The harsh truth about COVID-19

Don Watkins
3 min readApr 17, 2020


Opening the economy is a moral imperative

Here’s the harsh truth. Regardless of what we do, many if not most Americans will get COVID-19. The lockdowns, whatever one thinks of them, were never sold to us as a way to eradicate the disease. They were sold as a way to “flatten the curve” so that the medical system didn’t become overwhelmed, leading to *unnecessary* deaths. Eradicating the disease without a vaccine is a fantasy.

All of the evidence I’ve seen indicates that, for most if not all of the country, we are at low-risk for overwhelming the healthcare system. That’s particularly true if we continue to take intelligent *voluntary* measures like washing hands, social distancing, wearing masks, and avoiding mass gatherings. And if we continue to scale medical capacity for places hardest hit.

So what are the lockdowns achieving? Be very careful about answering that question based on your own experience. Do you still have a job? Can you work remotely? Do you have savings? Do you live in a nice house with heating, AC, TV, Internet, family members to keep you company? Do you have a husband or wife who can help homeschool the kids while you work?

I hope so. I hope that your life isn’t being destroyed by our response of indefinite lockdowns. But for tens of millions of Americans, the story is different. (It is for me.)

I’ve seen people trivializing their situation, as if they have no right to earn money and enjoy their lives because they aren’t healthcare workers.

Worse, I’ve seen people say that anyone who desires to return to work is essentially a killer who is callously indifferent to the people they may infect if they get sick. That is a moral outrage. *If you have ever had the flu, you probably have been indirectly responsible for someone’s death.* That is a fact about human beings: we transmit diseases that have the potential to harm others.

(No, I’m not equating COVID-19 and the flu. Clearly COVID-19 is more dangerous. The issue here is moral responsibility.)

But here’s the thing. All of you who DO have jobs and savings and all the rest…we will reach a point if we don’t start to liberate the economy when all of that will go away. The U.S. literally cannot survive many more months of an economic freeze.

Do you remember how quickly the dominos fell in 2008? So far our financial system has been able to absorb the punches as business collapses. Do you think it can do that forever? Do think that the energy industry will be able to survive without credit? Do you think our food supply chain can survive without credit? How many people will die then?

We must open the economy as fast as we can. And we must do so while managing the disease as best we can. That includes selective isolation for the most vulnerable. (I have family members in this category…and, if it matters, they support re-opening the economy. They recognize that it would be immoral to demand that we sacrifice the whole country to reduce their odds of getting the disease.)

Re-open. As fast as possible. As smart as possible. That is the only moral, compassionate course of action.

The alternative is unthinkable.

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