How COVID-19 Is Like A Broken Leg
If you break your leg, the doctor puts it in a cast and you rest it for a few months. Then you get better. If you’re like, “no, I like walking, I need to see more data” then you would be stupid. You’ll break the bone even more, fall on your face, and break your nose as well. You’ll be laid up for months, because you were dumb.
COVID-19 is the same thing, except the patient isn’t you. It’s your country. Some countries are dumb.
Smart And Dumb Countries
Smart countries took medical advice, put their economies in a cast, and suppressed COVID-19 with classic public health measures. After a few months on crutches, they’re getting back on their feet.
Dumb countries ignored medical advice, kept everything open too long, and now thousands of people have died. They’ve gone from one broken bone to all of them. It’s unclear when they’ll be back on their feet, if ever. Especially since they keep trying to run.
Public Health Is Treatment
In a pandemic the patient is not the person, it’s the nation. Public health is like a national immune system. It finds pathogens, then isolates and eliminates them. This is how we eliminated SARS, MERS. It’s how we suppressed Ebola and Nipah virus. That is why East Asian countries, Africa, and Kerala have such strong public health responses, they’ve developed national antibodies.
Even if you don’t have institutional antibodies, however, you can still take follow public health advice. You can still take your medicine. The steps have been the same for hundreds of years. Even countries with little epidemic experience have rapidly set up test/trace/isolate regimes.
In fact, almost every country (except America) eventually figures this out because it’s the only treatment we have. The trouble is that a lot of countries have played out this false economy/health debate for so long that they’ve broken half the bones in their body.
Like a broken leg, your body is just going to take some damage. There’s just no way around it. You’re going to be off your feet for a while. You won’t get to play that football season. That’s just how it is. Your body has a pain response for this reason, so you don’t damage it immeasurably.
At a national level, that pain is the tens then hundreds then thousands of people suffocating to death for weeks, dying terrified and alone. The nations that ignored that pain, that said it was just old people, or just meat-packers, or just someone else — those nations have done immeasurable damage to themselves.
It is a false choice, economy or health. An economy is just people. If they’re not healthy, the economy will suffer. There’s no way around it. You just have to take the medicine, rest and it will pass. If you ignore a pandemic, however, it will destroy you, economy and all. It will break every bone in your collective body.
Social Distancing Is Rest
The basic step when you break a leg is to stop walking on it. That’s it. You have to get in a cast or a wheelchair; you have to stop moving as much. South Korea and Taiwan put their economies in a cast — they moved around less but they still moved. That’s social distancing. Done early, it works.
If things get really bad, however, then you need to lie down with your foot in the air. That’s a lockdown. If your epidemic gets out of control and you’re breaking fingers and toes, you just need to stop everything and lie down. It’s bad, but still preferable to running around on shattering limbs, screaming about freedom.
When you’re in bed you can heal, regroup, and buy some time. You can build some crutches or a wheelchair — the basic tools of public health. Then you can get on those crutches and start hobbling around. Slowly your body politic will heal and you’ll be back on your feet.
There’s no choice here. These are the only options.
Even the countries that do nothing eventually end up in lockdown, only more catastrophic and expensive. When thousands of people a day start dying, the pain becomes too much to ignore. They end up in bed anyways, only wearing a full-body cast, with their economies on life support. That’s America, once they finish being ‘liberated’.
Your Body Politic
The west has made pandemic response complicated, a series of debates. It’s really not. Any country with pandemic experience knows this. It’s not any more complicated than a broken bone. Stop putting weight on it. Get medical help. Use crutches and give it time to heal. That’s it, just on a national level.
COVID-19 is a sneaky, complicated disease, but the right response isn’t. It’s no more complicated than a broken leg.