We are only at the beginning of the crisis. The number of people infected with the coronavirus is still growing exponentially. Most of those who are sick were infected so recently that we don’t yet know how many of them will live or die.
And yet, public figures, especially on the right, are already calling on us to beat a hasty retreat in this desperate fight. “The costs of this national shutdown are growing by the hour,” the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal wrote a few days ago. It is about time to wind down the “vast social-distancing project of the last 10 days.”
Similarly, in light of the economic damage that the current response is causing, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman argued that we need “less herd mentality and more herd immunity.” His proposal basically boils down to accepting that the majority of Americans will be infected: “Let many of us get the coronavirus, recover and get back to work—while doing our utmost to protect those most vulnerable to being killed by it.”
President Donald Trump seems to be considering the same course of action. On Sunday night, he tweeted, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!” A few hours later, he retweeted a follower who explicitly endorsed a version of Friedman’s plan: “15 days. Then we isolate the high risk groups and the rest of us get back to work!!”