All of life is risk, including responding to COVID-19

There was a response to my my letter to the editor in last Friday’s newspaper, and I wonder if the author actually read my entire letter or if he is simply repeating talking points.

First, the author of this letter ignores the fact that I explicitly said this in my letter: Temporary “stay at home” orders to prevent the medical system from being overwhelmed are wise.

I never claimed anyone said we should stay locked down forever. I said we cannot stay locked down forever. There comes a point where the lockdown does more harm than the virus itself. Everyone knows that we will put lives at risk from opening up, which is why we need to protect vulnerable populations while allowing healthier people to go back to work.

It has never been the position of policymakers that choosing to lose lives is a last resort. If that were the case, we would have banned the automobile years ago. Once again, as I said in my letter, this is not a perfect comparison to COVID-19. I am using it to make a point that there are benefits and drawbacks to public policy, and that there are risks we accept as a society in order to allow people to live their lives as they please. Everyone knows this.

Furthermore, we are also putting lives at risk from the “stay at home” orders. This includes not only “deaths of despair” (suicide, alcoholism, addictions and the toll depression takes on physical health) but we also risk millions of people in the developing world dying of starvation. From the Washington Post:

And as incomes are lost, a “hunger pandemic” could eclipse the coronavirus, the World Food Program has warned; 130 million people are expected to join the ranks of the 135 million who were expected to suffer from acute hunger this year, the agency says, bringing to 265 million the number of those at risk of starvation.

As far as the “exact words” Hollingsworth said, he was in a radio interview. This wasn’t a social media post, or a press release reviewed by staff for clarity.

Could Hollingsworth have chosen his words more carefully? Sure, and he did clarify them later when he explained that we must protect lives to the greatest extent possible. But let’s be honest here: Every single person in the history of the universe has phrased something poorly when speaking off the cuff. It is tiresome to nitpick every single word a politician says in order to find “gotcha” moments.

The people complaining that Hollingsworth is wealthy are missing the point. Hollingsworth will be fine. He has a lot of money, and he will continue to get his salary and benefits as a Congressman. Assuming he is re-elected in November, Hollingsworth will be fuly vested and eligible for a Congressional pension in 2022, before he completes his third term.

The people Hollingsworth is advocating for are those who cannot work from home or do not work for a large public entity. People who were either living paycheck-to-paycheck or had a very small cushion cannot afford to stay out of work. They will be harmed the most by these policies.