The Big Ethical Debate: How Long do we keep the World Shut Down? (Opinion)

This isn’t something I would normally share on my blog, if you were just looking for a recipe feel free to skip over this post. I am not a professional on this topic in any way, just a human thankful to have the freedom of speech. I was going to share this on my personal Facebook, but decided it was too long for a Facebook post (oops), so I decided to share it here.

(Disclaimer: I majored in Genetics in college with a theater minor… English/Writing was always my worst subject, so I apologize now for grammatical errors, again I’m not a professional.)

Human ethics is a tricky topic, because we humans are very opinionated, with a vast variety of moral and cultural views. You can call me crazy for trying to tackle this heavy topic, but here it goes. *sips glass of wine*

The Big Ethical Debate: How long do we continue social distancing and keep the world shut down to prevent more COVID-19 deaths and hospitals from being overwhelmed? What would be too long or too short? What is the most ethical decision when weighing all the risks and benefits? No one knows… and there are many questions to ask. 

Data is changing daily and with that, models are changing daily. Available data is being extracted so fast without being properly audited and reviewed, so how accurate is this data? It is really hard to predict what could happen because of this. Top Scientists are promoting their theoretical models, models that contain many unknowns. Whose models do we trust? How accurate are they? As restrictions increase and extend… we need to ask ourselves, are they worth it?

One theoretical model told us (Imperial College London), if we didn’t social distance COVID-19 could kill 2.2 million people in the US and over 40 million across the globe (way more than the 160-185,000 deaths due to pneumonia each year in the US). This is one model created with little data (due to lack of proper testing) and many unknowns. But, if there is some truth to it, this would still be very very bad, thus we all started social distancing (a little too late). 

We can see that social distancing is working, and the projections are decreasing, which is great and just what we wanted! But, how long does social distancing need to last and how strict does it need to be? At first we were told social distancing would need to be 14 days, then 6 weeks.. and now some people are saying months…  but at what consequence? What data are they using to support this claim? 

Here are questions I have, questions that could help our world leaders make the most ethical decisions.

Some early genetic data is showing us COVID-19 came to the US in late January-early February, why were US hospitals not overwhelmed then? How many asymptomatic people are there? How many people with symptoms haven’t been able to get tested? Is it really as deadly as we think it is, if so many people are asymptomatic or not getting tested? Thankfully, viral genomes are being sequenced all over the world and hopefully this will give us some insights on mutation and infection rates.

Over 16 million Americans, and counting are currently jobless. How long will we force them to be jobless? How much tax money is too much to keep them all afloat? Do we have enough to keep them afloat if they can’t go back to work for months? How many haven’t been able to file for unemployment?

Hospitals are delaying primary and elective care. It may be okay to delay a patients surgery or transplant for a couple weeks, but is it okay to delay care for 3-4 months? How many of these patients would die as a result of delaying treatment for too long? Is the risk of dying due to delaying treatment lower than the risk of these patients dying from COVID-19?

Due to delaying care, hospitals are experiencing high losses in revenue. Clinics and inpatient units are empty across the US in areas COVID-19 hasn’t surged.  Sadly, some cities’ hospitals have felt the impact of COVID-19, but many others are empty, losing money, and furloughing staff

Thousands of funerals can’t happen (~roughly 52,000 people die a week in the US). Thousands of weddings are being cancelled. Thousands of birthday parties and anniversary celebrations are being cancelled. Thousands of graduations are being cancelled. No one can attend religious services. How long will we continue to restrict large events? How much money will people lose since most event venues do not refund people for cancellations? Will any of the businesses in this industry survive if we continue to restrict events for months? 

Children are missing out on a proper education. Children are missing out on school meals. Children are missing out on healthy socialization by not being able to partake in school or sports. Some parents are gritting their teeth trying to teach their kids, while balancing full-time jobs. Some parents, who are now jobless, are stressed about how they are going to keep a roof over their children’s heads and meals on their plates. 

Airline, hotel and travel industries supply millions jobs across the globe and are taking a beating. How long will we ban travel? Traveling supplies these people with jobs, keeps global businesses in action, and people happy. Traveling connects families who don’t live in the same city/country. Traveling helps us get away when we need to relax or recoup, improving our mental health. 

The US already has high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. How long will gyms be closed? How long will sporting facilities be closed? If they’re closed for too long and the underproduction of at home equipment continues to be delayed, how much will our health and wellbeing take a toll? 

The restaurant and bar industry is taking a hit. How long will we force servers, chefs and bakers to be out of jobs? What amount of time is too long? If it is too long, will many of these restaurants have to close permanently? Farmers and food supply companies are hurting due the decrease in products being purchased by restaurants and bars.

Salons, Barbers, Spas… all closed. Leaving many jobless, for how long? Yes, our hairstyles may not be “essential” but the beauty industry helps a lot of people feel more confident and happy.

Let’s not forget about the entertainment industry – many actors, dancers, and performers can’t film productions, perform live shows, or showcase their art. Yes, some of these people have made it big and have money to keep them afloat the next couple of months, but majority of people in the entertainment industry make very little money already and live paycheck to paycheck. How long are we going to cancel their events/shows and prevent them from having any sort of income?

All of this has a rippling effect.. more companies are fearing the need to furlough people as revenues continue to tank. 

Finally, one of the most important topics to me.. mental health. All of this is severely affecting our mental health. How many people will develop depression and anxiety? How many people will develop PTSD? How many people will die by suicide? Unfortunately,  PTSD, depression, anxiety won’t just disappear when all this is over, people may feel lasting effects on their mental health. 

We must asks ourselves – What is the most ethical decision to prevent too many COVID-19 deaths and hospitals from being overwhelmed? When will we have enough PPE for our hospital staff? When will we have enough testing? Social distancing for too long may have worse effects that need to be considered. How many people have to lose their jobs and for how long? How many life years will humans lose due to the stress of job losses and the inability to partake in activities that keep us active, healthy, and sane? Stress increases risk for heart attack and stroke (which are already the top two causes of death in the world). How much tax money will be needed to combat all the consequences of social distancing? How many more people will be depressed in a country that already lacks proper mental healthcare? How much will domestic and child abuse increase? How many people will die due to delaying other care? Is this all worth it?

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