Historical perspective is a neat thing. I warn clients away from being armchair epidemiologists, and society doesn’t need yet another pundit on anything. So I’ll stay in my lane with three comments about the COVID19 shutdown protests:
1) as a humanist and a marketer, there’s a lot of cognitive dissonance around watching the protesters root for team COVID19 by not keeping themselves safe with masks and social distancing. Their point would be much more well-taken if they’d have done so, and coordinated signage asking for things like a legitimate 2-phase testing plan backed with massive funding or something similar. “Test-positivity” rate for this kind of virus is around 1 in 5 according to The Atlantic so it’s likely at least one of these folks was a silent carrier. Now that the protesters are exposed, they get to bring that exposure right back home to their local community grocery store and essential workers.
2) as an entrepreneur, there is a ton of support for businesses. A ton. I’ve developed some, most of the folks I know in business support are doing the same and are working to help.
Entrepreneurs are creative problem solvers – to say that “there’s no hope for small businesses” right now is unimaginative nonsense. There is no end of amazing NoCo businesses in multiple industries who’ve pivoted well with amazing creativity and ingenuity – no protesting required to survive. I’ll be documenting some of them on the Fort Collins Startup Week website.
3) we have actionable, historical data from the last time this happened. Have there been a lot of changes in the intervening 100 years? Yep, that doesn’t mean we wholesale discount the lessons of the past.
While we’re pretty lucky to have amazing folks in NoCo working tirelessly to help businesses across the board as well as amazing leadership in the City of Fort Collins – Government, it’s really difficult for anyone to build truly crisis-safe/crisis-responsive systems. The big failures we’re seeing are evidence not of widespread malfeasance but that rules created by committee often have gaps (or create weird exceptions that violate common sense to an extreme degree) – and you end up with a jellyfish when what you wanted was an octopus. Public policy is hard, it’s often very difficult to get right even under the best of circumstances, and in the worst of circumstances, gaps and failures become glaring.
No responsible business owner wants to put customers at risk. Killing off about 3% of your customer base is not good for business.
We need much wider testing – both to find those who already had it and are now effectively immune and those who suspect they have it – including those who may be silent carriers and show no symptoms.
Make it fast and cheap (free for the end-user) so folks can ascertain their status before going into work or before going out. Otherwise, every trip to your favorite business is just placing yourself, the employees, and other customers at risk. Any push to reopen without a testing plan and the supplies to do it is like licking the cafeteria floor just to see what it tastes like.
A virus doesn’t care about economic viability. Social distancing works to an extent but it requires that folks actually comply, and many folks yesterday at that protest were not distancing or wearing masks. I’d argue the protests are less about economic viability and more about that some people just don’t like to be told what to do – the same people who touched the hot stove because they didn’t believe when their parents told them that it was hot.
As an alternative to protesting or feeling hopeless, it’s better to actively work at trying to fix the gaps or build better systems with honest intent and transparency and good questions. Or by joining forces with folks making decisions in your own community to make sure your voice is heard – even if you disagree, even if you’re in the minority.
The truth will out through solid, peer-reviewed data.