Yes! America Can Multitask

Well into the second month of our national crisis caused by the Chinese corona virus, we can with a degree of confidence review what we have learned and with reason consider our next steps.  We can definitively say this Chinese bat virus is more deadly than the Chinese pig virus. With over 20,000 dead in just two months, we already have thousands more casualties than after a year of the 2009 Swine Flu.  However, it has not yet killed more than a bad flu season when typically some 60,000 Americans succumb to influenza. It appears more contagious than the flu as the pandemic traveled the planet quickly, so without the national lock down imposing drastic social distancing who knows how many would be infected and how much farther and faster it would have spread. 

    Until we have widespread testing, we are somewhat hostage to watching these daily tickers showing us only inaccurate and incomplete numbers about this pernicious pandemic.  As of this writing, America had surpassed a half million confirmed cases which sounds large, but we had over 60 million cases of the Swine Flu. The reality probably is we already have had many more infections.  Testing has been largely unavailable and still if otherwise healthy individuals show symptoms, they are told to self-quarantine and call back if they worsen. In most cases, sick people are not actually tested until they require hospitalization, so there are untold numbers who contracted the virus and just recovered at home.  They were not counted, so it’s not a stretch to wonder if there are not more like 5 million cases. And that would be good news because it would drive down the morbidity rate and show the disease is not as dangerous to average folks without other underlying health conditions.

    While the overall rate of infections is still elusive, the number of hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and ventilator intubations are declining, so we can reasonably deduce the spread is slowing – we are flattening the curve.  The west coast fared better than New York and New Jersey which may have peaked, but except a few other possible hot spots most of the country has seen relatively small numbers of infections. With about 3,600 confirmed cases and almost 100 corona virus deaths, Alabama only has a known infection rate of 0.07%.  Even if the infection rate is ten times worse, that is still less than one percent of the state. Is that threat enough to keep almost 5 million people in indefinite lock down?

     Just a few weeks in to the national lock down, some 16-20 million Americans have suddenly become unemployed.  That’s a staggering statistic. Millions of Americans and thousands of small businesses have been thrust into uncertainty; they need relief, but mostly they need to know how long do they need to tread water.  While this almost instantaneous economic interruption is unbelievably massive and of unparalleled magnitude, the American economy is incredibly enormous and indomitably resilient. The shutdown is surely impactful, but if America reopens in weeks rather than months, it will be just a bump in the road.

    While this nasty virus still ravages too many Americans, a somewhat nonsensical debate has brewed.  The doom and gloom media always hoping, looking, and sometimes fabricating catastrophe is trying to cast America into a solely binary decision:  continue to lock down the nation to save lives or go back to work and kill people. This is really an absurd notion all the more inflamed by reckless demagoguery accusing Americans of greed, that they will sacrifice the elderly for their 401K retirement plans.  These emotional outbursts are from immature people or charlatans purposely trying to sow discord and disaster; neither can or should be taken seriously.

    America is a huge country with manifestly different regions and Americans are an industrious irrepressible people who have risen to many challenges over the past two plus centuries.  We indeed can do many things simultaneously. During WWII, we built an immense war machine, fought a global war, and still fed the nation. There is no dire decision. With proper precautions and prudence, Americans can return to work and safeguard public health.  The contagion is certainly horrible, but it’s only debilitating if we let it. Whether famine, pestilence, or war, we cannot just hunker down in our basements. People still have to eat and be cared for, so we learn to adapt and cope – that is how Americans are designed.

    Nothing is without risk, so we must be careful as we reopen American for business not to trigger a second wave of infections.  However, we have relearned the vital importance of being sanitary, we can quarantine the sick, and protect the vulnerable. Widespread testing will greatly alleviate our apprehensions when we can know who has it or even better how many were already exposed and now immune.

    Adults can do this and Americans even more so; it’s called life.  So disregard all the childish press and petty politicians trying to make this all a silly death or work question.  There is no more patience or time for their nonsense, so let’s make a plan to get on with keeping American great!

    “The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.”  Proverbs 17:24

Pete Riehm is the host of Common Sense Radio heard 8pm every Thursday on FMTalk106.5 or streaming at  Email him at [email protected] or on Twitter @PeteRiehm or visit

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