Post #692: A tale of two cities

Posted on May 14, 2020

Today I was simply struck by the contrast between Hong Kong, as written up in The Atlantic, and various Wisconsin cities, as written up in the Washington Post.

It’s pretty simple, really.

In Hong Kong, when the government was acting with incompetence and stupidity, the citizens organized a much smarter response.  In Wisconsin, by contrast, when the government was acting in a rational and reasonable manner, the Republicans there helped the citizens undercut that and behave in the stupidest possible fashion.

In Hong Kong, when the government failed to take appropriate protective action, the citizens forced the government’s hand.  Everybody wore masks in public, despite a literal government ban on wearing masks in public.  Even though Hong Kong is densely populated and directly linked to Wuhan, China by rail and air lines, the citizens of Hong Kong  managed to get near-complete control of their epidemic in four weeks.

They had a (one) new case today:

The really understood that beating a pandemic is a group effort.

By contrast, those pushing for blanket removal of restrictions in Wisconsin apparently do not understand that person liberty is not the sole consideration.  There’s a reason that spitting on the sidewalk is illegal in most cities (it spreads tuberculosis).  There’s a reason you can’t discharge raw sewage into streams (it spreads cholera and other fecal-borne illnesses).  And there’s a reason you can’t go drinking in a packed bar — at least not in most of America, right now.  That’s because, right now, that’s likely to spread a deadly disease.  All those are infringements on your person freedom.  All those infringements have a reason to exist.

But it’s tough to say what will happen next.  Newspapers like click-bait, so you can’t tell whether the scenes depicted in the Post are typical, or are outliers.  But, for now at least, Wisconsin has taken the lead on plan-less, clue-less, careless re-opening.  Looks like they’ll get to be the acid test for whether the current set of preventive measures was necessary or not.

In no small part, the Hong Kong response was attributed to their having been hit hard by the last SARS epidemic (SARS 2003).  So, when the current SARS came around (SARS-CoV-2), they understood what was at stake, and acted accordingly.  But in Wisconsin, they haven’t experienced that kind of hardship within living memory.   Maybe now they’ll get to do so.  Or maybe enough people will behave responsibly enough that no harm will come from the behavior of the few.  In any case, it’s too soon to tell.