What we did right, what we did wrong

For some of us the end of the emergency appears to be in sight - fully vaccinated, measured re-opening, a clear path to post-covid normality beckons. Can it be true?

Its perhaps time to get all reflective about our experience of the last 20 months and ask two intertwined questions ‘What we got right’ in our response, and ‘what we got wrong’.

The answers will differ between countries and I am keen to hear non-western thoughts.
It would be good to know where you’re from or talking about. I’d like it to be fairly empirical, so let’s not talk about luck as something we had a hand in creating - its okay to say something like the accelerated vaccine development programs were great, but it does not excuse mismanagement while hoping that someone would actually make a workable vaccine.

I’ll start off with:

RIGHT [Australia]
Creating a national cabinet at the start which meant that all state leaders, whose agencies do all the heavy lifting, were unified in their broad objectives, and received medical advice from a single clear source of expertise. Federal leadership was firmly put in its place and basically became Dad’s wallet.

WRONG [globally]
Failing to implement international agreements intended to provide affordable vaccines to poorer countries, leading to them being a continuing risk for the generation of the next super-evil strain of covid.

We weren’t brutal enough. Serious.

I need to get this off my chest regularly…

WRONG[Australia and maybe others]
Hotel quarantine which consisted of bussing the people you suspect of having an incredibly contagious disease straight into the most densely populated part of your cities, where their needs were served by inexperienced staff who went home to their families ALSO in the most densely populated part of your cities, and went shopping at supermarkets in the most densely yada yada yada…

RIGHT[Australia]
Cash to both businesses that needed to shut and workers that needed to stay home, with a pretty decent attempt at spreading it around between all the different actors affected

That was somewhere around last May. And it wasn’t.

In the US, going into the pandemic, I and many others had an assumption of good faith. We were all affected by this, and we would all do what it took to end it. I can remember thinking that this might even be the death knell for anti-vaxxers. Boy is my face red!

In case you didn’t know, Velocity has openly said in the past that he’d favor stuff like (IIRC, please correct me if I’m wrong) suspension of civil liberties and gunpoint enforcement. I assumed that you wouldn’t go quite that far, so I figured I’d at least mention that. :slight_smile:

The only thing the U.S. did right was to spend some money on the development of Covid vaccines.

The wrongest thing we did in the United States was to elect radical irrational politicians at all levels (mostly of a party I won’t name because, you know, no politics in the Quarantine Zone) who did everything they could to impede our response to this epidemic.

This isn’t so much a knock against those politicians, as it is a knock against the American voters who put them there.

I haven’t really followed the strategies of nations other than the US so I can’t comment on anything else but to go through a small list:

  1. The order of cutting off travel to various nations was completely irrational. Cutting off China as the first travel restriction makes sense but everything after that (and probably even including that choice) was really just down to doubling down on our tariffs and unrelated to how diseases spread. The top regions that Chinese nationals travel to are (as I recall), Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Italy so those all should have been the second highest priority to cut off. I don’t believe that we ever restricted travel to most or any of those places. (Yes, it was probably too late even by the point that we cut off travel from China, but we didn’t know that at the time.)
  2. Covid Classic didn’t actually have all that fast of a transmission rate and it was severely restricted on its ability to move during summer of 2020. While it probably would have failed, a global effort to eradicate the disease by simply getting it to die out on its own had a plausible chance of success. If we had chosen - globally - to stock up through spring and early summer and then all go into super-quarantine for the month of September, just staying at home eating canned and frozen foods, it may have been possible to cut all of this off.
  3. While masking, cutting off social gatherings, etc. are all good measures to take and should always have occurred, targeted handling of at-risk groups never seems to have had much focus. The state of California tried to break up homeless people and improving their everyday health by giving them motel rooms and supermarkets were asked to create special shopping hours for the elderly, but that’s about it. Ideally, everyone would have had a risk ranking (based on themselves and people they would be in regular contact with) and rules to follow based on that. Elderly homes tried to keep family from visiting, which was good, but there was no focus on ensuring that the elderly stayed happy and satisfied in life. Depression and stress are both going to raise their mortality rate. Overall, our approach was very shallow. I assume that they were thinking that they needed to keep it simple but I think that educating people about the risks and giving them individualized rules to follow would have been very doable and taking steps to mitigate secondary effects of loneliness and isolation, stale air, lack of sunlight, etc. could all have been tackled. We should have seen steep discounts on Vitamin D, as one small example.
  4. There was already a large antivax movement and it was very clear that at least 40% of the country was going to push back on any centrally organized push to inject everyone with mystery fluid. Vaccine mandates were always going to be necessary and, I would argue, making them non-mandatory just helps to support the idea that it’s really not that big a deal if you don’t do it, ergo supporting the idea that the vaccine doesn’t do much or that the pandemic isn’t all that scary. If bombs are falling out of the sky but everyone is just like, “Eh, they always miss everything.” And walks around like nothing is happening, the guy who doesn’t know any better is just going to follow their lead and endorse the position to everyone new that he meets - right up to the day that he gets exploded, at which point he won’t be around to push back on the advice. If you want to sell that something is serious, you have to act like it’s serious. If you’re really worried that the bombs are going to kill everyone, they’ll take you serious if you start punching them in the face and tossing them towards the bomb shelters. However, they’re going to keep shopping if you’re just like, “Please everyone, if you could just be so kind…”