patience and calm instead of fear, when faced with the unknown. While many will have said, the response to this virus was meant to “save lives,” remember, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”