You can read people recently who note that in China, even in Wuhan, people walk the streets comfortably and easily now, the thought being that they have handled all this better than we have. They had a hard lockdown early and the disease went away. One has to pretend that the data coming out of China is accurate, but let's do. In all likelihood it has at least partial accuracy, simply because even China has been unable to contain information about anything as much as it would like.
We have some more pretending too do, but let's have a go at it. If Donald Trump had not only discontinued flights from China, then Europe, then basically everywhere last February, but closed the NYC metro area, do we think that would have worked? I mean closed in the same sense the Chinese use, of welding the gates to apartment complexes shut because there were some known infected people and they wanted the spread to stop. Like, "No one leaves Manhattan. The bridges and trains are all closed. Hope you guys make it. Have a nice day." And then the next day saying "The other boroughs are now closed as well," and then "Okay, New Haven to maybe East Brunswick. No planes, no trains, no buses. No private cars, no bicycles, no matter how much military presence it takes."
I want to stress this because I do get a sense that people who believe Trump and various governors and mayors should have locked us down even harder to contain Covid and save lives think that this means just a little harder. Just a few tweaks, dude. Because of the fatigue of people isolating and distancing, whether by choice or by command, it is tempting to look back and say "If only...if only. Sure, we could have done that. A few weeks of serious shutdown and we'd all be fine now." There is a failure of imagination what it would really have been like. It would not only be shutting down a number of borders from scratch, it would be in an area with 20,000,000 people. Good luck with that. You only manage that by shooting people.
So I don't think we would even be able to do that, not remotely. What you can do in China is not like what you can do here. You could maybe do it in a place like Norway, with only one large city and a limited number of exits - and a population that would be much more cooperative than Americans would. Also, even at maximum movement in China they don't have remotely near the interaction between regions that we do here. Unless it was eradicated to ridiculously low levels, as soon as the restrictions went off people would be free to move about the country and it would start all over again.
Let's pretend levels deeper, even though we are currently at "I think this would not even be possible" stages. Suppose we did do that, and only had to shoot a few people. Then suppose that it actually worked, and we were all singing drunkenly into each other's faces now without fear. We cut our Covid deaths by 70%, well lower than any comparable country. (There are no comparable countries, and insofar as they are comparable they have about the same death rate, but work with me here.) Would we say it was all worth it? 350,000 avoided deaths, with vaccines now coming online would be a significant burden for any other plan to overcome to prove its worth. Wouldn't it? If we could do it and it did work, why wouldn't we? It's only a couple of weeks.
I am trying to make this sound like a difficult choice, but I don't see it that way myself. We should not do this, not even for 350,000 lives. It would change the balance of government power over citizens so profoundly, even in that brief period of time, to change the country forever. I admit that I am balancing an abstract and something that is ultimately just an opinion about the way life should be lived against real death. I still say it.
Release the hounds.