The Enormity Of The Challenge

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March 17, 2020 11:59 a.m.
TPM Reader EO is coming to grips with the challenges ahead for government at all levels:

Long-time reader/subscriber, first time writing in. I work in the leadership of a local government unit that has a pretty significant number of COVID-19 cases, but isn’t one of the biggest national hotspots. We have been progressively locking the area down since last week, with changes the last few days that basically shut the doors on all public life.

I am deeply concerned about the sustainability of this response at the timescales our public health folks say will be necessary. We took a “boiling the frog” approach to restrictions–progressively stricter over the last week, with progressively advancing timelines. Right now our state health department is talking publicly about all of these restrictions going for about two weeks, but everyone internally understands that they will be extended many times.

But it’s one thing to shut down restaurants, parks, bars, libraries, workplaces, churches, and public services for a week. It’s another for a month. It’s a whole different thing for two, three, four months. And some people here are saying 18 months, or until we have a good vaccine, as an outside limit.

Can we keep this going? We’re relying right now on the goodwill and community-mindedness of our people. What happens when that runs out? If a bar decides to break quarantine and fills up, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to shut that down. Where are we going to see the first quarantine riot? What happens if one city around the US decides this isn’t worth it and ends the restrictions? Can we hold out if we’re months into this and people know their relatives in some other city (sick or not) aren’t dealing with these restrictions?

I don’t know where this goes. It’s happened too quickly for anyone to stop and think about it. But I just don’t know if this can last.

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