In his most recent New York Times column Nikolas Kristof encourages four bits of advice, taken from unnamed “public health experts”:
First, don’t swoon at every vaccine announcement.
Second, gather more data.
Third, cautiously open some schools.
Fourth, be relentlessly empirical.
I’ve already pointed out the issue with point 3. The highest hurdle in opening schools won’t be the kids or their parents. Indeed, for every parent who is nervous about sending his or her child to school due to the risk of contracting COVID-19, there are probably three eager for some respite. No, the biggest hurdle to overcome will be convincing the teachers and staff that it’s safe for them to go back to school.
#2 is good advice but not particularly helpful. We’re still gathering data on the Spanish Flu. And the Black Plague for that matter.
WWAREPD? What would a relentlessly empirical person do? Some of the things we are doing have little empirical support, e.g. closing parks and beaches. Wearing face masks outside, ditto.
What should you think about measures which don’t actually have much empirical evidence to support them but there is empirical evidence for measures that are tangentially related and with enough extrapolation, generalization, and umbrage can be claimed to be empirical? There’s a difference between scientific and “scientific”. When does post hoc propter hoc constitute empirical evidence? When you don’t know what else to do?