While millions were locked down, forbidden from going to events or even church, and the schools and arts were shut down, people kept asking a fundamental question: why is this happening, what is government doing, and what is the exit strategy? There were a number of possibilities.
Maybe it was to preserve hospital capacity and yet at that very time hospitals were furloughing nurses and parking lots were empty because they locked their doors to elective surgeries and routine checkups.
Maybe it was to buy time so that personal protective equipment and ventilators could be stockpiled and yet we later found that the ventilators killed many unnecessarily while stockpiles later sold for pennies on the dollar.
Or maybe it was to wait for a vaccine. That was the word on the street. Certainly vaccines had been in development since January 2020 if not earlier. One was coming. And the companies themselves clearly had huge influence on the regulatory agencies that later approved them and mandated their products through unusual means.
But the story is not entirely clear.
Consider the March 2, 2020, email from Anthony Fauci to David Gerson, a reporter for the Washington Post. This exchange took place two weeks before the Trump administration decreed the shutdowns and four days after the New York Times had called for a medieval response. It was only a week after Fauci had changed his mind both on severity and lockdowns.
The turning point had been February 27, when Fauci, who had previously said the virus was not severe and merited no lockdowns, sent an email to the actress Morgan Fairchild which instructed her to warn her followers of the coming lockdowns. “The American public should not be frightened,” he wrote, “but should be prepared to mitigate an outbreak in this country by measures that include social distancing, teleworking, temporary closure of schools, etc.”
On March 2, Gerson asked the question that we all would ask a few weeks later. “Is the overall strategy of social distancing just to keep the percentage of Americans who get the disease low until a vaccine is available? This seems much harder to do in a free society. Does this mean closing schools? Public transport? Do states and localities make such decisions?”
Fauci’s response is rather startling.
“Social distancing is not really geared to wait for a vaccine,” wrote Fauci. “The major point is to prevent easy spread of infections in schools (closing them), crowded events such as theaters, stadiums (cancel events), work places (do teleworking where possible)…. The goal of social distancing is to prevent a single person who is infected to readily spread to several others, which is facilitated by close contact in crowds. Close proximity of people will keep the R0 higher than 1 and even as high as 2 to 3. If we can get the R0 to less than 1, the epidemic will gradually decline and stop on its own without a vaccine.”
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