Relatively few are denying that a hard lockdown across the United States would do wonders against coronavirus. This is part two of my attempt to figure out how in reach that is. There’s a somewhat similar thread already here, I know, but I was interested specifically in the lockdown aspect of the question.
How would you enforce such a lockdown on a nationwide basis if you were in charge of such an effort? How long? How much police and military involvement would you need (assume a sane president, but don’t assume that the police situation is any better)? Would you just expect governors to say “do it” and expect it to be done, or would you offer support? What kind of money would you spend, on what, and from what sources? Hell, for the purposes of this hypothetical, assume 50% more Americans take the virus seriously.
Better definition of hard lockdown needed. What businesses are left open? Large corporate campaign contributers excluded from shutting down while the mom & pop stores are closed? Parks and hiking trails closed? Can I go fishing or hunting? All mass gatherings closed or are some deemed more important than public health requirements? No interstate travel? Roadblocks between large population centers in state? How does the state keep its enforcers healthy? Who checks in on the homebound and how do you verify their health?
I would give 1 week’s notice to stockpile essentials then declare martial law shutting everything down for 2 weeks except hospitals and communal living facilities such as nursing homes. Certain businesses like plumbers and electricians get declared to handle essential emergency calls also. Other truly essential businesses such as zoo staff and farms determined. One gas station for every 20 mile radius are with a gov’t issued ration card to enable those essential workers to refuel. Roadblocks to dissuade any travel. Day 12 allow logistics like truckers and warehouse workers and food suppliers back to start the resupply of commerce. Suspend all rent, interest charges, and all consumer credit payments for one month. Banks eat the loss. (they’ll get it back in higher fees over the next year anyway.) Landlords get a tax credit at the end of the year. Tax credits for dumped produce.
It would not be easy. An overzealous response would cause more problems in the US. Some might argue this has been shown in Portland.
Voluntary masking and distancing would be best. Businesses should refuse entry to those unwilling to follow reasonable rules. They should also supply masks (small businesses could charge a small fee). There should be support from government and security for businesses to do this simple thing without trouble.
The police have better things to do than enforce curfews. Our town had a “rat” hotline but could only deal with very egregious cases.
Best to convince people sensible rules are in their best interest. Even fines may in practice be constitutionally problematic, but may be reasonable.
A vaccine may or may not be on the way. It may or may not be widely available. Most people would probably agree to get it. Many wouldn’t. It’s efficacy would be unknown.
I don’t see how the two week thing would work. Yeah, everybody in the non-essential group would rid themselves of the virus IF they were sick (assuming they didn’t pass it to someone else in the household on day 13). But it’s not like that’s granted herd immunity to them. Most people aren’t sick and never got this. If even one essential worker (or anybody else in the word) can still transmit the virus, the non-essential group would be at risk of getting sick and putting us back where we are now.
Even if we could completely lock down for multiple weeks, what would be the point? COVID would still exist in the world and it’s highly unlikely that the US could keep it out. You might be able to use contact tracing to keep any outbreaks small but there’s no guarantee. Then you’re faced with having a hugely expensive lockdown for little long-term gain.
If a vaccine was imminent I could see how it might make sense but otherwise no.
…locking down 'without a point" would indeed be pointless. I’ll quote from the New Zealand Prime Minister as she announced lockdown, to see if she can make the case for you.
I’ve bolded the most important part of the announcement: “break the chain of community transmission”. If you lock yourself inside your home you are doing two things: you aren’t spreading Covid-19 and you aren’t catching Covid-19. If you had Covid-19 then you are already self-quarantining and you’ve ensured nobody else gets it. You recover either at home or in the hospital. Everyone else doesn’t get exposed.
If you’ve locked down properly (and most of the lockdowns in America weren’t “proper” lockdowns) then when you exit lockdown you are going to have substantially less cases than you had going in. Because you have broken the chain of community transmission.
In New Zealand we went into Level Four lockdown on the 25th of March, and we came out of Level Four on the 27th of April, so just over a month, or 2 full incubation periods of the coronavirus. We then went through a staged opening up, before going to Level One on June the 8th.
In America the purpose of a lockdown would be different to the lockdown we had. For me it would be about bringing a reset. The goal wouldn’t be to eliminate Covid-19, but to instead bring it under a measure of control by significantly dropping the curve. Realistically as a matter of scale I would think two months (4 full incubation periods) would be what America needed to do to bring things under control. But a month would be much more palatable, and would still be instrumental in bringing down the death toll. Having said that I am under no illusion on how hard it would be to sell this to the American people. Paying people to stay home is a no-brainer. But even that suggestion would probably be enough to get people rioting in the streets
I would suggest (for the purposes of debate) that we use the NZ Lockdown system? It was pretty straight forward to understand, and if we used that system as a benchmark I could answer each of your questions.
