Donald Trump Suggests Lifting Social Distancing Guidelines | The Mary Sue

Late Sunday night, Donald Trump sent out a bizarre and frightening all-caps tweet. “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” he wrote, presumably regarding the current coronavirus pandemic. “AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”


— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2020

The White House issued guidelines last week for a pretty loose version of social distancing–staying in if you feel sick, have an underlying health condition, or are elderly. The statement was titled “15 Days to Slow the Spread” but if Trump is expecting anything to be different 15 days after those guidelines were issued, that’s absolutely absurd.

Is he seriously suggesting with his tweet that in 15 days (from March 16 when the statement was posted online, so just about another a week from now), it will be time to reassess whether social distancing or more drastic forms of quarantine are even necessary? Is he saying that in 15 days, we might just go back to pretending things are normal and fine? It sure seems like it.

The importance of the 15 days metric is that that is how long the coronavirus is thought to be able to last if every single person on the planet were to isolate themselves. Not just staying home if you feel sick, since a large number of those infected don’t show any symptoms. In some studies, up to 3/4 of people who tested positive for coronavirus contracted it from someone who was asymptomatic or presymptomatic. This advice to only stay home if you’re feeling sick just is only making things worse, as we can see from the growing number of cases across the country.

The idea that “we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself” has started to catch on among some conservatives. Larry Kudlow, Trump’s chief economic adviser, told Fox News Monday that “the president is right” and said may need to make “difficult tradeoffs.”

Let’s be clear what he and Trump mean here. When Trump says the cure can’t be worse than the problem, he means that the economic devastation we’re facing as a nation is “worse” than people dying. When Kudlow talks about “difficult tradeoffs,” he means humans.

He means sacrificing 5 million American lives

— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) March 23, 2020

Ladies and gentlemen: Death panels

— Caitlin Flanagan (@CaitlinPacific) March 23, 2020

The “pro-life” party would rather kill millions of Americans than spend a few trillion dollars subsidizing payrolls when interest rates are near zero.

— Zach Heltzel (@zachheltzel) March 23, 2020

The economic devastation we’re facing as a country is incredibly scary. But people’s lives are not “tradeoffs” for bailing out cruise lines and Trump’s own hotels.

If Trump lifts these already loose social distancing guidelines, millions of people are expected to die. Tens of millions could get seriously ill in a way that hospital system is in no way prepared to be able to handle. There just aren’t enough hospital beds for the number of people that would need them, and with all the beds filled nationwide, it’s not just coronavirus-related ailments that will put people at risk–literally anyone trying to check into an ER for anything from a heart attack to going into labor would be unable to access the care they need.

Can’t believe I’m writing this, but: Letting everybody get sick and lot of people die has a cost, too.

— Annie Lowrey (@AnnieLowrey) March 23, 2020

In fact, you risk ending up with the worst of both worlds: mass death and sickness AND ALSO an economy that’s essentially shut down.

— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 23, 2020

And if you’re thinking that even if Trump lifts the guidelines nationally, we can still practice social distancing on our own, I wish that were true. But for starters, if everyone doesn’t participate in these habits, the disease will just keep ping-ponging around forever. And without national guidelines, it becomes a state-level issue and, more practically, a corporation-level one.

Seems obvious that at the end of 15 days, Trump is gonna announce an end to social distancing and such, making it a state’s rights issue. And then Trump is gonna bully governors/mayors that don’t lift the bans, especially in states where he wants to do rallies. Nifty stuff.

— Brock Wilbur (@brockwilbur) March 23, 2020

corporations will force them back to work or lose their jobs

What I’m saying is, like always, please don’t listen to Donald Trump. Ever. About anything. But especially about this.

Also, wash your hands.

(via Washington Post, image: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

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