Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the call, and took full responsibility for it: Non-essential workers across the state are to stay home, and all of us are to avoid all outdoor group activities.
It’s a decisive response to the drastic rise in local coronavirus cases, a bid to minimize transmission so as to keep hospitals and the rest of the health care system from being overwhelmed.
But how long will it last? Can we find some strategy other than so drastic a limit on New Yorkers’ liberties?
We appreciate Cuomo’s refusal to call it “shelter in place,” something he’s been pooh-poohing for days now, but this amounts to nearly the same thing — it’s OK to leave the house for exercise, but don’t get caught playing basketball. (Is tennis OK?) Was it really just one day’s data on infections — a number boosted mainly by the ramp up in testing — that changed his mind, or was he finding it impossible to fend off Mayor Bill de Blasio’s begging to shut down the city?
The costs for some will be absolutely brutal: Lots of people are now concerned that they won’t be able to put food on the table after a week or two. Policymakers at all levels of government are grappling with how to put most of the economy into hibernation, without killing a lot of it.
South Korea and Taiwan have avoided lockdowns while containing the virus, but only with monitoring that Americans would find outrageously intrusive. But they’ve also done far more intensive testing — could that be enough, once US testing is truly scaled up, to let people go back to work?
Drug-makers are also rushing to find vaccines, effective treatments and other solutions that could let near-normal life resume.
President Trump gets slammed for seeming to grasp at straws when he expresses hope for such game-changers. But people need more than orders to hunker down — they need some sense of how, and when, this might end.
At a certain point under lockdown, the “cure” could become worse than the disease.
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