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It's OK to acknowledge good COVID-19 news

By Rich Lowry on

It's not March anymore. The coronavirus has taken a heartbreaking toll on Americans, but the course of the virus is not the same as it was a few months ago. We are on the other side of the curve. There are encouraging signs all over the country, and no early indications of a reopening debacle.

The question now is whether the media and political system can absorb good news on the virus, which is often ignored or buried under misleading storylines.

The press has a natural affinity for catastrophes, which make compelling viewing and good copy. The pandemic is indeed a once-in-a-generation story. So, the media is naturally loath to shift gears and acknowledge that the coronavirus has begun to loosen its grip.

Meanwhile, progressives and many journalists have developed a near-theological commitment to the lockdowns, such that any information that undermines them is considered unwelcome, even threatening. This accounts for the widespread sense that no one should say things have gotten better ... or people are going to die.

Usually, when it is thought the public can't handle the truth, it is a truth about some threat that could spark panic. In this case, the truth is information that might make people think it's safe to go outside again.

Almost all of the discussion about reopening is framed by worries that we will reopen too soon, not that we might reopen too late. That is literally unthinkable, even as we have entered a new phase.

 

As data analyst Nate Silver pointed out the other day, the seven-day rolling average for deaths is 1,362, down from 1,761 the week prior and a peak of 2,070 on April 21. That's still much too high, but the trend is favorable.

Testing capacity, such a concern for so long, has really begun to expand after hitting a plateau for weeks. Testing nationally on some days has been in the high 300,000s or over 400,000. The issue in some states now is not capacity, but actually finding enough people to test.

Scott Gottlieb of the American Enterprise Institute notes that the positivity rate, or percentage of people testing positive, has continued to fall throughout May.

The reopenings could certainly still go awry, but so far there is no clear indication of it. Cases are still falling in Austria, Denmark and Norway, despite those countries being relatively far along on reopening. Denmark has been mystified why it is almost five weeks into reopening and hasn't yet seen increases in infections.

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