Former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff is advising D.C.’s mayor not to fully reopen schools until there’s a vaccine for COVID-19.
“The idea is at least in Stage 1 to have distance learning…but then over the next 2 stages….we would slowly begin to bring students in,” he told Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation” Sunday. Eventually, schools would “basically reopen but in a very measured and deliberate way.”
D.C faces unique challenges, Chertoff explains, given that people from all over the world visit for work and can be vectors for transmission. He didn’t explain how outbreak mitigation efforts are served in any significant way by keeping schools closed to children, who are not only local but at extremely low risk for becoming seriously ill from the disease and are, contact tracing studies show, less likely to spread it.
But we can no longer expect scientific explanations for such absurd recommendations, much less why pandemic mission creep has gone unchecked over the past two months. I’m sure the Homeland Security secretary under George Bush would know nothing about that.
From Hospital Space for the Sick to No Sick Ever
Despite the high uncertainty about efficacy and the impossibility of mass distribution of a vaccine in the near future, politicians and their advisors across the country have quietly moved the goalposts from “flattening the curve” to ensure every patient has access to adequate care to suppressing the general spread of the virus through social distancing until [insert arbitrary goal here].
There were no dedicated addresses or press releases explicitly admitting the objective had changed. Like the antagonist in the 1944 film “Gaslight,” our leaders secretly turned down the lamps, except they aren’t just trying to convince us we’re crazy for realizing it, but cowardly and callous, too.
The quiet transition from “flatten the curve” to “stopping” or “fighting” the virus has been the most effective gaslighting of the American public in recent history. As of May 15, more than two-thirds of respondents who lost jobs or income due to the lockdowns are concerned states may open up too quickly, according to Pew Research Center, with only three in ten saying they’re concerned restrictions won’t be lifted soon enough.
The Russiagate disinformation the media and Democrats propogated pales in comparison, as less than half of Americans believed the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election after the release of the Robert Mueller report. So here are several examples of this stealth pivot on coronavirus tactics in the politicians’ own words.
That Was Then, This Is Now
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti expressed optimism on May 8 the city’s curve was “stabilizing” and they could baby-step toward reopening. But just five days later, Garcetti said the city “will never be completely open until we have a cure” for the coronavirus.
On March 20, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio applauded New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to sharply limit non-essential activity in order to “flatten the curve.” By May 28, De Blasio tweeted that large gatherings would “not be tolerated as long as we are fighting the Coronavirus.”
In late March, Gov. Jay Inslee said regarding flattening the curve that, “We shouldn’t be within 10,000 miles of champagne corks on this,” and that if Washingtonians don’t ratchet up the social distancing, “a lot of people are going to die in Washington State.” Late March proved to be Washington’s peak, two days before the shelter-in-place order was issued.
By May 12, however, the goal posts had moved. Inslee emphasized that “we need to continue physical distancing” until contact tracing is widely used, with some local health officials having even suggested social distancing must continue “until we have effective treatments and a vaccine.”
Likewise, the Oregon Governor’s Office commissioned an ad campaign to scare Oregonians into staying home, lest the health-care system be overwhelmed and 1.4 percent of Oregonians die by their recklessness. By May 7, several weeks after this estimate proved grossly false, Gov. Kate Brown had abandoned “flatten the curve,” relying instead on more vague but ominous warnings.
“This virus still poses a great threat,” she said in a press conference. “Until there’s a vaccine, unfortunately, we will not be able to go back to life as we knew it, in Oregon or, frankly, anywhere.”
Gov. Tom Wolf admitted at the beginning of May that Pennsylvanians had “flattened the curve.” But on May 11, Wolf eviscerated lockdown dissenters with the graphic rhetoric of war, more than two weeks after his state hit its peak in deaths: “The enemy is a deadly virus set on destroying us” he warned, claiming that, “some have decided to surrender to this enemy” and calling reopening businesses a “cowardly act.”
Fooled Me Once, Shame on You
“Flatten the curve” morphed into “stop the virus” with a speed directly proportional to the decline in bad news about COVID-19. The milder the reports and estimates and the more obvious the downward trend in deaths and hospitalizations, the more the extreme rhetoric about the “deadly enemy” has become necessary to keep the population compliant as the economy runs aground. Case in point: instead of observing that Georgia was taking calculated risks by re-opening, Gov. Brian Kemp was instead engaging in “human sacrifice.”
Politicians dimmed the lights with the help of favorable and credulous media coverage, but even in the shadows you can still spot the lies. They told us lockdowns worked—they don’t. They told us Georgia would suffer a catastrophic spike in cases after reopening—it’s fairly mild and deaths are still declining. They said our kids and young healthy adults were gravely endangered by the virus—they aren’t. They said children are vectors for fatally infecting adults—the contact tracing studies suggest otherwise.
These leaders have berated as selfish and reckless those who want their jobs and their lives back, even as they moved the pandemic goal posts to costly, distant, and sometimes impossible locations. They are untrustworthy. Those who recognize the gaslighting must speak up, because the question isn’t whether the goal posts have moved, it’s where will they be moved to next, and in what other aspects of this crisis will they change the objective?
The objective of social distancing “until we have a vaccine” could become social distancing until some arbitrary and difficult to reach case threshold if the vaccine isn’t as effective as they expected. The goal of providing relief to laid-off workers could turn into establishing a universal basic income. Pumping billions of dollars into agriculture could turn into socializing the entire industry. Whatever their long-term motivations, these politicians who quietly abandoned flattening the curve will quietly abandon free market principles and the Bill of Rights just as quickly, if we let them.
Enough with the gaslighting. It’s time to turn the lights back on.