Eliminating COVID-19: Whenever We’re Ready
The most striking thing about COVID-19 is that six plus months since reaching US shores, it is still rampant within our borders — when we could eliminate it within 5 weeks if we took correct actions.
This is a serious enough threat to public health, the economy, and national security, that there’s a significant up-side to full containment — as we’ve done for other pandemic threats (e.g. Ebola, SARS).
At times, we’ve gone 90% of the way to elimination — but then we give up effort and let resurgences continue. Restaurants want to re-open. Consumers want their usual lifestyle back. Parents want to send their kids back to school.
These are all justifiable things to want. But by re-opening too early, we’re only screwing ourselves over, by keeping the problem around for longer.
And by pinning all hopes on a vaccine, we’re paying a real price today for some magic pill that will come… some day, maybe?
A Way Out
We should realize that it is feasible to eliminate COVID from any region within a 5–6 week period. One way to do this, beyond a typical “lock-down”, is a fully strict stay-at-home order. If a region agreed to do a 100% shelter-in-place strategy for 5 weeks (picture stocking up on 5 weeks worth of food, and then not going out for any reason for the next 5 weeks), then COVID would be eradicated from that region.
Of course, such an extreme strategy is not necessary. I mention it simply to prove that full eradication is physically possible. Once we realize this, we can investigate “smarter” ways to accomplish this, with more moderate measures, while still ensuring full elimination. See https://www.endcoronavirus.org/green-zones for more details.
All that matters is a region achieves full elimination. Because once they do, they can fully re-open with no more restrictions needed. They would just have to regulate travel from regions that still have COVID (i.e. mandatory 14-day isolation, with steep fines for non-compliance). But besides this, they could enjoy un-restricted travel to/from other COVID-free regions.
This would be an extremely quick, cheap, and relatively painless process, compared to the months, and likely years, of drawn out pain and worry that we are set to go through otherwise.
Cost vs. Benefit
Would there be some inconvenience? Yes. This would require a far stricter lock-down than most of us are used to.
There would also be a direct financial cost: we would have to pay people to stay home for those 5 weeks, since we’re asking them to sacrifice their job. Imagine paying the 300 million US citizens, $1000 / week for 5 weeks. This comes out to $5000 * 300 million = $1.5 trillion. This is far cheaper than the $6 trillion and counting that we’ve already spent on stimulus bills, extended un-employment pay-outs, etc. — not to mention the long-term economic trouble that’s still to come, via inflation, debt, unemployment, and general economic slow-down.
Besides the financial cost, this would also be a notable lifestyle disruption. Many would complain — indeed, some regions would opt-out (and would be excluded from travel when everyone else re-opens).
But we must understand, that for the luxury of avoiding this “inconvenience”, we’re paying dearly:
- A global recession that will last years — perhaps a decade before full recovery
- Millions dead around the world
- Masks and distancing indefinitely — likely several more years
- Heated conflict over elections, back-to-school, sports, etc.
- Widening inequality and injustice — yielding political conflict, protests and lootings
- A general state of “fear, uncertainty and doubt”
This will all last several more years. Was this all worth it, just to avoid the boredom and confinement of staying home for 5 weeks? (I know… no dine-out restaurants… the horror!)
Short-Term Pain = Long-Term Gain
The trade-off above is similar to the pain of receiving a vaccine. Most people hate needles — there will be a few seconds of pain as you receive the injection. But we’re prepared to accept that pain, due to the long-term relief that vaccination will bring.
In the same way, the short-term pain for 5 weeks of strict lock-down, would be more than worth it for the long-term relief we’d get from solving COVID once and for all.
And Do We Really Want Pharma Driving the Narrative?
Speaking of vaccines — are we really relying on Big Pharma to get us out of this mess? In a country with a bloated medical system, we should be moving toward less pharmaceutical dependence, not more.
What we need is more optimistic and ambitious goals. We should realize that we can solve the problem faster, and at lower cost, via effective community action than by waiting for pharmaceutical solutions. We shouldn’t let Big Pharma make us feel that we can’t solve the problem without them, when in fact we can.
We can show that drugs and the health care system are a nice back-up plan — but that our first line of defense is our own self-reliance, self-organization, and above all, care for one another. It will show that each one of us can keep ourself — and our community — robust, healthy and strong, using tools that are freely available.
So, What’s it Gonna Be?
The ball is in our court. We can eradicate COVID any time we want — it just takes 5 weeks.
When do we want to end this nightmare?
 Of course, if we vaccinate everyone all at once, then we can eradicate COVID once and for all, removing the need for booster shots. But that’s the same logic as eradicating COVID once and for all via low-tech lock-downs. Just the latter can be done in 5 weeks, while vaccines are set to take years…