Punctuated liberty as new normalcy

The beginning of the discussion about how China is dealing with the social distancing is interesting.

In particular, the discussion about how people are permitted in public gathering places after they subject themselves to health questions, rudimentary health checks, and even then they have to sign in and sign out on entry or exit of that space.

For combating the viral spread this makes a lot of sense.  Keep people out who show possible signs of infection.   Track everyone in same space at same time so that if one of them are later found infected, the authorities can quickly track down the people that may have shared the same space at the same time.

In the China context, their response was late to start so that they were responding to more widespread infection in certain hot spots.  Now that things are getting more under control they can move to this policy of check-in/check-out procedures for public spaces.

This policy of check-in/check-out at public spaces may be practical in locations that do not yet have locally dense populations of infectious people.

Mentioned in this video is the fact the number of cases in USA is similar to the number of cases in China several weeks ago.   However, the difference is that in China, there were widespread cases in certain localized regions making it difficult to set up this kind of tracking, and they were not prepared to do this at the start any way.   While the number of cases in USA are comparable to number of cases in China in the past, the cases are much more distributed.   For the most part, only a few people are infected in each area.

With this more diffuse spread of the disease and early warning from experience out of China, we could be implementing their late-stage practices right up front.

No lock down.  No closed businesses.  Instead, require people to check-in/check-out of each public gathering space, have them record their names and times when the enter and leave, and record their responses to health questions along with a quick temperature reading.   Don’t let people enter gathering spaces if they show symptoms.  Track the rest of the people so that if any one later becomes symptomatic in the next few days, the system can track down everyone they might have come in contact with and then inform them and perhaps exclude them from public gather spaces for a waiting period.

The economy may then continue and people will be have more freedom of movement without being criticized for violated some concept of lock down.   The downside is that people’s movements will be recorded more thoroughly than ever before, as well as their immediate health status at each visit.

If such a policy were to be followed, it can be more beneficial than the current approach that is constraining people while still being hampered in tracking down potential contacts of newly diagnosed patients.

Given the fact that this virus will never disappear and there may not be an effective vaccine, this policy will likely become permanent.   If the policy were followed for a couple months, people will just become accustomed to it and sufficient numbers would not support any attempts at repealing it.

If the new normal does become the expectation and acceptance of having ones movements and public engagements monitored closely and recorded in government databases, we will need a different form of government to assure that this information is not abused.   A democracy or a republic is quickly becoming obsolete for the new data driven world.

Addendum 3/18/2020:

Noticing all the retail business closed and food/beverage places either closed or not permitting any seating, I can’t imagine people putting up with this lasting as long as the 3 months mentioned happening in China.

In particular, I have no interest in ordering take-out at a restaurant even if it is a fast food place.   If I have to eat at home, I’ll just prepare something myself to stave off the hunger.   The primary benefit of eating out, is eating out.   Of course, I look forward to good food, but I equally look forward to dining experience being among other people, and especially sharing a table with someone.

People are social animals and the pre-Covid19 society involved a good amount of social gathering in various forms.

Perhaps this shutdown will last for three months.   Over that time, people may adapt in analogy to the Stockholm Syndrome, where the captives start to sympathize with their captors and embrace the new normal of isolation and dependency on government directions for what they can or cannot do that day.

Alternatively, there may be a rebellion and people start to congregate outside a restaurant offering take-out and use the public space as a substitute for inside seating.   That may be met with police action to disperse, but that will raise the stakes to a new level.

We are being told that this is the in our best interests because the policies are thought out by the experts at WHO, CDC, and public health services.   Certainly they have some background in science of infections, of transmissibility, and of difficulties of treating the worst cases.

I question whether anyone has a valid claim to being an expert in managing a pandemic with a pathogen that may never completely disappear.  No one has any experience managing a population through a pandemic.    I believe the public-health agencies demanding that we accept their authority while in fact they are actively learning on the job trying to figure this out.

The public may be equally qualified in terms of how to manage the everything through the pandemic.   People need to interact in person.  We need our businesses open for customer traffic.

There exists another option than the one currently pursued by our governments (local, state, and federal).   We should at least discuss that option of having business services offered as they have been with the addition of intrusive tracking of our movements and frequent asking questions (under penalty of perjury) about our health and doing a quick temperature scan.   This will reasonably keep the infectious away from the vulnerable while also giving public health agencies quick information about who to contact when new cases are confirmed.

While the second option appears more like violating our rights of free movement and privacy, the current option inevitably will undermine those rights entirely by conditioning the population that social isolation and home-delivery of everything is the new normal to perpetuate into the future.

What is at stake is the entire economy of retail stores, restaurants, bars, personal services that we currently have.   These involve spaces where people come together seeking the same service.   This is at risk of being replaced with people staying home and waiting for some home delivery or house call service.

At least spell out the choice we are facing and give us an option to choose which one we want.


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  1. Pingback: Dark data is for governing a simulation | Hypothesis Discovery

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