When Is A Shutdown Warranted? | Aaron Neuman

The debate over the Covid-19 shutdowns will likely continue to rage for the foreseeable future.

There are those who say we’re not doing enough now and that more things should be shut down, while others say that it’s unfair for businesses to continue being driven out of business over a virus that isn’t dangerous for most people.

The question is: At what point is a shutdown warranted?

If there were, chas v’chalila, an Ebola pandemic (50% death rate), there isn’t a sane person who would say we shouldn’t shut everything down to save lives.

On the other hand, the seasonal flu kills an estimated 30,000 to 80,000 Americans every year, but nobody that I know thinks we should close everything down each year because the average death rate is so low (0.1%).

But where is the middle ground? At what death rate would it be warranted to implement shutdowns? A 1% death rate would result in the deaths of millions of people, but is that enough to force the other 99% who would be OK to stop living?

The core of the question is ethical in nature. How much value do we place on a life? While you might want to say that lives are priceless, the fact is that everyone puts some sort of value on a life.

For example, car crashes kill many people every year, but nobody is willing to ban driving because it doesn’t kill enough people to outweigh the benefits of having cars. So there’s some sort of value we put on a life, as sobering as that is.

So again, what is the value of a life? At what point do we say that a pandemic is so deadly that we need to close everything down?

I have had this discussion with many people, none of whom had a good answer to give. So I ask you all, what do you think? When are shutdowns warranted?


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There are 12 Comments to "When Is A Shutdown Warranted? | Aaron Neuman"

  • A human being says:

    Call me irrational, but its not ebola.
    I don’t care at this point if got it, if I need to go through another 3 months of gehinom in my tiny apartment I don’t know what I’ll do.
    I cannot mentally live like that. I cannot.
    I understand you are a tzaddik saving peoples lives, but I personally would prefer not to be saved if that is what I have to go through.

  • psak says:

    I dont have an answer to your question. However there is another big factor playing here. The fear-mongers and the Dem’s who want to destroy Trump through this virus have been making things up and holding things down for politics and politics only. Therefore, there is just about nobody who really knows the what when and where on this virus. If Dr Zelenko’s treatment is the answer why arent we using it. Simple, because of the the media playing against. Or not, maybe it really doesnt work. Who knows. As much as we want to believe one way or the other abt it and every other aspect of this pandemic, the hamoin am has no way to know either which way abt anything because the left are spewing constant garbage and the right (rightfuly so) is fighting back leaving us in the middle hearing unconfirmed tibits of info, leading ezch confused person to come his/her own baseless conclusion. Leading to another pandemic called sinas chinum.

  • Yaakov says:

    The debate is not over the of life. Life is priceless.

    There is an innate risk with a lot of routine daily activities and chores. All of which are necessary for survival of the human race. And so is TORAH, social activity and business.

    These risks are for individuals to decide to partake in or not until a government makes something illegal.

    When there’s dictatorship there’s no logic

  • Life vs. Life says:

    Your premise is incorrect. We do value a life as priceless. However, the other side of the equation also values life. People’s livelihoods directly affects their life. People’s sanity affects their life. The question stands where do we lose or save more life. A lot of foresight is needed to decide such a thing to consider the long term ramifications.

  • The real facts says:

    If you want to get the real facts about this situation go to:

    You can also find a very interesting video on the covid vaccine and other issues by googling “Dershowitz and Kennedy debate”

    I just learned that there is some FDA rule that if there are no other medicines available, vaccines for an illness can be mandated for citizens in an “emergency” situation. THAT is why there is a big effort to discredit hydroxychloroquine as a treatment.

  • S209 says:

    I hate to say it but it seems the people you are talking to are not very educated. These questions arise in public health debates all the time and there are fairly precise parameters and rules for dealing with them. All ethicists, economists, doctors, and public health experts go through years of schooling on this and have very well defined answers (with some debate, naturally) to these questions. Feel free to contact me through the email address I am providing to TLS and I can point you in the direction of some excellent reading material on the topic (that predates COVID-19).

    Just because many are just getting acquainted with some of the intricacies of the realities of this decision making does not mean it isn’t used to decide laws and public health recommendations in many aspects of our daily life- from restrictions in building, car safety (speeding, seat belts, and other restrictions), business and medical infrastructure, etc. The literature is quite robust.

