Want to end the Pandemic?

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Simple: Just quarantine all the old folks, say the scientists of the Institute for the Study of International Policy (ISPI).

And before you reach for your shotgun (or heat up your Twitterfeed) take a moment to read why this respected research group would recommend something seemingly so outrageous.

Matteo Villa, the ISPI research fellow who volunteered to be the target of innumerable slings, arrows, and death threats, opens his carefully-written 2,500 word essay with a disagreeable, rarely-cited truth: “[In describing] a pandemic in progress, there is no such thing as a best [solution]; only a least bad. We are therefore engaged in a constant search for a compromise in which the fewest possible lives are lost, at the same time keeping in view the quality and value of the lives of those who survive.”

The remainder of Villa’s densely reasoned essay is devoted to demonstrating that there are thousands of ways to make such a calculation, only one of which suggests that the most effective way not just to reduce the impact of the epidemic but to end it would be vigorous action to quarantine those over 70 or 80, who comprise the 25% of first-world populations most vulnerable to COVID infections.

Villa does not recommend such an action. He freely admits it may not even be possible, politically, morally, or even logistically. But he shows us the numbers which indicate that in a a rationally governed world it could be done, thereby opening up the enormous range of coordinated actions available to policy makers ready to look at hard facts before making hard but firm choices.

Villa’s presentation is not yet available in English, but the ISPI is a bilingual website, and an English version will doubtless appear there soon. Puget Sound Indexer Michael Luis, are you listening?

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