The Democratic party’s bias for economic and social shutdowns has not changed since March.

Wonder Land: Leading epidemiologists have come together to write “The Great Barrington Declaration,” which urges a “Focused Protection” strategy in managing the coronavirus, and has already been signed by thousands of scientists. Images: Getty Composite: Mark Kelly

If a tree falls in an empty forest, will the press blame Donald Trump?

Even by the standards of Trump derangement syndrome, the media compulsion during a U.S. president’s tour through Covid-19 to build every molehill into a mountain of duplicity was a new low.

Meanwhile, running relentlessly in the background of this Trump-obsessed spectacle is something called SARS-CoV-2. Joe Biden’s campaign is built around promising a return to normalcy. So let us ask Mr. Biden: In the era of Covid, just what will your normalcy look like?

By Mr. Biden’s lights, normalcy mostly means a world without Mr. Trump in the White House. Set aside that what then would inhabit the White House is not just Joe Biden but Bernie Sanders, who surely will appear to collect on Mr. Biden’s Faustian bargain with his party’s left-wing progressives. Their to-do list on taxes, climate, health care and race isn’t normal.

What cannot be voted out of office next month is Covid-19. Events of the past week have confirmed that the still-mysterious coronavirus can still penetrate anything—college campuses, New York City neighborhoods and, most dramatically, the White House and Air Force One.

Restaurant workers and other protesters demonstrate outside the office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York, Sept. 28.
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Some six months after the virus erupted here and with little cause to think it’s going away, the pertinent question demanding an answer from our presidential candidates (and governors and mayors) is: How should we live with this virus?

Returning from Walter Reed hospital, President Trump tweeted his opinion: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”

At last week’s presidential nondebate, perhaps the most consequential remark by Mr. Biden was about living with the virus. “You can’t fix the economy,” Mr. Biden said, “until you fix the Covid crisis.” Virus first, economy later.

I take that to mean Mr. Biden’s coronavirus policy would be to support reviving shutdowns if the virus-case metric goes up, and support governors who push back against openings. As such, his policy would reflect minimal adjustment of the Democratic party’s lockdown bias, no matter the country’s experience with the virus since March.

The reality is that while deaths from Covid dominated March and April, the tragedy since has consisted of both continued fatalities and an equally appalling toll in economic destruction measured in lost jobs, businesses and incomes.

If, like Mr. Biden, one wants to criticize Mr. Trump’s early handling of the virus, feel free. But the nominee shouldn’t be allowed to duck answering what people want to know about his plans now for opening the country.

Will a country of more than 330 million people be obliged to suspend their lives indefinitely until a Biden scientist declares the coronavirus “fixed”?

Or, given the emergence of therapeutic options and vaccines next year, why shouldn’t we be allowed to conduct our lives, schooling and livelihoods more or less normally alongside the unavoidable reality of new virus infections and even hospitalizations?

This distinction—this competition between the poles of shutdowns and openings—is playing out in an extraordinary virus confrontation in New York City, the site of the pandemic’s most brutal devastation last spring.

Because clusters of positivity rates above 3% have emerged in some city neighborhoods, notably among Orthodox Jews, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio are imposing closures in nine ZIP codes based on a sliding scale of categories defined in colors—red, orange and yellow.

Many city residents affected by these renewed restrictions on businesses, schools and religious institutions are in a state of active revolt.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Brooklyn Catholic Diocese said, “It is outrageous that after incurring great expense to implement all the safety protocols, our parishes are being forced to reduce capacity to a maximum of 10 people in the red zone and 25 people in the orange zone.” Simcha Minkowitz, who owns a jewelry store in Brooklyn’s Borough Park, told Crain’s New York Business: “We need to be able to live our lives freely and make money for our families.”

For many Democrats, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “crush the virus” is becoming a version of the Vietnam War’s apocryphal phrase that we had to destroy the village in order to save it.

As of Wednesday, some 3,700 medical and public-health scientists had signed the Great Barrington Declaration calling for a more balanced approach, which would allow “those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.”

Donald Trump and most Republican governors would sign that declaration. Joe Biden and the Democrats would not, ever. If Mr. Biden wins—throwing in as well his intention to raise taxes amid the pandemic should Democrats gain control of the Senate—the return of the U.S. to economic and social normalcy is going to take a very, very long time.

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