Americans are torn over whether or not we’re ready for the country to begin reopening and returning to “normal” — whatever that may look like now. On the one hand, many of us have stayed home for weeks and weeks now, flattening the curve and slowly the spread of COVID-19. On the other, it’s still out there, and there’s no scientific reason to suggest infections won’t ramp right back up if we just return to business as usual without making some pointed changes.
But understanding the threat COVID-19 still poses can be a challenge, especially when we’re living in a world where the information we know about the virus is changing regularly, not to mention how much misinformation is being thrown at us alongside genuine research.
So Jeremy Konyndyk, a pandemic expert and the former director of USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, came up with a great analogy to help everyone understand why we can’t just jump back to normal after the last three months of staying home.
Konyndyk’s analogy revolves around pools — specifically, pooping in them.
“Imagine you’re at the pool, and a kid poops in the water. It happens a few times every summer,” he writes. “What happens next? Everybody clears the pool.”
So far, so good. This is clearly lining up with the original stay-at-home orders we followed to flatten the curve.
“But it’s not the end of the story. There’s a next step — some poor soul on pool staff has to go fish out the poop,” he adds.
So what happens if no one gets rid of the hypothetical poop?
“No one can go back in,” Konyndyk explains, though logically, we all know this to be true already. “The poop is still there. Limbo.”
So the novel coronavirus is still out in the world, and we aren’t really safe to go back as long as that’s the case. Got it.
But he takes the analogy a step further, reminding us that somebody needs to be held accountable for the poop staying in the pool.
“Do you focus on the people saying ‘clean up the poop before we can go back in safely!’? Or do you focus on the staff whose job it is to clean up the poop?” he asks. “And what would you think if the staff started saying — look, just get back in. Be a warrior.”
That’s basically what the government is doing to us now. Telling the whole country to jump into a poop-filled pool.
Konyndyk echoes a sentiment many have already been suggesting, that President Trump is trying to distract from his own failure to handle the coronavirus outbreak competently by turning the public against the people who are pointing out that the metaphorical pool is still contaminated.
“And if you buy that, he’s off the hook,” Konyndyk says. “He doesn’t have to learn up the poop, and he doesn’t get blamed for failing to do so.”
A little bit later, he took the analogy to an additional conclusion.
Most Americans don’t feel comfortable jumping back into the pool just yet, so even this hurried attempt to revive the economy isn’t going to do much good if we all refuse to go along with it because we’re conscious of the dangers.
You heard the expert — just clean up the poop!