The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) has an article by Donald J. Boudreaux entitled, “Science and the Pandemic”. AIER is the same organization that promoted the video, now gone viral, of two private urgent-care physicians, Dr. Dan Erickson and Dr. Artin Massihi, discussing whether the societal shutdown is still necessary. The Erickson/Massihi video argued that the severity of COVID-19 as revealed by the data gathered since the shutdown does not justify the severe isolating that has also shut down the economy. They say the shutdown may have been initially justified due to the lack of data concerning COVID-19, but now that the “numbers” are in; the quarantine of essentially the whole population is no longer necessary.
The “Science and the Pandemic” article argues whether government policies should be crafted only, or even mainly, by epidemiologists and other public health physicians. The effect of the extreme social isolation policy has spread throughout society, affecting much more than the health of the population or the health-care system alone. The economic effects are just as widespread, the article argues, and just as devastating. Andy Zehner, Damaris’ husband, makes similar arguments in his article on Damaris’ Integrity of Life blog.
On the BioLogos Forum, the Erickson/Massihi video came in for some severe criticism. Forum moderator, and medical doctor by profession, Phil McCurdy said:
One of my friends posted this also. These guys are a couple of low level walk in clinic owners, and have no credibility or training to be putting this out. The population they serve is low risk, the really sick people go to a real ER instead of the doc in a box. They are a good example of the malignant narcissism that has emerged from all this. Social isolation is a narcissist’s nightmare, and I see it bursting forth on Facebook like an erupting volcano… I refuse to watch it again, but the big things I remember that bothered me was the error in extrapolating their limited experience into a general recommendation, and the bias in the population group they “studied.” But Phil then goes on to say:
That said, in a low risk population, re-opening may be possible earlier. One problem we seem to be having is treating the US as a homogenous group, when there are wide variations in risk of disease, making a blanket policy inappropriate.
Last Friday, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced a phased plan for reopening the state. On the official Indiana State Department of Health site, one can see by the graph of cases that Indiana (as of May 4th) has not peaked yet.
I would like to ascertain the opinions of the Imonk commentariat. I must admit to going back and forth on the issues raised both by the AIER articles, and their critics. To wit:
- Decisions must be made on the basis of solid science. Epidemiologist’s judgment should have the pre-eminence since it is a viral pandemic we are dealing with.
- Science is not just a set of facts- those facts must be interpreted.
- As Andy Zehner says, “Experts know one thing. The more vaunted their reputation as experts, the more specialized they are apt to be. Turning over the whole of society and the whole of the economy to any single group of experts is a bad idea. And that is what has happened during the present coronavirus crisis.”
- As social isolation is ended, it seems manifestly obvious the number of cases– and deaths– are going to increase. Most projection models have been revised. The revisions reflected rising mobility in most U.S. states with an easing of business closures and stay-at-home orders expected in 31 states by May 11. The revised models forecast a surge in fatalities to 3,000 a day – Italy levels.
- So what is the “cost of doing business” versus the cost of continued economic shutdown… And what is the ‘currency” we are using to measure those costs?
So what say you? What is the best course of action? And who should get to decide?