My View: Protests Rage, but Rushing Openings Is Recipe for Disaster

Associated Press Photo

Media coverage out of Sacramento and Orange Counties showed large crowds, many of them outside without masks and social distancing.  We know that people from past protests have gotten sick and spread the virus further.

The problem is that if we do prematurely lift regulations we are flying blind.  While more testing has been announced, we don’t know who is carrying the virus without symptoms, and that could result  in another spike of the virus—probably more shutdowns, and a prolonging of the agony.

A severe spike in cases and deaths could make the economy worse and prolong the period of shutdown.

In the month of April, 60,000 people in the US died, even with much of the country sheltering in place and social distancing.  Open things up and the number of deaths from the virus will skyrocket.

At this point, the hard core folks will argue about their constitutional rights, about government conspiracies, and about herd immunity.

As we reported yesterday, the constitutional argument really isn’t there.  States like California have government codes that allow the governors to do that.  The courts have granted them that power.  Yes, people have gone to court, but we have already seen this week judges failing to impose an order in Michigan and Huntington Beach, CA, that would prevent governors from exercising these emergency powers.

You can argue all you want about constitutional rights, but experts like Joseph Tully will tell you it’s a balancing act, and as long as there is a reasonable basis for the stay-at-home orders, the government has the right to do it.

I will not get into the crazy conspiracies, other than to say it is alarming the number of people on both the far left as well as the far right that believe in them.  They believe this is a hoax.  They believe that the government is manufacturing this crisis for some nefarious end.

That gets us to herd immunity theories.

The real problem here is numbers.  Without vaccines, it is hard to imagine herd immunity without catastrophe.

According to Ira Longini, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida, right now as of April 30, somewhere between 3.4 percent and 6.3 percent of the U.S. population had been infected with the virus.

He told the LA Times, that herd immunity “would require at least half of the population to have immunity to the virus, and ideally more like 60% to 70%.”

“The entire concept of herd immunity assumes something about COVID-19 we don’t know is true,” said Summer Johnson McGee, dean of the University of New Haven’s School of Health Sciences. “It’s a dangerous policy to float when we don’t have the immunological information that we need.”

Even if it is possible, take the number of cases, multiply it and the number of deaths by 10, and you have somewhere around 600,000—and probably still not herd immunity.

What about Sweden, you ask.

Even President Trump questions their decision.

“Despite reports to the contrary, Sweden is paying heavily for its decision not to lock down. . . . The United States made the correct decision!” Trump tweeted.

As of May 1, about 26 percent of Sweden’s residents were infected.  That puts it above—but not by that much—New York’s 21 percent infection rate.

How has Sweden faired?  Well they have 2586 deaths.  If you look at it on the surface, you might see that as a victory.  The problem is that they have just 2 million residents.  So that a much higher mortality rate than anyone else.  Neighboring countries like Denmark has 452 deaths or 78 per million, and Norway has 210 deaths or 39 per million.

But what about the economy?  CNC reported on Thursday, “Data released from the country’s central bank and a leading Swedish think tank show that the economy will be just as badly hit as its European neighbors.”  Moreover, “Sweden’s central bank, the Riksbank, gave two possible scenarios for the economic outlook in 2020, both are bleak.”

No help there.

“We’re on a sort of plateau,” Anders Tegnell, the country’s chief epidemiologist, who crafted its policy, told Swedish news outlet TT, as reported by Bloomberg on April 19, 2020.

But that turned out to be false hope.  At the time, the country had 14,662 infections.  That number is now 21,092.

“[Herd immunity] will help us achieve our goal, which is slowing down the spread as much as possible,” Tengell told CNN on April 29, 2020.

The problem—they are nowhere near even a theoretical herd immunity that requires 70 to 90 percent of the population developing an immunity.  Not to mention controversial questions about positive retests.

Most experts do not believe herd immunity can be employed without vaccination, because it would result in mass fatality.  The positive cases in Sweden, for instance, would have to go far higher to get anywhere near herd immunity and that would result in the deaths approaching 10,000 in a nation of just 2 million people.

The bottom line is that the economy will probably not be helped by prematurely opening, herd immunity is not a viable option and would result in far more deaths, and now we are about to see if the result of partial openings leads to spikes in US cases.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Matt Williams

    The problem is that if we do prematurely lift regulations we are flying blind.

    My sense of the worldview/mindset of the protesters is that they really don’t care if they are flying blind.

    They probably also don’t care if they are driving while impaired.  They are probably social at a personal level, and asocial at a societal level.

    1. John Hobbs

      antisocial at a societal level.”

      I fixed it for ya. Here’s the good part. You and I can shun these societal terrorists and hopefully avoid the plagues they carry. I see that most economist value a human life @$10,000,000. If social distancing saves 2 million lives, that’s a substantial saving, no?

      1. Matt Williams

        John, I’m not willing to go as far as “anti-social.”  That takes an awareness and a volition that I don’t think that a lot of the protesters have.


      2. Ron Oertel

        I see that most economist value a human life @$10,000,000.

