Politics of pandemic come with trade-offs

The recent presidential and vice presidential debates have, rightly, put a focus on the COVID-19 pandemic. The issue has been politicized for some time now, and so the race for the presidency would not be expected to be immune.

Last week’s vice presidential debate between Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Kamala Harris put a spotlight on COVID, with Pence defending what the Trump administration has done and Harris arguing that the administration has failed completely.

It is difficult to be in a position to have to defend yourself when people are dying from a virus for which there is no vaccine. The Biden-Harris team can simply point to 200,000 dead Americans and say, “See, Trump failed.” But it’s hardly a fair argument. A president — and governors, mayors, etc. — must weigh pandemic restrictions against the overall well-being of citizens. While a pandemic brings death, the economy supports life. How far would Biden go to shut down the economy, and at what cost?

Some people believe in government intervention (or more intervention) to tackle the virus. Critics call it government interference. The critics are more fatalistic, especially because there is no vaccine. They would ask if we are going to get on with life (or death), or just crawl under a rock and hide? Of course, both sides’ positions come with trade-offs.

There are some who say the economy needs to be free to operate and individuals can subsequently assume as much risk as they are comfortable with, given the situation. But others say that those who assume more risk are putting others at risk as well. Not wearing a facemask is not like not wearing a seatbelt. The latter puts you and you alone at risk. The former puts you and anyone you come in contact with at risk, should you contract the virus.

But we can’t continue to live in a bubble. The sooner a vaccine is developed, tested and proven, the sooner we can try to get back to normal.


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