To Give You Some Idea of the Response Required to Prevent Mass Death

It’s difficult to explain the South Korean response to COVID and why reopening in North America, from this vantage point, looks completely irresponsible if not totally berserk. It’s hard to put into perspective why the response in North America seems so totally inadequate. But the events of the last day or so might give you an idea of the scale of the South Korean response. They might show the scale of response that is required to wrestle this COVID thing down to manageable and get an economy running again. This is just a taste.

We were at zero domestic cases in South Korea. We found one. Just one. Club-goer in Itaewon. He went to five different clubs. That one case had led to 17 positive cases so far. Over a hundred tests have been done in connection to that one case. So far. And at least 1600 people, whom he had contact with at those clubs, will now need to go into self-quarantine and be monitored. (Testing will probably get a lot of them off the hook, which is one of the reasons you want a lot of testing.) The man has a business. All his business contacts (there’s about 50) are now being tested and his business has been closed. The government has just issued a month-long voluntary business suspension advisory on all clubs and bars. That’s what has happened. So far.

That’s the result of just one positive case. Just one. One case made seventeen positives so far, over a hundred targeted tests so far, 1600 people (and maybe their families) in self-isolation so far, a situation that will have to be monitored, and one business closed, and a whole industry advised to shutdown. So far. That’s just so far. That’s the response to one case. So far.

Catching it early will save lives.

And responding like this will save lives.

This response is how a society gets its economy going again.

And it’s how you keep a society and an economy sort of functioning.

From that one case and the response to it, you can get some idea of what South Korea has done and the scale of the response that COVID requires. You can also see the sort of personal and collective responsibility that is placed on all of us. You might want to go out on the town but, like, is that response what you want to be responsible for? Is this the shit you want added to your shameover after a night out? Responsibility has weight. And if you don’t carry it, it just means that someone else will have to. And maybe they can’t. So buck up, cowboy.

That response is just the start –the very tip of the iceberg– of what it takes to wrestle with this thing. You have that response in place, you can maybe start to think about what else you need before you start a very cautious re-opening. But that example should give you an idea of what is required and where you are in relation to what is required.

Rather than re-opening, North America may be at a rate of infection where the only possible response is a full lock-down. Like no one allowed outside, homeless in hotels, food delivered by army and police. But thinking about that happening in a country like America? Thinking not just about if that could happen but about how that would happen in America? Man . . .

I just don’t see any possible solution and no future except mass death. Which is, really, America in a nutshell. I don’t mean to be bleak but, goddamn. Shit is all fucked up.

Reopening is not a serious option. It’s homicide. And seeing this shit go on from the perspective of a place that is doing what needs to be done? Knowing what it takes, knowing that yes, shutdowns and lockdowns are needed but there is a A WHOLE LOT of other things the government and business NEED to do while shutdowns and lockdowns happen to make those shutdowns work, and knowing that every single day –every single fucking hour– that these things are not done is an hour wasted and an hour that makes it so much harder to do any of these things –these things that will STILL need to be done– and knowing that this waffling will murder my “essential hero” friends in stores where they’re having outbreaks but no tests? Knowing that South Korea is not fucking magic — it just has a decent and well-executed plan? And knowing how far away North America is from doing any of that at all? From even having a plan? That it wants to re-open? That it thinks it can? This is its own special torture.

So, like, I just don’t know.

Try to do your bit, work to retain a sense of human decency, don’t become numb to suffering and death, deciding that some lives matter more than others in whatever perverse calculus you use to determine and justify these things, and just try to get through this shit one little bit at a time and one little act of kindness at a time. Carry the weight you can. I don’t know, I really don’t know what else can be done. But reopening is not a serious option. It’s fucking homicide.

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