Posted by: Dr Churchill | May 6, 2020

“To Open or Not To Open?” This is the conundrum that we are in today in the US…

The President says that the United States must reopen even if more Americans get infected, or even become sick from this Wuhan Coronavirus epidemic and the resultant Covid-19 illness…

President Donald Trump launched headlong into his push to reopen the country on Tuesday, saying Americans should begin returning to their everyday lives even if it leads to more sickness and death from the pandemic.

Speaking in Phoenix during his first trip outside Washington in more than a month, said he’s preparing for “phase two” of the U.S. response to the coronavirus. That will include disbanding the White House task force of public health experts, including Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, that have steered the government response to the outbreak so far.

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He further acknowledged that reopening the economy would likely lead to more suffering:

“Will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly?”

“Yes, but we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.”

On his visit to a Phoenix-based Honeywell International Inc. factory producing medical masks, Trump made his most forceful case yet that the economic damage to the country has become too great to sustain an extended shutdown. He encouraged Americans to think of themselves as “warriors” as they consider leaving their homes, a tacit acknowledgment of deep public reservations about re-opening the country too soon.

The president has expressed increasing frustration with the coronavirus-sparked recession that has put more than 30 million Americans out of work and hurt his case for a second term. The U.S. continues to have the largest coronavirus outbreak in the world, with about 1.2 million people infected and more than 70,000 killed so far.

Speaking separately in an ABC News interview that aired Tuesday evening, Trump said closing down the nation was “the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make.”

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And he was resolute about the decision to reopen the nation, despite the certainty of suffering it will cause until a vaccine is developed.

“There’ll be more death… The virus will pass, with or without a vaccine. And I think we’re doing very well on the vaccines but, with or without a vaccine, it’s going to pass, and we’re going to be back to normal.”

“But it’s been a rough process. There is no question about it. I think our economy is going to be raging next year”
While in Phoenix, the Prez encouraged states to ease social-distancing measures and allow businesses to reopen, though he cautioned that it should be done “safely.”

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The President declined to set an example for the nation by engaging in one government-recommended safety protocol himself: wearing a face mask. As he toured the Honeywell plant, Trump wore only safety goggles. Music from his standard campaign rally soundtrack played over loudspeakers, including Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” and Guns N’ Roses’s “Live and Let Die.”

Senior White House officials also did not don the masks, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend when social distancing isn’t possible. Factory workers, members of the press and other support staff did. Trump also lamented that he had to stand six feet apart from two supporters during his speech, including one who was wearing a sequined denim vest with his campaign slogan.

Trump said that “doctors” he didn’t name, had advised him to close the economy “for a couple of years.”

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“I created, with a lot of other very talented people and the people of our country, the greatest economy in the history of the world. The greatest that we’ve ever had. And then one day they said, “we have to close our country.”

Well, now it’s time to open up.”

Public-health experts have repeatedly warned the country risks a second wave of infections if restrictions are lifted too early, which could lead to another round of shutdowns and economic damage.

Indeed, epidemic casualty models are “So Intrinsically Wrong” that they are unacceptable as a risk analysis instrument of policy making for the President or for anyone else at High Office…

But even as the President Trump said, a full-scale re-opening could lead to more deaths, he expressed optimism the virus would go away. And he added that if cases do rebound, it would be like a “fire” that could be extinguished “fast.”

He also dismissed two new projections that painted a gruesome picture of what could happen if the country lifts shutdown orders too quickly: a Johns Hopkins University model showing deaths could reach 3,000 per day by June 1 and a University of Washington analysis showing the U.S. death toll could reach 135,000 by the beginning of August.

“These models have been so wrong from day one. Both on the low side and the upside. They’ve been so wrong, they’ve been so out of whack. And they keep making new models, new models and they’re wrong,” the president said.

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White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said earlier Tuesday the Johns Hopkins model, included in a government document obtained Monday by the New York Times, relied on “faulty assumptions” about mitigation efforts and didn’t represent federal government projections.

President Trump had this to say about Americans: “The people of our country are warriors.”

Vice President Mike Pence said earlier Tuesday the White House has begun discussing disbanding the coronavirus task force that has advised Trump on the federal response to the outbreak, a move that could happen as soon as later this month.

“Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job, but we’re now looking at a little bit of a different form, and that form is safety and opening. And we’ll have a different group, probably, set up for that,” Trump said in Phoenix.

When asked if the move meant he considers the mission of combating the virus to be accomplished — President Trump replied:

“No.”

And that in a nutshell described the situation that we are faced with, as we get to the root of the conundrum we’re in today…

Much like the Shakespearian dilemma: “To Be or not to Be?”

Or rather…

In a more modern times adaptation of Hamlet’s lament from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, “To be, or not to be? That is the question—Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them?” The idea of whether it is better to live or to die, is at the essence of it.

And in the same vein the existential status of the American Economy is at the center of this difficult decision: “To be or not to be, that is the question” is the most famous soliloquy in the works of Shakespeare, and this is promising to be the most famous decision that President Trump has ever made or is likely to have to make.

