Regardless of what you think about people like Nancy Pelosi”s daughter celebrating the physical assault on a U.S. Senator, the demonization of Rand Paul has unintended consequences that will surely undermine the rational management of the COVID-19 outbreak. Why? Because the highly politicized criticism of Senator Rand Paul creates perverse incentives for the rest of us to never get tested, or to even admit to symptoms.

First, the Senator was denounced for getting tested. “How come he gets the test and I don’t?” He did so because the aforementioned assault resulted in him losing part of his lung. After the test came back positive, he was denounced for not having self-quarantined while awaiting test results, even though he was following the best government health guidelines available. You can read his own perspective here.

So regular folks are watching this episode, and other public social media shamings like it, unfold within the confines of sweeping stay-at-home mandates from governors and mayors. These folks, including those most vulnerable to the virus, are now thinking twice about getting tested for fear of getting equally abused. Will someone on Twitter judge them retroactively for things they could not have possibly known? Look, a Senator can take the abuse. It comes with the job, and politics during a public health threat are apparently doubly petty and cynical and manipulative. The rest of us? Can we afford to be judged? We might lose a job, or otherwise be permanently hurt without recourse. All because we were trying to do the right thing for ourselves and for the people around us.

I’m going to try to be more kind, more reasonable, and more calm as we get through this thing together. Please join me.

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