Formulating COVID-19 Policy: A Psychological Perspective on Consideration and Compassion
[Additional essays and videocasts regarding psychological ramifications of the COVID-19 virus outbreak can be found at: https://communitiescollaborating.com/[
What if this virus . . . can teach us a little about holding contradictory ideas once again? What if it can allow us to see that we’re not as stupid as our political parties want us to be, or as unidirectional as our TV channels seem to think we are? A purple America is a far more interesting one than the red or blue one that some insist on.
What time demands now is a new form of contrapuntal thinking. We do not need to simplify. We need to scruff things up. We need to be brave enough to reach across the aisle. And the voices that really matter will be the ones that come from underneath, not above . . .
–Colum McCann (2020)
We all now know that the correct thing to do is engage in a series of actions (or inactions) that assist in ameliorating the impact of COVID-19. We must observe social distancing when going out in public, must stay at home whenever possible, as well as wash our hands and engage in other sanitizing practices. All of these are important—and in this essay I will sometimes subsume all these practices under one term: “social distancing”.
We all know that only through social distancing (and other preventative actions) can we flatten the COCID-19 curve and bring our society (and other societies around the world) back to normal. But is this really the case? Some of the epidemiologists from some of the most respected universities in the world (such as Harvard University in Cambridge Massachusetts) have been offering some “inconvenient truths”, based on their careful modeling of future trends in the infection and mortality rates. In an article titled “There’s only one way this ends: herd immunity”, Jeff Howe recently (April 12, 2020) offered the following sobering observation in the Boston Globe:
It’s easy to forget that if a disease can’t be contained – and its’ too late for that in the COVID-19 pandemic—then there’s only one possible ending to the story: We must collectively develop immunity to the disease. In lieu of a vaccine, that means most of us will need to be exposed to the virus, and some unknowably large number of us will die in the process. (Howe, 2020, p. K1)