Phyllis A. McKenna | The Genesis of Social Distancing

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Ever since they came up with the concept of social distancing I have been trying to wrap my mind around this concept. For sure it has been the death knell for restaurants, bars, sporting events and concerts, not to mention church services or any other social gathering. Say no to graduations, weddings, or even funerals.

So what is the genesis of social distancing and why has it never been used before in this century? Not sure about the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. I researched the genesis of social distancing. It seems it was the brainchild of two government physicians in 2006 and 2007. George W. Bush was exploring ways to deal with the next epidemic or pandemic if one should occur. Social distancing was the new politically correct way of saying “quarantine.”

These two physicians met and bandied about the idea of Americans staying home from school and work the next time the country was hit by a deadly pandemic. At the same time a 14-year-old student presented a science project touting the feasibility of closing down schools to prevent the spread of a contagious disease virus.

These ideas were met with skepticism and a degree of ridicule by senior officials. The concept of social distancing first made its way through the federal bureaucracy in 2006 and 2007 but it was viewed as impractical, unnecessary and politically infeasible. The strategy was not seen as effective or even feasible. But in 2007 the Centers for Disease Control called for non-pharmaceutical interventions and thereafter it became official U.S. policy.

Social distancing was not used during the H1N1 or swine flu epidemic in 2009. We simply isolated those who tested positive until they tested negative. The economy was not shut down and no one was wearing masks out in public. Some people do not even remember this. There were 63 million affected, 18,036 deaths, and 274,304 hospitalizations.

It would seem social distancing has not been implemented in this century until now, and we are essentially an experimental group to determine if it is effective. With every experimental project as I remember from grad school, one needs a control group. Sweden comes to mind. They did not have social distancing and they did not shut down their businesses. Their stats did not vary significantly from other European countries with more draconian methods.

This concept of social distancing needs to cease and we must reopen every business that was arbitrarily closed and we need to get our First Amendment rights back, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. All sporting events should resume without social distancing and let masks be optional. My question: Are we going to shut down our economy again with the loss of over 30 million jobs with the next epidemic or pandemic, or is this only happening when we have a Republican president? One wonders.

Phyllis A. McKenna

Stevenson Ranch

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