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Paralysis by Analysis. Let's Play Ball

Dear Friends,

If you read this to the end and still consider yourself my friend, I’ll be both amazed and grateful. I’ve got family that will likely disown me for this.

I’ve only been this unequivocal one other time in my life. My young son was about to run unto a busy road chasing a ball. I grabbed him, and with a sternness motivated by fear that came dangerously close to anger, I told him unequivocally that he was never to run unto a road without looking both ways for traffic. Never! I resisted an urge to send him to his room forever, knowing that it would be the safest place for him. But he so loved to play, and I knew I could not always protect him from life’s dangers. When he agreed to always look for traffic, I relaxed my shaking grip of him, and he resumed playing ball with his friends.

To be unequivocal is to be very certain. We generally don’t care much for folks who possess that much certainty. It is risky. Much better to be measured and nuanced. So we carefully hedge our opinions by using the reasoning of others we find well-spoken or rich or educated. Fair enough. But these are unusual times.

Friends, it is time to make a decision. Any delay will only make recovery from the mess we’ve made more difficult and cause more misery.

For all of human history, we have had to work. Work, in all its forms, is as important to life as water, food, and air. Work is not just an abstract contributor to this idea called ‘economy,’ it is the very breath of our human existence. Without work, life itself would soon melt like a crayon on a hot griddle.

We must make the decision to return to work. Now. There is no longer any logical reason not to. I know that our experts, those that get on TV, believe otherwise. Understandably, they are swamped, analyzing data and offering opinions. Some are outstanding communicators, speak with great passion, and now have nearly a cult following. Some are rich, apparently giving their opinion much weight. They have credibility. For now, since they have the ear of the lawmakers, they are in control.

History is full of examples of a human behavior phenomenon called ‘paralysis by analysis.’ It occurs when so much data is available, we either become paralyzed from having too many available options, or we over complicate the problem. Our tendency then is to delay a decision until a perfect combination of data points is thought optimal. In the process, a deep fear begins to build of making the wrong decision. We’ve seen ‘paralysis by analysis’ on the battlefield, in the corporate boardroom, in the cockpits of airliners, and now in the briefing room at the Whitehouse. Even Bill Gates laments boardroom mistakes from indecision. The result is usually squandered opportunity or worse, needless death and misery.

Friends, it is time for a gut check. It is time for all of us to inhale deeply and allow a kind of old fashioned common sense to settle in. If we don’t, we’ll soon hear why we should fear the ‘big bounce.’ When the virus appears in retreat, the experts will tell us it’s too early to celebrate. They’ll be a bounce of new infections. We must remain locked down.

Today, we have governors and local government folks who are vested in keeping people locked down. They, too, take their cues from briefing rooms at the highest level of government. “The lock-down is necessary and will stay in place for however long it takes,” they decree without bothering to tell us what criteria would have to exist for life to return to normal. Some suggest it be made even more draconian. I’m in no position to say they are wrong. Who is? I happen to believe that they are wrong. Unequivocally. Either way, we must make a decision.

Making no decision has consequences. Already, authorities have become frustrated. Everyone is considered a suspected carrier. They’ve asked that phone numbers be established to allow citizens to snitch on other citizens. Visiting the park could land you in jail. These knee-jerk reactions smack of a time when a corrupt and murderous Soviet state pitted neighbor against neighbor. We must end this practice and make a decision. Now.

Our leaders are not stupid people, but COVID-19 blindsided them, and with little information, they made the best choices they could. Initially, they pursued a policy that encouraged social distancing and shut down opportunities for large gatherings. Restaurants, schools, churches, and bars, etc. were shuttered. Impatient to see if ‘social distancing’ would flatten the curve, they grew more aggressive. They were aided by the cries from the panicked to ‘Shut it down! Shut it down!’ They shut it down- or at least for some. Now we know more. Much more. We need to take that information and make a decision. Today.

These same folks have constructed new rules and laws that are as laughable as they are illogical. They have established whole swaths of industry and state activities as essential such as grocery stores, coffee and fast food drive thru’s, stockbrokers, hardware stores, banks, food production, and every state and local government office. Oh… almost forgot, if you build swimming pools and government facilities, you’re essential too. Of course, you are. Everyone else- not so much. We all must get back to work now. We are all essential to a healthy, functional civilization.

As I suggested earlier, the implementation of the shut-down was both haphazard and nonsensical. Its effectiveness will forever be clouded. How are we to know when, perhaps, half of all people still traveled to work and engaged with customers and clients that it hindered the virus spread or added to infections? How do we know if the ‘social distancing’ would have been sufficient or not? But knowing may not be important.

Early on, we had a reasonably good inkling that COVID-19 was hitting hard the elderly with one or more underlying health issues. The virus would take advantage of those opportunities and overrun the lungs and cause death. In Washington state, the virus got a foothold in a nursing home and went on a rampage. An infected healthcare giver brought it in. Some of the old and compromised died with the healthcare giver recovering. Quickly, protocols for handling patients with a highly infectious virus were implemented. They’re much better at doing that now. We‘ve learned valuable lessons allowing us to make a decision. Now.

Hindsight is nearly always 20/20. Knowing that the elderly and those with compromised immunosystems and underlying health issues were truly the most vulnerable, doing everything necessary for them made a lot of sense. It still does. And we should establish protocols that can be used today and for the next pandemic to protect them. A policy of isolating and separating would give them time for a vaccine to be developed and enjoy another birthday.

With the vulnerable protected, the rest of us can get back to work. Most of us can work while honoring and implementing ‘social distancing.’ Those who work now because they were deemed essential have proven that. We can avoid crowds while still enjoying a candlelight dinner with a loved one. Most restaurants will happily separate tables to a safe distance. Smart personal decision making would discourage packing tightly into a 42nd Street bar. Churches could reopen, asking people to keep some distance. And if one feels more secure, they should be encouraged to wear a mask. The Internet is full of sites that show you how to make your own.

I personally have no hesitation in wearing a mask. My wife, an RN, made one for me from an old heavy shirt I once wore. And frankly, most patrons at my favorite watering hole will appreciate me covering most of my face. I just hope the banks don’t freak out.

In summary, protect the most vulnerable by all means possible. Spend trillions if necessary. Return to work practicing social distancing. And by all means, feel free to wear a mask. Finally, implore our smartest to develop the vaccine as quickly as possible.

Friends, if this nonsense lasts much longer, just go back to work. It’s our most logical option.

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