Let’s give the Corona Virus the Chinese Food Treatment

by Guest Blogger Steve Vaughan

Our favorite Chinese restaurant is a five-minute drive from our house. For my money–which they get a lot of–it’s the best in town.

Whenever we order from–whether it’s dinner for eight adults or a snack for Alex and me–they give us the same delivery time, “45 minute.” And the food is always here in 30 minutes, tops. And the order is always correct and the food is always great. I’m pretty sure they know the delivery isn’t going to take 45 minutes, but they build in time to deal with complications. If the food gets here in 45 minutes, we’re satisfied.

That’s a smart way to run a business. It’s a smart way to run public policy too.

Unfortunately for us, our favorite restaurant is “closed until further notice.” I’m not sure why. It has a very tiny dining room. I’d think delivery and takeout makes up a big part of their business. I hope no one is ill.

So, when Alex and I wanted Chinese for dinner a couple of weeks ago, we had to try a new place. They were even closer to our house. With a decent size catapult they could literally have thrown the food to our porch.

They promised the food in 30 minutes and got it there in 20, but part of the order was wrong and the rest was awful. To be fair the new place confounded my Egg Roll Test for Chinese restaurants. The egg rolls were good and Alex said his hot and sour soup was delicious. (Yes, my 12-year-old eats hotter food than I do. Don’t judge.)

But when we turned to our entrees the corner cutting was obvious. Alex had his usual, chicken fried rice and I felt like something simple and had shrimp fried rice.
Okay, first, fried rice is supposed to be fried. This was white rice with a few peas and carrots thrown in.

Second, the protein is supposed to be cooked in the rice, at least briefly. Here it had been tossed on top of the previously prepared rice. My entree had tiny pink baby shrimp of the kind I would expect to find garnishing a salad. They tasted okay, but were wrong for the dish.

About 30 seconds after he started his rice, Alex held out a piece of chicken on a fork and said, “Try this.” He was doing that thing where you can’t believe how bad something tastes until you get a second opinion. Although we teach Alex never to spit out food, I spit it into the kitchen trash can. I don’t know what they did to that chicken but they made it foul, not fowl.

And so this restaurant will never get another dollar from us, showing that cutting corners is a bad way to run a business. Or to create public policy. Particularly public health policy.
If you’re following along this far, you probably know where I’m going with this.

The majority of the nation’s governors–Democrats and Republicans alike–and all of our leading healthcare experts are running a good restaurant. They know, that in the biggest public health emergency in 100 years, there are potentially a lot of “unknown unknowns“ out there. So they are setting goals for ending social distancing that are data-driven, which take into account how much we have flattened the curve and the danger of new outbreaks if restrictions are relaxed too soon.

Unfortunately, they are competing with an unlicensed food truck parked on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The administration’s response to this crisis has been driven by everything but the data. By Trump’s arrogance and insecurity. By partisanship. By wishful thinking. And by an almost instinctive anti-intellectualism from the president and his supporters.

Some are saying they are willing to die to restart the economy. You can count me out of storming that hill.

Others, “Corona Virus Resisters,” are flouting state regulations and gathering in large groups. As long as they keep to themselves, great. They will shortly prove Darwin (who they probably don’t believe in) right. However, if they endanger other people, they should be arrested like anyone else who is a threat to public safety.

What the emergence of these groups show is that in the Age of Trump, stupidity is no longer a character trait–it’s an ideology.

These people are fools. Let us not suffer fools gladly.

And let us demand that US public health policy is run at least as well as a good Chinese restaurant.

Steve Vaughan is a reporter and writer residing in Richmond, Virginia. He holds a degree in Political Science from VCU and a masters in Wise Ass from the School of Life.