Kevin's Shortform

by Kevin25th Apr 20204 comments
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I'm considering a long form post against society wide quarantine and towards individual freedom. Given successful curve flattening everywhere outside of NYC, where it's possible that 80% of people have had the virus, huddling in fear has increasing costs over time and human life is not neccessarily of more value than the protection of human rights. It's incredible to see how easily a populace has been totally pacified.

Is anyone willing to share anecdotes about how they've broken quarantine in small ways? I've noticed some community houses talking about best practices for merging quaranteams and certainly many romantic partners nationwide are breaking shelter in place orders to visit. What would it take for you to think that it's ok for romantic partners to visit and community house quaranteams to merge?

What would it take for you to think that it's ok for romantic partners to visit and community house quaranteams to merge?

Ethically, I think this can be fine if strong precautions are taken to avoid infecting non-consenting individuals. (The freedom rhetoric only works if one's actions don't impinge on other people's rights not to be exposed to a deadly illness.) If the only potentially virus-transmitting contacts are with people who follow the same precautions, that's fine in theory. In practice, it can often be difficult to have justified confidence that other people will stick to the rules.

Example: If you infect a person from another household who starts to allow visits with your household under the assumption that both households are otherwise shut off from the outside world, but then one of the people in the other household also makes an exception for visiting her family, and a person from the family gets infected too and goes to grocery stores without a face mask, then you now started a new chain of transmissions that can kill dozens of people who had absolutely no intention of voluntarily taking on additional risks of being infected.

Risking such negative effects may still be justified as long as the probability of it happening is low enough – after all, there are many tradeoffs and we don't prohibit cars just because they foreseeably kill a low number of people. That said, I expect governments to be aware of those tradeoffs. Accordingly, the restrictions should already be lowered soon, and unilaterally lowering them even further can lead to too much tightening up of the network connections between people and households, which could result in an unacceptably high transmission rate. (It's not necessarily just R0 > 1 that's problematic – depending on number of currently active infections, even an R0 < 1 could result in arguably unacceptably many deaths compared to what it would cost to prevent them.)

>where it's possible that 80% of people have had the virus,

If a demographically representative cross section of the population is infected, I would operate under the assumption that about 0.9% of them will die. From what you write about NY city, it sounds like you think the fatality rate might be a lot lower. I think this will be a major crux for people and so I'd focus first on addressing questions like why recent serology surveys in NYC grocery stroes find only 21% of people with antibodies.

I'd emphasize going back in logical order, e.g. people with positive antibody tests, under 30, that don't live with old people first, and so on.

A lot of Third World people are going to die from lack of food, medicine, and the rest of poverty, while we try to keep a few people in nursing homes "alive" for another month.

I'm FOR putting MUCH more effort into actually stopping SARS and the flu, but it has to be done effectively, not just as some new excuse for bailing out Freddie and Fannie..