        I’d like to see where (and how) that’s “documented”.  🙂

        Do the put that “value” of life the same way in all countries, for example? Is it based upon GDP?

        (No, I’m not “advocating” for that.)

  2. Tia Will


    I believe this is likely to be true. In discussion with family and friends, the difference between those who weigh personal concerns more heavily and those who weight societal concerns more is quite stark and does not always fall the way I would have anticipated. From one extreme, the millennial who has lost entire income and is living off savings but has no resentment of staying in because the health of others depends on it to some seniors who are agitating to get out because they miss “seeing” others even though they can safely socialize in their neighborhoods at a distance.

    However, I think there may be another factor. In my social circles, there are often individuals who, if they haven’t actually intubated someone themselves or seen the harms of long term ICU care, still have an understanding of the risks both to patient and staff. For example, a typical flu patient may require a vent for a few days, COVID-19 frequently necessitates weeks on a vent with the subsequent loss of muscle strength and memory with many having to relearn to walk, talk, swallow… I believe that ignorance of the disease, its ease of spread, it’s asymptomatic spread and the devastating consequences is another major factor which was initially fueled by the “it’s a cold, it’s just like the flu, it will magically disappear” mindset that was initially presented.


  3. Alan Miller

    Honestly, if I were that CHP officer on the Capitol steps who had that red-haired women from the foothills yelling “Traitor!” in my face from inches away and her wearing no mask, I would have taken my 7-foot baton and shoved it so far down her throat that it came out the other end.  What the f*ck is wrong with those people?

    I am a non-partisan and generally agree with values of independence and constitutional rights.  But these flag-waiving, mask avoiding, brushing-up-against-each-other lunatics at the Capitol steps yesterday are going to turn me into a socialist for the duration of this crisis.

    This is about every one of us being responsible for the health of everyone else.  There is no other way to be right now.

    Now I agree, the beach, hiking, fishing, golfing closures are all insane and is stirring up the masses, and I have no problem with Newsom granting a waver to Modoc County if everyone there is taking this seriously.  But this is turning into a partisan and ideological cluster-f*ck that needs to be transcended.  KO was right about “it” yesterday.

    1. Ron Oertel

      My “guess”, Keith, is that concerns such as yours are based upon a “few individuals who aren’t satisfied with anything that elected officials do”, to paraphrase a recent Vanguard claim.  😉

      They’re all probably “anti-social”, as well.

      Hope my sarcasm is coming through, although I think the government (overall) is probably proceeding in a reasonable manner. Not that anyone cares about views (which are well-outside of the purview of Davis), as espoused on the Vanguard.

      1. Ron Oertel

        They’re all probably “anti-social”, as well.

        Actually, wouldn’t such people normally practice “social distancing”, on their own?

        (Perhaps not a good sign, when I’m starting to amuse myself with my own comments. But, it’s not the first appearance of the “anti-social” allegation, on this page.)

        Yeah, yeah – I know it’s a serious issue.

      2. David Greenwald

        My argument would be that the government right now needs to do more to cushion this.  The problem that she faces is real.  but the solution is not to put herself or others in harms way.  If she gets sick and dies, or someone attending her restaurant does, what good does that do?  Also, she can serve food and let people take it to go as restaurants in town are doing.

      3. Ron Oertel

        I’m not making an argument, but it seems that pressure to re-open is ultimately going to overwhelm the desire for safety.

        I think I’m noticing more people out-and-about, in general.

        1. Keith Olsen

          There are many who have kept their jobs, are able to work from home, their businesses are still intact, are retired and have stable income that are all willing to let this linger on.

          But for many others who have no income or are losing their businesses and facing homelessness like this lady aren’t going to put up with it much longer.

          1. David Greenwald

            And if she gets sick, what is going to happen to her? The legislature needs to do more – the answer is not to open up and put themselves and the public at greater risk.

        2. Ron Oertel

          I’ve heard of various programs to help individuals and businesses, but few reports as to how widespread the problem is (e.g., regarding small businesses).

          Didn’t the federal government recently put more money into its small business loan program (which is forgiven, if employees are retained)?

          Did it run out of money, again?

          We see lots of people protesting, and I assume they’re not “normal” political activists.

        3. David Greenwald

          There’s not a lot of money, it’s very difficult to apply for and there has been widespread corruption in its administration.  I think Keith brings up a very good point, I just don’t think the answer is to open up.

        4. Ron Oertel

          That sounds accurate.

          Someone like Don Shor might / might not have some insight. Not sure if it’s open. Also, local restaurant owners, etc.

          Seems like about “half” of the country is partially re-opening soon, regardless.

          It will be interesting to see what the short and long-term financial (and fiscal) impacts will be, across the country (and world, for that matter).

        5. Ron Oertel

          Just checked, looks like it’s open.  (I assume for people growing their own food, etc.)

          However, I suspect that almost all businesses have been impacted, one way or another.

          It would be interesting to hear of some local, first-hand accounts.

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