“Experts worry ‘quarantine fatigue’ is starting”

That was a headline (paper edition) of an article in yesterday’s Washington Post. I don’t think you need to be an expert to figure out that Americans are tired of being cooped up, especially when the officials who are locking us down seem so arbitrary when it comes to the specifics, and do such a poor job of explaining them.

Naturally, the Post’s “experts” want to blame President Trump for the nation’s backsliding. They note that smart phone tracking data showed a slide the same week that Trump tweeted support for protesters in Michigan and Minnesota.

But a slide is bound to occur with the passage of time. The Post and its “experts” make no attempt to show that the slide that occurred the week of Trump’s tweets is any greater than what was to be expected from a nation sick of being shut down and shut in. In fact, the Post’s article says the backsliding began on April 14, three days before the tweets Trump sent out near the end of the week in question.

Moreover, Trump has never taken the position that people should stop social distancing. Indeed, he was critical of Georgia’s governor, a fellow Republican, for his proposal for reopening Georgia.

Trump’s support for protesters in Minnesota and Michigan was not an attack on social distancing. Rather, given what Trump has said about Georgia, it is best understood as an expression of sympathy for residents in those states who have been subjected to arbitrary shutdown policies.

The Post’s article complaining about backsliding unintentionally demonstrates the arbitrary nature of the social distancing concept that is fueling non-compliance. The Post’s “experts” measure the share of the population that is “staying at home” by determining whether peoples’ phones show they didn’t move more than a mile in a day. That percentage had been increasing or holding steady until recently. But after April 14, it decreased slightly — from 33 percent to 31 percent.

I haven’t been within 10 feet of anyone other than my wife for a month. I haven’t been within 10 feet of anyone other than my wife, my two daughters, and two cashiers for almost eight weeks.

Yet, by the Post’s measure, I am out of stay-at-home compliance every day. Why? Because I take long walks that carry me well beyond one mile from my house. (I zigzag if necessary to avoid coming within four yards of anyone.)

If someone can explain to me why I pose a risk to myself or anyone else when my walk takes me past the one-mile mark, I will change my practice. But there is no rational explanation.

It’s unrealistic enough to expect Americans to remain huddled in and around their homes for months under any circumstances. When governments can’t defend elements of their stay-at-home policies, and often won’t even try, there is no hope of keeping Americans locked in much longer.

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