Jonathan Hoffman: Too soon, or too late, to reopen Arizona?
editor's pick

Jonathan Hoffman: Too soon, or too late, to reopen Arizona?

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

Gov. Ducey has officially relaxed the COVID-19 related constraints on businesses and the stay-at-home order in Arizona. It is not a full reopening; rather, it is a cautious step in that direction.

Many in our community are delighted with the move in that direction.

On the other hand, many local restaurants (some of my favorites!) and other retailers see the move toward opening as too soon. In fact, they have joined together in an organization called Too Soon Arizona. In their open letter (toosoonarizona.com), they argue against reopening.

Their letter states, “Case numbers per day are still rising across most of the nation, including here in Arizona, and lifting the stay-at-home order will cause an acceleration in cases and unnecessary deaths.”

Remember, too, the stated purpose of the lockdown. It was to spread out the infections over a longer period of time to prevent the overwhelming of hospitals. That is what “Flattening the Curve” meant. It was never intended to reduce the number of deaths directly.

It would save lives only by preventing the overwhelming of the hospitals. The line on the chart would be shaped differently, but the area underneath it would stay the same.

It was always accepted that there would be a spike in cases after the opening began. The idea was that the flattening would be enough that the increase would remain below the limit of hospital capacity. According to Covid Act Now, “Arizona has about 1,479 ICU beds. We estimate that currently 24% (354) are occupied by non-COVID patients. Of the remaining 1,125 ICU beds, we estimate 300 are occupied by COVID cases, or 27% of available beds. This suggests there is likely enough capacity to absorb a wave of new COVID infections.”

One thing I think they missed in the letter was an acknowledgement of the costs associated with the lockdown. We seemed to have moved from a short-term effort to slow the spread of the disease to an open-ended lockdown to try to eliminate it, which is not possible.

The longer we are locked down, the higher the costs. If we keep it up, we will move from economic recession to full on depression. If you do not think of money as important, please realize that money is the product of labor, a person’s labor. The longer the lockdown, the more local, family-owned businesses, representing years or decades of labor and risk taking, will disappear. When people go back to their jobs, those jobs may not be there.

If we lockdown vulnerable populations, the elderly with existing health complications for example, and opened up, we could be on our way toward herd immunity. Herd immunity is not the best thing, you say? Wait for a vaccine, you say? Herd immunity is the only thing. The vaccine is too far out and is just another tool for achieving herd immunity anyway.

One thing I feel the need to say about Too Soon Arizona generally is that this group of business owners is a class act. They have an understanding in common that they articulate and promote while showing respect for those who would act otherwise, without denigrating those with whom they disagree, or trying to force others to do what they do.

By staying closed, they talk the talk and walk the walk. That’s how we are supposed to do it in America. Thank you.

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