Using data & science as our guide, we’re going to slowly begin reopening Arkansas. In order to protect our health care system & patients, we need a vibrant economy. We cannot fight this #COVID19 virus with our economy tied behind our backs! #arpx #ARnews #coronavirus
— Gregory Bledsoe MD MPH (@ghbledsoe) April 27, 2020
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, in listing the great issues facing the state, often says “economy” before “health.” And so Surgeon General Gregory Bledsoe’s Tweet today was in tune with the man who gave him the job.
We are protecting people’s health by sending people back to work?
What do you think?
For a somewhat different take, consider New Zealand and Australia, with reporting by the New York Times.
They are nearing the goal of eliminating coronavirus.
Whether they get to zero or not, what Australia and New Zealand have already accomplished is a remarkable cause for hope. Scott Morrison of Australia, a conservative Christian, and Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s darling of the left, are both succeeding with throwback democracy — in which partisanship recedes, experts lead, and quiet coordination matters more than firing up the base.
“This is certainly distinct from the United States,” said Dr. Peter Collignon, a physician and professor of microbiology at the Australian National University who has worked for the World Health Organization. “Here it’s not a time for politics. This is a time for looking at the data and saying let’s do what makes the most sense.”
The effort in the two countries has translated into total travel bans and lockdowns. The public resisted at first, then complied, because leaders’ messaging was uniform (not the helter-skelter approach in the U.S. among states and the dysfunctional Donald Trump.)
The results are undeniable: Australia and New Zealand have squashed the curve. Australia, a nation of 25 million people that had been on track for 153,000 cases by Easter, has recorded a total of 6,670 infections and 78 deaths. It has a daily growth rate of less than 1 percent, with per capita testing among the highest in the world.
New Zealand’s own daily growth rate, after soaring in March, is also below 1 percent, with 1,456 confirmed cases and 17 deaths. It has just 361 active cases in a country of five million.
New Zealand, with a population 60 percent bigger than Arkansas has half the number of confirmed cases and a third the deaths.
The two countries went all out on testing, for one thing. And pushed for elimination, not just control of the virus. Dr. Michael Baker, a university professor, became a leader.
“It’s a matter to get all the systems working,” Dr. Baker said. “The borders, the contact tracing, the testing, the surveillance.”
Baker didn’t say an economic restart was key to a healthier New Zealand.