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Letter: Livelihoods can be replaced, but lives cannot

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Letter to the editor

Deseret News

After World War I century ago, Warren Harding’s successful campaign slogan for president in 1920 advocated a “return to normalcy,” a call echoed in a recent guest opinion published in the Deseret News (“Guest opinion: A return to normalcy — not social distancing — may be key to overcoming COVID-19,” May 2). While Marc Hansen’s argument to achieve “herd immunity” is well-articulated, it breezes by some weighty questions.

Hansen suggests that axing social distancing would result in “11,000 deaths of otherwise healthy persons,” and argues this is acceptable because it is far below the number killed in auto accidents or the flu. Yet while we have seat belts and Tamiflu, we are only starting to see drugs that might mitigate against COVID-19. Is the sacrifice of 11,000 otherwise healthy people worth it? Would we think this is the correct approach if our spouse, siblings, children or parents were part of that number?

High unemployment is indeed a health risk, but can the United States truly have a flourishing economy while keeping high-risk individuals in lockdown? I agree that we need to enable health care to treat other conditions. But would free-circulating COVID-19 really free up the health care system?

At the end of the day, livelihoods can be replaced with difficulty, but lives cannot. We need to get back to work, but we should also work to slow the spread of the virus, not accelerate it. As Americans found out after World War I, a “return to normalcy” was impossible. Our world has also changed, and we must now decide what future changes will look like. I hope we will choose to unite for a nation that cares about and protects “even the least of these.”

Jonathan D. Hepworth

Athens, Georgia