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So we’ve had updates every night for several weeks now. We’ve done our best to keep you up-to-date on what is happening in this coronavirus pandemic.
But in past few days, the truth has seemed like a swiftly moving target. Some of the big numbers have been changing almost day by day; others appear to contradict each other. In many other cases, information just isn’t complete yet and won’t be for a while.
It’s all happening very, very fast. But at this point, a couple of trends are coming into focus. First of them, an awful lot of people are getting sick from this illness. Tens of thousands of new infections every day; some of them are dying. It’s horrifying to watch.
But there is also a glint of brightness on the horizon, a forecast that many of us did not expect. Estimates of the final death toll have been revised dramatically downward. Dr. Tony Fauci acknowledged as much on Thursday:
Savannah Guthrie, “Today” Show host: Do you think the number of fatalities in this country will be significantly lower than the 100,000 to 240,000 first projected?
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: I do. I believe we are going to see a downturn in that. And it looks more like the 60,000 than the 100,000 to 200,000. But having said that, we better be careful that we don’t say, okay, we’re doing so well, we could pull back.
Sixty thousand deaths – that’s a very big number. And if someone you love is among them, it’s everything.
Yet, at the same time, it is far fewer than many expected. It is a much lower number — and we want to be as honest as we can about this — than we predicted on this show, for example.
Facts change very fast, and it’s easy to miss them, and instead get trapped in a storyline that you created weeks or months before. That’s especially a temptation in the news business, but it’s how terrible decisions get made.
This is one of those cases when we are grateful to be wrong, and not just wrong about the death toll. The number of infected patients who need to be hospitalized has also been way below early estimates. We feared that a massive wave of desperate people struggling to breathe would overwhelm our hospitals and break our health care system. That was the primary concern. But so far, it hasn’t happened.
Instead, something completely unexpected appears to be taking place. Across the country, health care workers are being let go or furloughed. Elective procedures have been canceled. That means there aren’t patients for them to care for. Hospitals are running short on cash.
In Oklahoma City, an entire hospital has been closed, except for its emergency room. Almost everywhere except the New York metro area, Detroit and New Orleans, hospitals, many of them are sitting half-empty or empty. Thanks to a lockdown meant to ease pressure on hospitals.
That’s a story none of us expected to see. It’s all pretty shocking, given what we expected. But the weirdest thing of all is how little attention this is all getting.
In a crisis, nothing is more important than staying connected to reality. Facts change very fast, and it’s easy to miss them, and instead get trapped in a storyline that you created weeks or months before. That’s especially a temptation in the news business, but it’s how terrible decisions get made.
The people making those decisions don’t look up long enough to notice that their assumptions were wrong. Something like that may be happening now.
In some cases, the people paid to bring you the very latest news seem utterly ignorant of what is actually happening, and they deeply resent any attempt to bring them up to speed. Watch this MSNBC newsreader scold anyone who dares suggest that observable reality has changed in any way from two weeks ago.
Stephanie Ruhle, NBC News senior business correspondent: Let’s make something clear: “Open for business” is a sentiment. It’s a sign. It’s not real life. This isn’t a snow day. We’re not going to decide a week from now or three weeks from now, all right, everybody trot back to work.
So when you look at the unemployment number, it’s upsetting and it’s jarring. But it also means that Americans are going home, which is what we need them to do.
And think about it, if he is mentioning this to people in the AG community, if you run a farm, you cannot run the risk that people you have out there working have the virus. They are spreading it to someone else. This is very serious business.
This is a perfect example of where the stock market and real life and the real economy are two very different things.
So 17 million people unemployed is actually a positive sign, they are telling you. It means Americans are doing, “what we need them to do.”
If you find yourself saying something like that out loud, pause for a moment and listen to your own words. It means you’ve lost perspective. In this specific case, we should give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Americans are tired and fearful. They’re afraid from weeks of uncertainty and sadness.
But that does not eliminate our obligation to think as clearly as we can, because at some point, we’re going to have to pivot from our current lockdown to whatever comes next. And now is the time to figure out what that means.
It’s not enough to harangue the public about how they’re immoral somehow if they don’t like being shut inside all day. That’s the easy path right now, and not surprisingly, it’s what a lot of our politicians are doing.
But the country deserves more, obviously. We ought to be working hard to determine which parts of American life can return to normal, which cannot, and when.
How do you move a nation of 320 million people from isolation and joblessness back to something better? You don’t hear many people talking about that right now in any detail, but you should be. So we’re going to start.
Going forward, we hope to be a forum for all good ideas on how to bring America back and by good ideas, we mean sensible, safe, incremental solutions. This is a complex moment. You should be wary of anyone who claims to be able to fix it with a slogan. That is impossible.
Other countries already well down this road. Per capita, Austria has been affected in very much the same way by coronavirus as we have here. Next week, the Austrian government will allow most small businesses to reopen. Hair salons and shopping malls will follow in early May, then restaurants and hotels.
The Austrians are being careful about this, and of course, they should be. Stores are being told to limit how many patrons come inside at once. Wearing masks inside grocery stores and public transportation will be mandatory. Travel in or out of Austria will be sharply restricted probably for some time.
Now, America is not Austria. We can’t copy every move the Austrians make and expect the same results. But we can watch carefully and learn from what they’re doing and what other countries have done, and we should do that.
We’re going to continue to do that, starting right now.
Adapted from Tucker Carlson’s monologue from “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on April 9, 2020.