But We’re Reopening Anyway

I’ve given up on tracking Virginia’s COVID-19 numbers. The state has changed the way they’ve presented numbers or metrics so often that it’s now hard to measure with any degree of accuracy how we’re trending. Besides, the state isn’t even following its own guidelines for what needs to happen to reopen before reopening, so it doesn’t really matter, does it?

Which then comes back to a nagging question of what was the point? For nearly ten weeks, Virginia schools have been closed, and families have been facing a stay-at-home order, all to flatten the curve, not squash it. And while we’ve flattened it, this time was also meant to increase testing, hospital capacity, and figure out ways to safely reopen. None of those things seem to have happened to the degree officials said they wanted them to when we shut down.

But we’re reopening anyway.

The Commonwealth says their data shows they’ve met whatever internal benchmarks are in place. However, the data they’re releasing publicly doesn’t support that. We’re still below 10,000 tests a day, even if we add in every possible test, including local final exams as a COVID-19 test (I exaggerate, but not by much).

But we’re reopening anyway.

And once that genie is out of the bottle, how do you get it back in? People aren’t going to eagerly embrace another stay-at-home order because the last one did what? Because officials used the last one to do what?

I’ll readily admit that it’s hard to see the whole picture with this happening in real-time. Especially for a virus that can take up to two weeks to rear its ugly head.

Reality has a lot of moving parts, many unseen, but we’re past the days of being able to take “trust us” at face value.

But we’re reopening anyway.

The consequence of inconsistent data, moving the goalposts, a YOLO approach to missed benchmarks, all of it is that people pushing for a reopen so we can get back to “normal” and those saying “WHAT ARE YOU DOING STAY HOME!!!” are both able to make cases because we don’t have anything that we can definitively point to to say “but wait.”

This especially complicates efforts to push for a middle ground – continued social distancing, encouraging the wearing of masks, the limited reopening of some businesses versus others – because both sides can dig in and point to the big gray area that is Virginia’s response and say, “But the data says!”

I worry for my family. My kids. My parents and my in-laws and my friends and people who are vulnerable.

The idea that we can say, “Well, vulnerable people should just distance themselves,” and go about our business ignores the fact that vulnerable includes people of all ages and all walks of life who have family members who aren’t “vulnerable” so will be expected to go about business as usual. And contract and share whatever bugs are out there.

But even if we just look at age, nearly 20 percent of the American workforce is over the age of 55, the demographic most vulnerable to COVID-19. Of 157 million Americans in the workforce in 2019, nearly 27 million were between the ages of 55 and 64, more than 10 million were over the age of 65.

How does our economy manage losing 20 percent of its workforce who are told they should shelter in place until we find a cure? Sure, it’s less than the current unemployment rate, but that’s a number that SHOULD come down drastically as we get back to work. This would be a mandated “20 percent of you can’t work” winners-and-losers decision. That has an impact.

Then there’s the question of what support is in place to help them when we say “stay home.”

And you know there are people who are going to say, “Well, that’s up to them, they should have saved!” and those are some of the same people raging on the steps of capitol buildings saying, “REOPEN WE NEED TO WORK!” because they, well, didn’t save.

It’s easy for me to rant from the comfort of my own home with a family that is healthy and safe for now. And I so desperately want to keep them that way.

I understand there are no easy answers here. I just wish I had more confidence that the folks in positions to provide those answers were able to do so confidently and competently.

Not a lot of people are showing that these days.

But we’re reopening anyway.

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