The Atlantic

Now Is the Time to Overreact

If the measures we're taking to fight the coronavirus work, they'll look excessive later on. But the alternative is worse.
Source: Vahram Muradyan

Updated at 8:26 p.m. ET on March 16, 2020.

Already, the kids were starting to get a little stir-crazy. Yesterday was the second day my family and I had been cooped up at home. None of us is infected with the coronavirus, as far as we know, nor at greatest risk. But with public-health officials urging all Americans to reduce social contact, we’re doing our small part to help lower transmission rates and avoid overcrowding hospitals, for the foreseeable future. So we chose a responsible compromise to cure cabin fever: piling into the minivan to pick up (Lysol-wiped) boxes of Girl Scout cookies from a family friend.

Given all the alarm, I half-expected empty streets and storefronts but instead saw something more unnerving: It looked like any other Sunday afternoon in Atlanta. The roads weren’t packed, nor were they empty. A queue of hungry bodies snaked out the door of the Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, like every weekend. Hipsters congregated along the popular BeltLine trail, ambling as usual.  

From my perspective, staring down the barrel of a “,” as the former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb put it, everyone else was underreacting. It’s fine to go outside, to walk or jog, to garden or mow the lawn. But the people cramming together en masse were doing the exact thing we’re being told to avoid right now. Even so, faced with the ordinary routines all around us,

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