There seems to be a new strange divide happening amongst those who want the economy reopened and those who don’t. It isn’t as simple as partisan politics. 

Two weeks ago, those of us in blue states—including our governors—were scoffing at states like Georgia that were opening up, despite the agreed-upon things we should see before opening up not having been met.

Less than a week ago, California’s Gavin Newsom was closing beaches, as other states were opening up, and vowing to follow science, not the White House or protestors. 

Then last week, Newsom announced we’re suddenly ready to go to phase two of reopening. That same week, my kids’ school opened back up to lower grades, and friends of mine in California were increasingly advocating for opening things up on social media. 

Huh?

At first, I wondered if I was the only one still hewing to the guidelines that we should see a downward trajectory of documented cases (or positive tests) for two weeks before taking these steps. As a refresher, the White House’s guidelines suggest states should have a “downward trajectory” of documented cases or positive COVID tests. Those guidelines were already criticized by public health experts as not being nearly enough to warrant opening up the economy. And most of the states opening up fail to clear even that low bar. In more than half of the states reopening, positive test results are still increasing. 

“What changed?” I found myself wondering, as more and more people in my ecosystem and in the media and in government seemed to be jumping on the reopening bandwagon. 

Turns out I’m not alone in the head scratch: According to polls, Americans are widely opposed to reopening the economy

It isn’t all partisan. I’ve actually experienced family members of mine in the evangelical Deep South being more cautious about reopening the economy than friends of mine in science-loving San Francisco or New York. 

Something strange is going on here. 

I don’t buy that it’s just the onset of spring, at least on the West Coast. California, for one, has pretty spectacular weather most of the year, and even with current restrictions, we can still get outside and go on hikes, runs, and walks. Some of us have stoops and patios and backyards from which to enjoy the weather. 

I also don’t buy it’s some sort of frustrated new WFH situation either. Let’s be honest: For all of our smugness, San Francisco handled the early days of this pandemic well—in part—because it’s dominated by an industry of introverts. 

For all of the HBO shows and glitzy magazines, building a startup mostly involves not sleeping and staring at a screen for 18+ hours in isolation. Sure, as startups scale they have sales people and crowded all-hands meetings and those plush offices as renowned perks. But at its roots, software is not a fundamentally extrovert-driven industry like banking or media. The greater the isolation, the easier it is to code. It was easier for us. 

Yes, kids being home from school is a massive challenge. It has destroyed productivity for working parents and especially put working mothers at a massive disadvantage in a time of layoffs and job losses when there’s pressure to bust out peak performance. That is real. But even the Southern states opening up haven’t been talking about kids going back to school; they’ve been talking about haircuts and restaurants and movie theaters and gyms. 

One thing that friends of mine running companies and investing in companies have in common with the president and the publisher of major national newspapers is a desire to get the economy moving again. (A second thing most of them have in common is privilege. Those talking about lives being lost like eggs being broken to make an omelet are rarely envisioning their loved ones…) 

Is it possible that there’s an economic lizard brain trying to magically think us all out of the truths we agreed on a few weeks ago?

Read the rest of my column on LinkedIn.

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