In the Senate hearing last week on the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Tenn.) challenged the preternatural influence of Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), saying: "You are not the end-all.”
Paul was rude, but right. The nation has become transfixed by Fauci and his approach to the pandemic, which Paul described accurately as a “one-size-fits-all” policy. Almost the entire nation has been ordered to stay home and socially distance, and almost the whole economy has been shut down. You can’t get more one-size-fits-all than that.
It is a marvel that the nation has followed such a uniform policy in the face of a virus which afflicts different population segments in such wildly different ways. Over three-quarters of all serious cases and deaths have befallen people over age 65, who comprise only about 16 percent of the population. And it is just plain common sense that people with serious prior conditions would be at greater risk, and that transmission would be greatest in densely populated urban areas and residential settings. To offer a uniform policy is like a shoe store selling only size-8 shoes.
The dramatic imbalance was clear before the U.S. shutdown began. Data out of China and Italy were unambiguous that the virus attacked the elderly and spared those younger. Moreover, our first reported outbreak occurred at the Life Care Center nursing home in Washington state, i.e., among seniors in a dense residential setting.
Tragically, the U.S. has failed to protect precisely those population segments whose high risk was obvious from the start. While the damage already sustained – both in terms of lives and livelihoods – cannot be undone, it need not be compounded. From the start, many people saw a targeted approach without a total economic shutdown as a better approach – and they still do.
Unfortunately, partisanship has crept into the debate over the best policy, with Democrats supporting Fauci and many Republicans the targeted alternative. Let’s look at the targeted alternative -- not as presented by a Republican or a conservative but, rather, by Thomas Friedman, renowned opinion columnist for The New York Times, a generally left-leaning newspaper.