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Stop Talking About “Reopening”

TAMPA, FL - JUNE 26: Zack Vermes a bartender at  Carmine’s Ybor Italian restaurant wipes off the bar while awaiting patrons on June 26, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. Florida has suspended the consumption of alcohol at bars amid a surge in the positive coronavirus cases according to a tweet by Halsey Beshears, the secretary of the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Friday.  (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - JUNE 26: Zack Vermes a bartender at Carmines Ybor Italian restaurant wipes off the bar while awaiting patrons on June 26, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. Florida has suspended the consumption of alcohol at ... TAMPA, FL - JUNE 26: Zack Vermes a bartender at Carmines Ybor Italian restaurant wipes off the bar while awaiting patrons on June 26, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. Florida has suspended the consumption of alcohol at bars, but not restaurants, amid a surge in the positive coronavirus cases according to a tweet by Halsey Beshears, the secretary of the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Friday. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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July 1, 2020 6:47 p.m.

From the start of the COVID epidemic we’ve been talking about “reopening”, when it would happen, whether it is safe. The President started demanding it about two weeks into the crisis – the churches needed to be full on Easter, the 12th of April. Now we talk about which states have reopened and which haven’t. It’a all wrong. From the start this metaphor has saddled us with distorting language and a distorted concept which has enabled and driven bad policy. It suggests a binary choice when one doesn’t exist. The impact goes beyond semantics.

There is no opening or closing and there won’t be until we have a vaccine or a very effective cure for COVID. There are various mitigation strategies. Does the state push or mandate widespread masking? Does it permit indoor dining? Are bars open? Has it scaled sufficient testing capacity and a robust contact tracing program? The devil and the death toll are all in this particulars. The ‘reopening’ metaphor obscures all of this.

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