The Reopening Debate Is Progressing Slower Than the Actual Reopening

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New York Police Department officers keep an eye on people as they control social distance on a warm day amid the coronavirus outbreak at Domino Park in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., May 16, 2020. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

“Spike in South Korea virus cases shows perils of reopening,” declares the ominous Associated Press headline. You have to go to another article to find the number of cases and deaths in the country: “The Asian nation reported 40 new cases for Tuesday, the biggest one-day increase since April 8, according to data from Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, or KCDC, with most of the cases connected to a distribution center of an e-commerce firm. This takes the total tally to 11,265 cases while the virus-linked deaths were unchanged at 269.”

By South Korean standards, with a population of about 51 million and having done an excellent job of controlling the spread, 40 new cases in a day looks pretty bad. By the standards of the United States right now, a day like that looks delightful.

Reopening is perilous, but after ten and a half weeks of self-quarantines, lockdowns, closed businesses, and other restrictions, people are “voting with their feet” by going out more. The Atlantic magazine wonders why Americans can’t live almost entirely online the way the Estonians do. Syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette laments that Americans can’t handle the freedom to leave quarantine. The weather is getting warmer and nicer. Demonizing people who go to the beach or the park is no longer a useful contribution to our search for a solution.

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“Keep everyone inside their houses for three months or more” was never a realistic response to this virus. Our society does not operate on the same principles and philosophies of the Chinese state. We’re not going to weld doors shut to keep people inside.

As Charlie and Rich observed on this week’s The Editors, the debate about reopening society proceeding at a slower pace than the actual reopening of society. Whether or not a person thinks Americans should be leaving their homes more frequently, they’re doing it. The question now is finding a way to live with the virus, to reach some level of economic and social activity necessary for other human needs while minimizing the risk of catching and spreading the coronavirus. Masks, partial-capacity of businesses, standing six feet apart while talking — Americans can take those steps. An order to shut down so-called nonessential businesses — every business is essential to the people who earn their paychecks there — and to go back into homes for another month is just not going to fly anymore, and the chattering class needs to come to terms with that fact.

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