Want to do the right thing with regard to COVID-19, but uncertain what that right thing is? If so, you're not alone. Weeks into the coronavirus lockdown, many Americans have found themselves torn between the message they are hearing from the left, that quarantining healthy people indefinitely is the most effective way to help everyone in the long term, and the message they’re hearing from the right, that the COVID-19 lockdown is irreparably damaging the economy and we need to get back to burning fossil fuels as soon as possible.
“There’s truth in both, which is what makes it so difficult,” said 32-year-old Maura Jones of Boston, Massachusetts. “As a healthy person, I can’t take a risk of exposing myself to a virus that is very unlikely to kill me and may not even cause any symptoms but is still extremely dangerous, and in some ways may even be worse than the flu. So sheltering in place definitely makes sense, just until the virus dies out, which I think can happen at any point. I’m sure the experts will keep us posted on that.”
She continued, “But at the same time, it is true that fossil fuel prices have dropped dangerously low.” She shook her head, clearly flummoxed. “I know that situations like this require thinking outside the box, but I’m personally at a loss.”
Faced with the same conundrum, Matt Holmes of Nashville, Tennessee, who’s adhering strictly to the statewide shelter in place order, feels that he has come up with a workable solution: he has been leaving his pickup truck running in his driveway. “That way I’ll still use up plenty of gas and help the economy,” he explained. “But since I’m not actually going anywhere, I’m also helping batten down the curve.”
As ordinary Americans like Jones and Holmes wrestle with the economic and ethical quandaries posed by the global pandemic and governmental response, 50-year-old Rex Parker of St. Louis, Missouri, says that he takes some comfort in the general consistency of American decision-making. “I have no idea what the ultimate outcome will be," he said, "but I am quite confident that it will be the product of fear, misinformation, and blind faith in highly questionable institutions. If nothing else, we can all count on that."