In New Zealand s supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics, petrol stations and lifeline utilities were allowed to open. You were allowed to work from home. Media were allowed to operate as normal (but had to socially distance). Government continued to operate in limited capacity but remotely. Practically everything else had to close.
Quite famously one of New Zealand’s biggest retailers tried this one on. The Warehouse simply declared they were an essential service and that they would remain open. They were told they were not and had to close. Dominos tried the same thing, offering to deliver free meals to the elderly, thereby making then an essential service. It didn’t work.
Parks and hiking trails remained open, people were encouraged to exercise carefully but locally. The Health Minister famously got caught and sanctioned for exercising outside of his local area.
This is a photo of our Deputy Prime Minister fishing from his “front lawn” during Level 4 lockdown. It caused quite a stir, but was within the rules. The Level 4 guidelines advised against “swimming, surfing, boating, hunting or tramping” and to “stick to simple outdoor exercise, and avoid activities where you can get injured or lost.”
All mass gatherings were closed. End of story.
Anything outside of a trip to the supermarket was not allowed. So in an American context then no, no interstate travel. The roads were empty here. Plenty of people walking and cycling. It was really nice and peaceful while it lasted I almost miss it.
In some Māori communities they set up community checkpoints. Māori historically have"much higher death rates and much higher hospitalisation rates than the rest of the population" and so the checkpoints were put in place to protect the community and were supported by the police. But apart from this there were no roadblocks, etc. Most people just followed the rules.
What do you mean by “enforcers”, do you mean the police?
My mum actually got a call from MSD (Ministry of Social Development) in the first week of lockdown to ask her if she was okay, and if she needed any assistance or help. So I’m assuming that they contacted all of the senior citizens/people that needed support in the early days to see if they were okay.
But also, from the Prime Ministers speech lockdown speech (linked to earlier) :
And that’s simply what we did. We checked on our neighbours. We put signs in our windows. From an operational and a logistics point of view the government can’t do everything. To a degree the most it can do is tell us what needs to be done, it will support us in any way that it can, but some things you are just going to have to figure out for yourself.
For an example of this, I’m a small independent business, classified here in NZ as a sole trader. I’m not a big business. I look after myself. But once lockdown came all of my bookings for the rest of the year got cancelled.
How was my business going to survive? Well I needed cash. Without cashflow I won’t make it through a couple of weeks. Sole Traders were eligible for the Wage Subsidy. To apply for it all I had to do was answer five questions online: one of those questions was “what is your bank account number?” And another question was a statutory declaration if everything I had said was true. (It was.)
The money was in my bank account two days later, and a full day before I got an email to confirm that the subsidy had been approved. It was an enormous relief. The government wasn’t going to provide me with a step-by-step blueprint on how my business was going to survive the global pandemic. But it was going to make sure that when we exited Lockdown my business was still going to exist. I had the time and the ability to reset my business, to flip my business plan, and to have a new strategy going forward. We didn’t expect the government to figure everything out for us. Just give us the resources we need to survive and we will do our part to figure things out.
My lockdown would be tough, tough tough. Essentially martial law. Deploy the military (suspend Posse Comitatus,) National Guard, all police forces. Everyone has to stay indoors for 3 weeks - or if they leave, they must be masked up, social distancing. The state and federal governments will do their best to deliver food door to door to help everyone stay in. Anyone caught congregating in an illegal manner will face heavy fines. Any crowds will be dispersed by force. All business essentially comes to a standstill for weeks. No flights, no trains, no buses.
In an American context that means yes, interstate travel has to be allowed. You would have just cut off a chunk of the metro area I live in from all the major grocery stores close to their homes. Many would also be cut off from their nearest pharmacies, gas stations, and emergency repairs for a lifeline utility (water). People on both sides of the border would be cut off from their doctors’ offices. At least on this side of the border we have all the hospitals for the metro area. Some people that are essential by the NZ model would also be prohibited from going to work if we completely shut state borders.
At least one of the three grocery stores near me would have to close unless some interstate travel was allowed. Their distribution center is across the border. Realistically the supply chains to put food on the shelves in the US relies on both interstate and international ground transport. I saw meat shortages and stores rationing purchases when just three large Canadian slaughterhouses needed to close two time zones away from me. Seal the Canadian border and the state border between me and the nearest Canadian border crossing and things start breaking. If trucks, and their possibly infected drivers, are not getting across both international and interstate borders the grocery stores here empty out quickly.
Our economy is connected across state lines in a way that mostly ignores their existence. Thanks to NAFTA our economy also largely ignores the international borders with our two largest trading partners that share the continent. Some method that enables daily crossing of those borders is necessary for our economy to provide essential goods and services to the locked down. Crafting and enforcing that method is a difficult problem. It is a difficult problem that NZ did not have to contend with.