April 30, 2020
A booth was taped off to ensure social distancing at a coffee shop in Woodstock, Ga., on Monday, as Gov. Brian Kemp eased restrictions in the state and allowed dine-in service. Dustin Chambers/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Compared With China, U.S. Stay-At-Home Has Been ‘Giant Garden Party,’ Journalist Says
“A pattern of infections and restrictions that could last for years.”
“In this country, 30,000 + new infections every day.”
“China didn’t start easing restrictions until they had Zero new infections a day…that’s when you really have control with easier contact-tracing.”
–New York Times science and health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr.
McNeil says even a fairly strict stay-at-home policy is “just the first step” in the battle against the pandemic: “There’s a Harvard study that came out recently that said we should have 5 million to 10 million tests per day across [the U.S.] in order to have a clearer idea of where the virus is, where cases are going up. And cumulatively, all the tests we’ve done now has been 5 million.”
On how testing worked in China
The model in China was, when it was time to be tested, you were taken to a fever clinic. You were screened in several ways: Your temperature was taken. You were given a quick flu test and a quick white blood cell count to make sure you didn’t have a flu or bacterial pneumonia. And then you’d be given a quick CT scan. They could run as many as 200 CT scans a day on some of these portable machines so that they could check your lungs — because their tests had some time before the results came back too. And only after you cleared all those hurdles and you were definitely still a COVID case, then you got the test, because their tests were imperfect like ours are. And then you didn’t go home to wait for the results of your test. You stayed there in the fever clinic, in the center. You were told to sit far apart from other people — 6 feet away from other people. And people sat there sort of scared with their envelopes with their CT scan results in their hands, waiting to hear if they were yes or no.
On what might happen if the U.S. reopens too quickly
If we all went back into baseball stadiums and churches and piled into grocery stores and got onto the subway, everything would be quiet for about two weeks, and then, whammo! You’d see temperatures go up on the Kinsa app, and then you’d see positive tests go up, and then you’d see hospital admissions go up. And then you’d see people being transferred into ICUs go up — and then you’d see deaths. We’d be on our way back to [previous predictions of] 1.6 to 2.2 million deaths [in the U.S. because of COVID-19 again.
This is probably going to be a series of steps. We’re going to have to do this again and again, dancing in and dancing out until we get to the point where we either have a vaccine or a prophylactic pill or some regimen — some curative regimen that’s so good that we’re confident that, if I get sick, maybe I get sick, but if I crash, I can count on being saved.
On ways in which the pandemic might change our country for the better
This is like going through a war. And if we went through World War I and World War II, and after each of those wars, we tried to create the League of Nations, and we did create the United Nations. People saw that we were all in this together, and the attitudes changed after those wars. Unions were strengthened. Incomes became more level. People had had it with war profiteers, and taxes on the rich went up.
It led to the GI Bill and the Veterans Administration mortgages. In Europe, the widows’ and orphans’ pension funds led to the creation of the famous European social safety net. [They were] a very equalizing kind of events. And I’m hoping that something like that will happen in this country too, that we’ll have kind of a rosy outcome from this and that people will value life more.
You heard it in Wuhan. People came out after two months in hiding, and they said, “My God, the flowers are so beautiful. I’ve never really noticed before.” I think people will take more pleasure in the simple things in life and feel lucky that they got through this.
So I’m hoping we have a brighter dawn, but we’re going to go through some pain first. But then that’s one of the reasons I stay relatively optimistic about this, because I can see maybe a better country emerging from this.