As Ezra Klein explains, the plans being floated to return America to normal involve a digital surveillance state of breathtaking intrusiveness that absolutely will be used against Americans in the future, and the distrust in the US of both the Trump regime and Big Tech makes anything approaching what we need virtually impossible.
Over the past few days, I’ve been reading the major plans for what comes after social distancing. You can read them, too. There’s one from the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, the left-leaning Center for American Progress, Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics, and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer.
I thought, perhaps naively, that reading them would be a comfort — at least then I’d be able to imagine the path back to normal. But it wasn’t. In different ways, all these plans say the same thing: Even if you can imagine the herculean political, social, and economic changes necessary to manage our way through this crisis effectively, there is no normal for the foreseeable future. Until there’s a vaccine, the US either needs economically ruinous levels of social distancing, a digital surveillance state of shocking size and scope, or a mass testing apparatus of even more shocking size and intrusiveness.
The AEI, CAP, and Harvard plans aren’t identical, but they’re similar. All of them feature a period of national lockdown — in which extreme social distancing is deployed to “flatten the curve” and health and testing capacity is surged to “raise the line.” That’s phase one. Phase two triggers after a set period (45 days for CAP, three months for Harvard) or, in the AEI plan, after 14 days of falling cases and a series of health supply markers.
All of them then imagine a phase two, which relaxes — but does not end — social distancing while implementing testing and surveillance on a mass scale. This is where you must begin imagining the almost unimaginable.
The CAP and Harvard plans both foresee a digital pandemic surveillance state in which virtually every American downloads an app to their phone that geotracks their movements, so if they come into contact with anyone who later is found to have Covid-19, they can be alerted and a period of social quarantine can begin. Similarly, people would scan QR codes when boarding mass transit or entering other high-risk public areas. And GPS tracking could be used to enforce quarantine on those who test positive with the disease, as is being done in Taiwan.
To state the obvious: The technological and political obstacles are massive. While similar efforts have borne fruit in Singapore and South Korea, the US is a very different country, with a more mistrustful, individualistic culture. Already, polling shows that 70 percent of Republicans, and 46 percent of Democrats, strongly oppose using cellphone data to enforce quarantine orders.
There's just no way this works in America. None. Zero. Decades of sowing mistrust in the federal government by everything from pop culture to politicians to conspiracy theories to the internet has made something like this absolutely unworkable in 2020.
That leaves massive social distancing efforts that will continue for months on end, also unworkable.
Something has to fundamentally change in the American people to accept what will be necessary to move forward and it won't happen. We'll have armed insurrections before it does and we'll have COVID-19 dead on top of gun deaths and they might take turns outpacing each other on a daily basis.
A lot of people are going to end up dead before the country relents.
Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, announced Friday afternoon that he planned to sign an executive order that would lift the coronavirus lockdown in a "safe" way, allowing businesses to reopen.
Though Gov. Abbott didn't reveal details about the executive order, he said he's looking into ways to reopen Texas businesses. He promised that details about the executive order will be available next week, but it is expected to provide businesses with a list of guidelines on how to safely reopen.
"We will focus on protecting lives while restoring livelihoods," Abbott said. "We can and we must do this. We can do both, expand and restore the livelihoods that Texans want to have by helping them return to work. One thing about Texans, they enjoy working and they want to get back into the workforce. We have to come up with strategies on how we can do this safely."
"We will operate strategically," Abbott added. "If we do it too fast without appropriate strategies, it will lead to another potential closure."
Abbott also promised testing for the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19 would be part of the plan. On Wednesday, the governor announced that Walgreens locations would soon offer a test that can be administered via the drive-thru window, and will provide results within 15 minutes. Abbott estimates that each Walgreens store could test as many as 3,000 people a day. The tests are developed by Abbott Labs; despite the similar name, Gov. Abbott has no connection to the company.
Three thousand tests a day in a state with 30 million people.
It will soon be three thousand deaths a day.
My fear is that Trump and the GOP will sacrifice as many of their constituents as possible to feed the "economy" and we'll still not make the right choices.