Steve Lunetta | COVID-19, Uncle Earl, Tinfoil Hats


Uncle Earl always accuses me of wearing a “tinfoil hat” whenever I begin to connect a few dots and make some predictions on what the true state of affairs may be.

Of course, this is really because I am older now and have seen many of the same scenarios play out over and over again. COVID-19, however, is a bit of a different animal. Most of us today have never seen a global pandemic. I have no reference point or experience to apply in this situation.

Or, do we?

In the past, I’ve talked about a chain of poor yet predictable decisions that have led to disasters. For example, the crash of the Asiana flight 214 in San Francisco can be mapped to a series of decisions made by the captain that led directly to the accident.

The decisions were probably part of the “standard manual” that was developed by the Airbus Corp. to help in an event such as this. However, it is also possible that these “steps” helped precipitate the accident by not allowing the flight crew to effectively assess the situation and come up with a better solution.

For example, had the crew simply “pulled back on the stick” and flown around, the chain of events would have possibly been broken, thereby avoiding the crash.

That is what I look for. What is the unpredictable action that breaks up the disastrous chain?

We often see this in sports. Suppose a football team is known for its running attack. The opposing team prepares a defense based on this information, maybe adding an extra lineman and having the linebackers play forward.

But then, the running team throws the football. The opposition is unprepared for this chain of events and must react or lose the game.

Sometimes, the best leaders are the ones who can make a hard choice and break the pattern that averts a true disaster. Of course, no one can ever see the alternate outcome if the leader does not make that choice.

This is where Earl says I put on my tinfoil hat.

Let’s suppose that the Chinese have “war-gamed” this entire COVID-19 scenario and are able to predict all of our decisions and the probable outcomes. Would we be wise to take an action that breaks the chain of predictable events and averts a disaster?

I look at Sweden’s approach to the pandemic and wonder if they are on to something. As of this writing, Sweden has 23,216 cases and 2,854 deaths. That seems fairly high for a small country.

While Sweden has implemented social distancing and some infection control precautions, they have not closed down all economic activity. In fact, life goes on fairly much as normal in central Scandinavia.

What the Swedes are attempting to do is rapidly build a “herd immunity,” which means they allow more people to get sick and recover, creating more communal resistance to the virus as more members have antibody protection.

Of course, many folks on the left (New York Times, New York Post) are roundly criticizing this strategy as it relies more on the common sense of the public than governmental edicts that restrict activity and curtail freedom.

Right now, the jury is still out, but it does offer an intriguing thought. What if the Swedes figured out a way to break the chain of unfortunate events that lead to disaster? Maybe this is the unexpected step that could not be war-gamed that ruins the plans of our enemies?

The big problem that we face is the unknown. In five years, we will look back and be able to see with great clarity as to what actions were effective and which were poor. 

Like the doomed Asiana flight, we are making decisions that seem expedient at the time, such as massive aid packages to businesses and people without any thought to what the next step may be. These will include huge structural deficits that could trigger hyper-inflation.

We do not want an economic meltdown. That could be far more disastrous than the pandemic itself. Imagine bringing home a paycheck (if you are lucky enough to have a job) and the value of the dollars be half of what it was the week before.

No, we need to try something unexpected. Sweden’s model may not be perfect, but it may be worth trying on a limited scale here in the United States. Let’s break this chain of events and avoid the crash.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and really likes Swedish meatballs. He can be reached at [email protected].

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