There is plenty of blame to go around. One is our tepid government response:
“The truth, as Covid-19 has shown us, is this individualistic approach doesn’t work well for public health (even if it does serve us well in other areas). The alternative to not taking collective action is more death. The countries that have done the best against Covid-19 — including Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and, to a now lesser degree, Germany — all approached the issue collectively, leveraging government aid and public health systems to let people stay home without losing as much income or health insurance, to test and trace infections, and, when necessary, to close down to stop the spread.”
Individual response? Sure, we were pretty bad here but:
“Despite that, officials across the country have by and large resisted shutting down again. Many of them, instead, have cited another culprit for Covid-19 spread: private gatherings. New York, for example, put out a PSA to stop “living room spread,” and the state published data suggesting households and private gatherings are driving 74 percent of coronavirus spread.
It’s true private gatherings and households are driving some transmission. Most experts agree Thanksgiving dinners likely led to a surge on top of a surge, and similar Christmas and New Year’s events likely will too.
But that’s why at least some experts believe there’s a need for more focus on systemic action, not the individualistic approach. “People, in general, are horrendous risk assessors — we’re awful at assessing risk,” Daniel Goldberg, a medical historian and public health ethicist at the University of Colorado, told me. “I hate to say people can’t be trusted, but.”
There are other problems with this framing. For one, the New York data doesn’t separate within-household transmissions from social gatherings — so the 74 percent figure includes someone spreading Covid-19 to the husband he lives with (not as avoidable) and someone spreading the virus to someone he invited over for drinks one night (very avoidable). This also only includes the cases that New York could actually contact trace, and it’s much easier to trace transmission between family and friends in a household than strangers in a bar.
The big problem, though, is that there’s nothing unusual about Covid-19 spreading among people who live together. It’s typical for the bulk, even the majority, of the transmission of any disease to happen within households. If you’re infected, the people you live with or come into close contact with at home are simply likely to get it too. That’s how pathogens work. What matters most, though, is where that virus originated from in the first place.
To put it another way: People couldn’t infect others in their homes if they hadn’t picked up the coronavirus in bars, restaurants, or other public spaces. So if these places weren’t open, individual choices to gather — including over Thanksgiving and Christmas — would be of far less concern. There would simply be much less virus out there jumping from person to person.”
Yes, the onus is on us when the government is so weak, but then again, people aren’t going to follow directions, though it might be easier to do so if the government, well, plaid businesses to stay closed and payed people to stay home.
Of course, too many “leaders” set dreadful examples.
And, this kind of thing sickens and kills remotely. If you need a spreadsheet to see it, your emotional response won’t be as strong.
But the vaccines are on the way. That is great news, but we’ll still need to social distance and wear masks for a while. Why? Well, if a vaccine is 95 percent effective, it means that one is far LESS likely to get sick with an exposure. But if exposure goes up, that increases the chances of getting sick. The idea is that we need BOTH less vulnerability to getting sick once exposed AND less exposure.
Too many Americans have this idea that measures such as masks and vaccines are perfect instead of risk mitigators. (witness the stupid “why do you care if I am not wearing a mask if you are wearing one” remarks).
There is good news though: fewer new cases today than in the past few months; hopefully this is not mere “statistical noise.”