These past few weeks have seen the reopening of many states across the nation after nearly two months of lockdown. Since then, different states progressed with different phases of reopening according to case numbers and state governors. Several states began easing restrictions these past few weeks despite not meeting White House guidelines and experts worry whether it’s too soon.
Governor Ron DeSantis announced that most of Florida can begin with Phase 1 of reopening May 14, excluding a few hotspot counties. Nearly a month after reopening, the question is still whether or not it was too soon.
One side argues if there’s one thing to learn from past pandemics, it’s that there will be a second wave of outbreaks that could be fueled by resuming normal life.
“We need also to be cognizant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time,” Dr. Mike Ryan, World Health Organization (WHO)’s emergency leader, said. “We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave.” Many public health officials have expressed a concern for state reopenings, but governors are reluctant to remain closed, pursuing their reopening plans in phases.
Another point of view is that reopening provides the necessary herd immunity during a pandemic. Herd immunity is “the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease, especially through vaccination” according to Oxford. Since a vaccine for COVID-19 still doesn’t exist, some believe that the slow reemergence to society is the only safe way to gain immunity at this point. Discover Magazine even goes as far as to call it “our best weapon.”
However, Johns Hopkins University dismisses this claim and states, “To reach herd immunity for COVID-19, likely 70% or more of the population would need to be immune. Without a vaccine, over 200 million Americans would have to get infected before we reach this threshold.” In other words, at the rate of infection in America, herd immunity won’t be a viable concept until late into 2021.
With so many scientists, doctors, and officials urging against reopening, it isn’t logical for governors to lift stay-at-home orders based on a decline in the number of local cases. While the argument of economic struggle arises, the government cannot enforce reopening for that reason when saving lives should be the priority. If society is unpaused too soon, the number of cases will spike in a harsher second wave as seen in previous pandemics, which would ruin the progress made to contain the spread during quarantine. It would be better to stay safe than sorry and finish out the last stretch of distancing. The government has made an effort to provide stimulus checks and unemployment aid through this tough time, as it can be hard for some to maintain their living. Rocky Mengle, a tax editor at Kiplinger, wrote about several ways government measures can provide aid.
Overall, only time can tell whether the best course of action is being taken. Guidelines are put in place for a reason, and COVID-19 will only continue to spread if they aren’t followed. One thing is certain, though, and that is that quarantine has and will continue to prevent transmission.