The danger and extent of the COVID-19 outbreak is now universally accepted. But how to deal with it remains the subject of much debate — among heads of state, governors, mayors and at every kitchen table in much of the world.
While France and other countries in Europe have gone fully on lockdown, the US government has only issued guidelines. At a news conference Tuesday, President Donald Trump and his team of professionals implored Americans to follow them. But states and cities have been left to figure out their own rules, creating a vast patchwork of disruption.
Shelter in place — Seven million Californians have been asked to shelter in place in the Bay Area. That means San Francisco is basically out of commission, while Los Angeles is operating under different procedures. Here’s how things looked on the first day.
What does “shelter in place” even mean? — San Francisco Mayor London Breed said on CNN this afternoon that doesn’t mean you can’t walk your dog. You can exercise. Just please, she said, as much as you’re able, be inside and not near other people. The bus system is still open there. The grocery stores are still open.
“We don’t want people to feel like prisoners in their own home,” she said.
She said most people are playing along.
New York is also considering a shelter in place order. But other major cities seem very far from that.
Forced isolation — A guy in Kentucky who was diagnosed with COVID-19 discharged himself from the hospital and refused to respect a quarantine. Police surrounded his house and will be checking in on him. (He’s now cooperating.)
How long? — Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said we won’t know for weeks if all this is working. Behind that is the fact that we don’t know if it WILL work. Another question: Who decides when we’ve all had enough?
There’s still an election coming — Some states have postponed primaries, including Ohio — at the last minute. Other Americans voted Tuesday, in Florida, Illinois and Arizona. Watch returns on CNN or online here tonight.
Plenty of ambiguity
Even within the White House guidelines, there is some contradiction and the need for interpretation.
— Gatherings larger than 10 are discouraged.
— Work from home is encouraged.
— Schooling should be conducted at home.
What caused the swift change in demeanor by the US and UK governments is the prediction in a report by British epidemiologists that without stricter isolation, mass deaths — perhaps more than a million — could occur in the US.
Case study: What should we do?
The home where this newsletter was written is starting to feel very small.
There are three kids home from school. There are two adults working from home.
The kids did some lessons during the morning.
We went to the grocery store and bought flour. (There were, however, no eggs.)
The library is still open.
The kids rode their scooters around the block over and over and over.
I sent them to the playground.
They were never around 10 or more people.
But some neighbors aren’t allowing their kids near the playground.
This was Day 2.
Also, I’m having nightmares about what to do if the internet crashes. Guys. The internet is being taxed by all these people working from home. CNN’s Brian Fung explains.
Government plans massive stimulus. It might not be enough
Markets rebounded from their free fall Monday. But the economy will clearly be absorbing this for a while.
Tax payment delay — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that most Americans — anyone making less than $1 million or companies making less than $10 million — will get an extra 90 days to pay their taxes with no penalty.
But he asked that people who can file returns and pay do so, to help the government pay refunds to people who need them.
$1,000 checks? — Trump said he wants stimulus checks in the mail within two weeks.
That seems ambitious, since even the much smaller stimulus with new sick-leave rules passed by House Democrats last week had to be pared down today to get the backing of Senate Republicans. They’ll still, according to Mitch McConnell, have to “gag” to pass it.
Mnuchin is pitching Republicans on a $1 trillion proposal. CNN’s Jeremy Diamond reports that Mnuchin warned senators Tuesday that if they don’t take action, the US could see unemployment of 20%.
Something substantial — McConnell did pledge that senators wouldn’t leave town till they passed something substantial. He would NOT say what it will be. But he has deputized Republican senators to start drafting something. He clearly wants to be more in the driver seat this time rather than have Republican senators accept what House Democrats give them.
The airline industry wants $50 billion to bail it out. That’s substantial.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day
Also, here’s what to buy at the grocery store for the long haul. Please, don’t hoard. (Spoiler: dried beans. You don’t know what you’ve been missing.)