To re-open or not to re-open

Chaos in the News.

Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing safe and well.

Re-openings, re-openings, re-openings – the chant that’s constantly ringing across the globe.

The world went into lockdown to save humanity from the virus, but at some point this lockdown needs to end. While we hide from the virus, other issues are magnifying right under our supervision: the slowdown of world economies, increase in hunger and poverty, a generation’s gap in education, uncertain futures, and mental health challenges. However, reopening too soon may not only backtrack our progress, but will exaggerate all the related effects of the virus, including the economy and the health of the population overall. In the United states, several state departments put forth a plan for a staged reopening.

Below is the excellent plan laid out for Pennsylvania by Governor Wolf, and the explanation of the green zone.

As per the plan, Pennsylvania is in phase 2 – green zone re-opening.

This change can be seen as a sigh of relief from the tight lock-down and stay at home order that we have been dealing with for so many months. While in Pennsylvania we have had very careful planning and strict guidelines for re-opening, this has not been the case with all the states in the country. Some states did not go into complete lockdown, and additionally reopened too soon without proper protocols and mandates for social distancing.

There are many possible problems that come with such a sudden change.

At a glance, reopening now is inherently counter productive in nature. At the start of this pandemic, people were getting sick and the virus was spreading because of common social interaction. A quick re-opening now would replicate that situation.

In regards to a pandemic situation, diseases are given a number, known as an R naught, or more correctly written as R0. This number signifies the number of people one infected person will spread the virus to. The similar in nature SARS virus had an R0 of 3. This means that if 5 people were infected at first, the cases would rise to 15, then 45 very quickly. As of right now, the estimated R0 for Coronavirus is 5.7. Considering just how large the world is, this is very scary. Of course, this number is more of an average, some infected might only spread to 4 people, others spreading to 6. It all depends on the social interaction. If the world is in complete lock-down, a sick person won’t be able to transmit the virus to another as easily, making the R0 reduce.

My point is, if we reopen, the R0 will inevitably increase, and more people will get sick. Bear with me, for I am not only maundering about hypothetical situations. In the past week, a few states in the U.S have reopened, but are facing terrible consequences.

Months after closing up and introducing the quarantine, a few states such as Texas and Florida started to regain stability in case numbers and the health of the overall population. It was soon decided that the states should reopen and move into the green zone, but due to the increase in R0, the cases slowly began to rise once again. After about a week or so of reopening, Texas and Florida started to escalate to be the worst in the country.

(After re-opening, Texas’ case numbers and deaths had gone up to an incredible amount. Even within the past few days, the cases are rising.) (Credits to the CDC Texas Database.
Another example of cases rising, this time in Florida. This chart also shows the specific time in which the lockdown restrictions were relaxed, and how the cases escalated afterwards. ( Credits to the Tallahassee report)

With the data shown above, it can be easy to say that by relaxing the lockdown rules too quickly, more people are getting sick and more people end up dead. This is true, but unfortunately this situation is not as simple and one dimensional. Ever since the social distancing order, the economy has plummeted, and entered a deep recession. With this is mind, if we refuse to make efforts to reopen, we will come out of this in suffering. An example of this can be seen with the great depression occurring immediately after world war 1.

This is a very tricky situation. In a perfect world, we should slowly reopen. This means keeping social distancing laws in place, but also allowing people to go to stores and businesses. Malls, gyms and movie theaters should be closed until cases have truly plummeted, or a vaccine has been developed.

In the response to the devastating effects of a quick re-opening, some laws are being put into place to prevent the rise in cases during re-openings and ensure the safety of American citizens. For example, in Pennsylvania, face masks are mandatory in public places.

Along with this, the economy would slowly improve. However this is not likely to happen as both of these things are unstable and have many factors that they rely on. The future seems to be uncertain once again, but hey, we are all in it together. Just remember to play it safe, stay in your comfort zone, and wear a mask!

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Have a nice day!

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