Like many others, I supported the initial shutdowns because I was worried that we knew too little about the coronavirus and who was spreading it, and we needed to prevent our healthcare system from being overrun. Our health experts warned us that COVID-19 spread quickly and often unnoticeably, through carriers who might not show symptoms for weeks, or perhaps never at all. Add this to a total lack of mass testing, and a temporary nationwide quarantine made sense.
But now, the entire premise of the shutdown is being questioned.
“From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said, according to CNBC. “It’s very rare.”
It’s difficult to put into words how infuriating this discovery is. If asymptomatic carriers aren’t the problem, we could easily have localized our response to the coronavirus by asking only those with symptoms to stay home and quarantining hot-spot areas where the spread was out of control. Instead, we adopted a one-size-fits-all approach because we were acting under the presumption that any person at any time could be spreading it to just about anyone.
Granted, the WHO hasn’t exactly proven itself as a reputable source of information over the past few months, so I’d like to see other researchers confirm this finding. And, it’s unclear whether Kerkhove includes presymptomatic carriers within her definition of “asymptomatic.” But if this conclusion is indeed fact, I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong for relying on the word of experts who clearly had no idea what they were talking about.
And it’s the experts who should be held accountable. Because, if true, this wasn’t just a mild mistake. It was a grievous error that cost this country hundreds of thousands of jobs and kept people from the things they need most: family, church, and community. We’ll be wrestling with the consequences of this shutdown for a long time to come, and now, we must do so knowing that it might have been for nothing.