As indeed this is a most difficult decision for President Donald Trump who has got to carefully weigh all the options, the alternatives and the consequences (intended and unintended) and then he has to arrive at a Solomonian decision that has got to be both just, and correct.

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And this is his next decision and his next one after that, and the next one after and so on so for, all the way up the decision tree of the systems analysis, that no doubt the think-tank-heads of the Executive branch have been pondering, agonizing and graphing all along, until late this past week, for the President to be able to arrive at a correct & proper decision that comes down to this simple choice:

“To Open the Country Now, or not to Open it yet, and instead keep it under lockdown for another month or so…”

And the way to account for this choice, is a really tricky and rapid climb up the ladder of the “decision tree” that it is not new nor unusual in the systems analysis of the medical world, where it is called “Triage” and where it is performed each and every day at all trauma hospitals across America, and in the rest of the World, as it is an especially recurring difficult and yet common place decision at all the military field hospitals during all the medical emergencies in the battle field, in disaster events, or in pandemics that spring up usually unannounced…

And yet it is a somewhat unusual analysis, and a difficult decision to comprehend for the Civvies, and for the Politicians who haven’t served in the armed forces, because as a matter of fact this phenomenon is also somewhat new for the elevated public health community too, but not for the military Medics, Doctors, or field personnel, or for that matter for the intelligence Community, or for the Chiefs of Staff and for the Pentagon.

And as par for the course — this phenomenon is so common, that the army, the navy, the air force and the national security community, all have come to view it as part & parcel of the job, rather than as an extraordinary event in our daily environment.

And since Americans, seem to be comfortable with elevated risk and high death tolls, this is the correct decision for the President to make right about now:

“Open Up Our Country Now.”

And there is evidence that he had consulted the Defense Chiefs and not just the Economists and the Treasury chiefs, because it is obvious that he had input from military leaders on the decision.

Because it is generally obvious that from past events and experiences that of course when defense analysts project casualties — they ask to gauge the public opinion’s reactions on the numbers of dead and lost, or MIA in the case of war…

As is the evidence that the Pentagon had projected that some 30,000 Americans would die during the First Gulf War — General Storming Norman, (Norman Schwarzkopf) was given the mandate to go ahead because that particular estimate did nothing to diminish the American people’s overwhelming support for US action against Iraq.

Obviously, that prediction didn’t pan out, but that was largely because the product of DoD getting a bit creative as well as the Iraqi Army’s unexpectedly low morale, as well as Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, extraordinary abilities in the planning of the battlefield moves and in utilizing lightning strikes, and speedy thrusts through the enemy’s fortified positions, with tremendous regularity, unexpected ferocity and obstinately asymmetrical force.

Of course General Norman Schwarzkopf who commanded the American-led coalition forces that crushed Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf war and became the nation’s most acclaimed military hero since the midcentury exploits of Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur, had followed the British play book for war in the desert and thus he succeeded as if he were another lawrence of Arabia taking the port city of Aqaba…

However today and in Civilian life, the Civvies will never forgive the President for no matter whatever decision he takes so “He Don’t Care.” As for the current House & Senate leadership — if they take any other approach to Public Health Policy except that one that is designed to maximize the preservation of human life, they will be crucified in the press and the media as well…

So what’s a Man to do?

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We all know that in today’s observation & spectator culture of the Spectacle Society — any other alternative that would require even a modest amount of sustained effort simply won’t fly with the American people.

So in the interim — and any efforts to contravene our rather base collective instincts are doomed to failure.

That’s the same reason why the DoD has chosen to keep the War in Afghanistan going as a small, largely volunteer, almost entirely in-house effort — despite the simple observation that that war could be won with only a modestly large investment in treasure, in lives & in risk…

The Defense Chiefs like this little known practice that a slowly bleeding enemy (and ourselves) are more likely to stay n place, form a paper cut, than having the American public opinion turn sour if the American people were told that victory could be achieved with a spending of $200 USD billion per year for five years, and that’s it.

With that depressing nugget of institutional wisdom in mind, it’s somewhat plain to see why a sustained shutdown — even if that meant we would be saving the lives of 3 million Americans — simply isn’t a viable strategy for the President or for any Chief Executive of the Country or of the States and Counties…

Therefore, the best we can hope for this day — is a deft compromise approach like Sweden’s choice of “half & half” that keeps our fatality count in the low hundreds of thousands, while allowing our economy to keep on humming.

Because if we don’t choose that option, and we stick with a sustained lockdown, that the American people will surely sour on, there’s a good chance that they will get pissed-off, and opt for a completely irresponsible opening, like we’re seeing now across much of the South.

Yours,

Dr Churchill

PS:

Your thought on this decision tree, are much appreciated and you have got to take care to send them to me herewith, because this is an ongoing analysis that will not get resolved fully until we gain herd immunity to this horribly nasty bug..

Thanks

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