Healthy working age adults who are not clinically trained have a critical public health role to play in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our mission is to create massive externalities that can be used to break infection chains. We do this by social distancing. Many universities and colleges are closing or severely limiting operations in order to minimize immediate disease spread. Non-critical, non-clinical personnel are being sent home. I’m working from home for the foreseeable future. I’m lucky, 98% of my work can be done almost anywhere in normal times and since no one else is in the office, I am not needed to move heavy things under the direction of people who are half my body mass.
Staying home and socially distancing is unlikely to produce readily internalizable mortality gains for myself or my immediate family. We’re very low risk. Instead, we are trying to break the infection chains that could lead up to a 73 year old cancer survivor getting or not getting infected. We don’t know who that person that we protect from our actions. But that is the job of healthy, working age adults right now.
And that is a damn difficult job to do if critical aspects of one’s life is dependent on public policy work requirements.
.@SecretarySonny says SNAP time limits for able-bodied adults will tighten as scheduled on April 1 despite concern about economic impact of COVID-19. Tougher application of the 90-day limit on benefits is expected to end SNAP for 700,000 people. https://t.co/vo5Vtq9It4 @FERNnews
— Charles Abbott (@chuckabbott1) March 11, 2020
Those 700,000 folks will be facing a decision to go to work to eat OR engage in social distancing that gneerates highly needed externalities.
A lot of people will go to work as food is an immediate need while acting in a way that may or may not save someone’s faceless grandparent is much further along the hierarchy of needs.
The same logic applies to work requirements in TANF and Medicaid.
We as a society need to make it really easy for people to generate highly valuable externalities in a public health crisis.
Right now, we’re not.