Audits Are a Good Idea!

This is a letter to the editor I wrote to the Palo Alto Daily Post which was published August 1, 2022. It was sparked by the second part of Dave Price’s July 27, 2022 editorial.


I like the idea of county governments being audited about how they responded to COVID-19. Any process can be improved, and that’s particularly true since this was the first pandemic in modern times.

Dave Price’s suggested questions are a good start. But they don’t include an extremely important category: how many lives were saved and serious illnesses averted by what was done. Ignoring that would make the results useless for future decision-making.

A General Motors executive once famously observed cars could be built which would virtually eliminate the risk of collision fatalities. But they would cost a fortune, look and operate much like tanks, require massive new investment in roads, and have serious negative economic and personal impacts. Life is precious, but communities inevitably end up having to balance costs and benefits, even when it comes to preserving lives.

In the summer of 2020, the San Carlos City Council received a petition sponsored by the local Republican Party urging us to relax COVID restrictions on businesses. The presenter was shocked when I asked how many people the petitioners were willing to see die so changes could be made. In the end she had no answer…even though that’s precisely what acting on the petition would require.

Let’s learn from experience so we can do better next time, because there almost certainly will be a next pandemic. But let’s study the whole picture, so we don’t draw the wrong conclusions.

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