Italy Shows that Half Measures Are Not Enough
People playing basketball. Densely packed Farmer’s markets. The spandex clad weekend warriors out in groups. These were the things I saw when leaving my house on Sunday for the first time in a week. While clearly many are getting the message to cancel everything and socially distance, it’s not enough. The US is on a collision course for exploding case counts (New York City is already there — signalled by the cacophony of ambulnce sirens).
Hospitals in Italy are overrun. The media has shied away from showing the scenes inside of hospitals, but perhaps they shouldn’t. That shrill wheezing sound you hear in the video? That isn’t a machine — it’s people struggling to breathe.
The Chinese lock down in Wuhan was unprecedented. It was also draconian. Tales of the state welding people into their homes, coteries of self appointed busy bodies barricading apartment buildings with bicycles and trying to overzealously bar reentry to residents. It ultimately worked, but China could take an approach unpalatable in western democracy.
There’s a reason that voluntary action, while a good first step, is rarely enough when it comes to addressing major social problems. It took decades for people to start wearing their seat belts. Climate change is too big to be solved by individual action. We don’t have time. The social niceties of being able to still order take out, and get out for a hike, a jog, or some exercise, while well intentioned, are undermining the huge sacrifice society is already making. This week when Chinese assistance arrived in Lombardi they were shocked by what they saw: a lock down much too permissive to halt the outbreak.
In response, Italy has further tightened restrictions. Fines for violating the order have been raised from several hundred euros up to as high as $3,000. Where Italy goes, we will follow. To see the future, look to Italy and other countries that are a few weeks ahead of us.
Of course, in China we had the chance to look two months into the future. To watch and learn and take action to prevent the same fate. After Wuhan, our lack of response was irresponsible. After Italy, it is indefensible.
Half measures won’t cut it. We need to be all in on this. It’s time for extreme social distancing measures.