    • HH says:

      S209- I agree with you 100 percent. It seems that a lot of people in the Lakewood community are selfish and cannot think about anyone but themselves. As a CCU Nurse, I’ve seen up close the devastating effects of this virus on all people including young people. I risk my life and put my family at risk going to work and it’s distressing that the community doesn’t care.
      I’ll end with this-WEAR THE MASK. It’s not just about, it’s also about others.

      • anon says:

        to HH, thank you for all you do to help others – and for putting yourself at risk by doing so. For personal reasons, I’ve had to travel to a number of venues (both outdoor and indoor) out of Lakewood in the recent weeks. None of the people that I interacted with in those locations were “from the orthodox community”. Very few of those people were wearing a mask (and those that were, were mostly wearing them on their chin only). In one location, my husband was the only person who WAS wearing a mask. After seeing this, I did not come home and go straight online and start pointing fingers and calling entire communities selfish. I only mention it here in response to your comment. How sad that people hide behind “concern for the health of the public” to post nasty, sweeping generalizations. And not just any generalization – but one that dangerously and FALSELY insinuates that one group is “infecting” others due to “selfishness”! The reality is that there are basically NO cases in Lakewood. People from Lakewood are not carrying or spreading the virus. Please look elsewhere for a scapegoat. Thank you.

        BTW, if you are so “distressed” about people that are “selfish” and “don’t care”, where are your comments condemning the massive house parties, the packed beaches, the thousands of people who stood shoulder to shoulder protesting – most without masks? Those might just be sources of infection. The Lakewood community is not. Are you only “distressed” about people that are “selfish” and “don’t care” when they happen to belong to one specific group? (and this group is not even the one spreading the disease)

        And by the way, you write that Lakewood “cannot think of anyone but themselves”. Seriously?!? The VAST, VAST majority of Plasma donors in THE ENTIRE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA are from Lakewood and sister communities. (Thousands of people – my husband included.). Donating plasma took my husband SIX hours (travel time, paper work, actual procedure) and it was very painful. And contrary to the LIES spread by pathetic HATERS, he was not paid one cent. In fact, it cost him quite a bit in gas, tolls, and lost time from work. And the entire time he knew that the plasma would be going to help three people anywhere in the US – not just from ‘the community’. So much for your theory about a “selfish” community that “cannot think of anyone but themselves”.

        I’m sure it’s painful and stressful to work day in and day out with very ill patients. You are to be saluted for your incredible work. Sometimes when there is a hard situation, people feel the need to grope around
        for some place to point fingers. I understand that human flaw. But, please, don’t fall into the trap of bigotry, hate, libel and slander.

        (If you are so concerned about people’s lives – please realize that dangerous, false insinuations such as the ones you wrote here do, unfortunately, fuel the sick minds of those that carry out deadly anti-Semitic acts.)

  • JustWondering says:

    I think the premise of the question is wrong. An enforced shutdown is never warranted. If someone want to walk around during an Ebola outbreak then that is their decision, as is jumping of a high-rise building.

    People make decisions that impact their own lives in many facets every day. The proper thing is to inform people, they can then make their own educated decisions. Imposing a lockdown is to dangerous of a power for the government to arbitrarily wield.

  • Steve says:

    In general that is never an easy question to answer but in this case the data is very clear that the people that are really affected by this are the elderly so let’s focus on keeping them safe.
    There is no reason to shut down the rest of the planet though.

  • Mental Health counts too says:

    I don’t know what the right thing is, but we NEED to take into the account the health of the other 99% too. There has been an increase in mental health challenges, more people on anti-depressants etc. We can’t ignore that.

  • Shlomo T. says:

    Hi HH, just wanted to thank you for everything you do every day. I can’t imagine what you’ve seen and been through over these past couple of months..just wanted to point out that many, many, many people are super careful about wearing masks- and I think those that aren’t careful to always mask only don’t because they believe (mistakenly!) that they’re ineffective- not for selfish reasons. Cleary I disagree with this- but I do believe they would wear one if they thought it would help. I hope that you always have physical and emotional strength to continue taking care of the most vulnerable among us. Stay safe out there today.