The lockdown breakouts

James Freeman:

“We’re opening up our country again,” President Donald Trump told reporters [Tuesday] before departing for Arizona. He also helpfully clarified that operating without shutdowns doesn’t mean citizens do nothing to prevent the spread of infection. In response to a question on the latest virus mortality guess floated in the national media, the President said, “we’re doing a lot of mitigation. And, frankly, when the people report back, they’re going to be social distancing and they’re going to be washing their hands, and they’re going to be doing the things that you’re supposed to do.”

Governors in places like New Jersey and New York are still locking down much of society, despite a flattened virus curve. But nationwide the lockdowners are losing public support. Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports today via email:

Today’s Number of the Day presented by Ballotpedia shows that 49% of voters nationwide now fear the economic threat from the coronavirus more than the health threat. Forty-five percent (45%) take the opposite view and are more worried about the health threat. These numbers reflect a significant change over the past month. In late March, by a 55% to 38% margin, voters were more concerned about the health threat…

These results are consistent with other data showing that people are looking to loosen some of the restrictions. Voters nationwide are evenly divided as to whether the lockdowns should continue. And, they have come to recognize that it’s not simply a question of stay home to stay safe or go out and get sick. Voters recognize there are significant mental and physical health risks associated with ongoing lockdowns. Those who know the latest data are more likely to support easing lockdown restrictions.

Even in New Jersey the risks and costs are manifest. On Friday Tracey Tully reported in the New York Times on Jean Wickham and her family, who live in the country’s second-richest state:

The Wickhams’ minivan was one of thousands of vehicles that snaked as far as the eye could see one morning last week in Egg Harbor, N.J., 10 miles west of Atlantic City. The promise of fresh produce and a 30-pound box of canned food, pasta and rice from a food bank drew so many cars that traffic was snarled for nearly a mile in three directions, leading to five accidents, the police said.

“I’m just afraid I’m going to lose my house,” said Ms. Wickham, who lives in Egg Harbor. “I feel like a failure right now.”

… Lines at a food pantry in Summit, an affluent commuter town in northern New Jersey, stretch around the block every Tuesday evening. A food bank on the Jersey Shore has started a text service to give new users a discreet way to seek help.

Significantly west of the New York Times, the similarly-named York News-Times covers an area in eastern Nebraska. Melanie Wilkinson describes a similar phenomenon:

The Food Bank of Lincoln and members of the Nebraska National Guard distributed free food to York area residents last Friday…
The need was quite apparent as the line of cars stretched for blocks and blocks as more than 220 households received food…

While the Food Bank provides this service in York on a monthly basis, this latest food event was met with much greater response than past distributions.

More news from Washington brings hope that a revival will soon be permitted nationwide. Andrew Restuccia reports in the Journal:

Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration is having internal conversations about phasing out the White House’s coronavirus task force…

The task force’s doctors will continue to advise President Trump on his handling of the pandemic, administration officials said.

Another optimistic note today comes via email from Dan Clifton of Strategas Research:

The political debate about whether states should re-open is blocking out the facts that states, run by governors of both parties, are opening up their economies gradually. This is not just a few Republican states, and it is happening faster than the consensus expects. Governors of both parties see declining cases, falling tax revenues, hospitals with spare capacity, and restless businesses and consumers. The addition of new therapeutics and the scaling up of testing have also helped build momentum for the re-opening.

Writing from Dallas this week, Don Luskin of Trend Macrolytics reports: “Joy and renewal are palpably in the air. We wish all our clients and friends the patience and good health to endure what we hope are the final throes of the Covid-19 crisis, and the resiliency to enjoy a speedy re-opening.”

He adds that as economies reopen, “The early adopters will be the healthy young, who have probably chafed the most under the boring and repressive rigors of lockdown, and who – it is now becoming known – are largely invulnerable to Covid-2019 anyway.” Mr. Luskin predicts:

FOCI (fear of Covid infection) will be replaced by FOMO (fear of missing out).

Readers have by now learned to be skeptical of predictions about the virus, but are no doubt hoping Mr. Luskin is right on target.


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