VEZINA: Prevention is never perfect and carries its own risks
As government and public conversations continue about what happens next in the COVID-19 pandemic and other societal risks, calls for prevention will inevitably increase.
This will be especially true coming from experts who focus exclusively on a particular type of hazard.
Public health officials will design ever more vigilant disease prevention regimes, just as automotive experts will design ever more advanced braking systems to prevent collisions.
Risk experts, however, are more hesitant about attempting to eliminate all risks.
If resources are thus reallocated from firefighting to designing tougher building codes in the belief fewer fires will happen, then more resources must be allocated to enforcing building codes because if they fail, there will be fewer firefighters to deal with them.
A similar argument can be made about COVID-19 with regard to preventing viral transmission by increasing testing capacity through training more skilled technicians.
Diverting training resources from front-line health care to testing capacity may produce a net benefit in risk reduction.
But if the testing fails, there is less of a “response safety net” to catch the risk.
Second, over time, dependency on the new normal will increase.
We have seen this in the race to digitize away risks by converting paper records to electronic ones.