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Help me understand why people keep insisting there are only two options: either total lockdown or full on freeeeedom. Is there nothing in the middle? Is it so impossible to conceive?

Whatever you do, you have to keep R0 below 1.
In some places (no mass transit, low density) that will be possible with relatively light measures.
Not in a place like NYC, though. In the denser places of the US, masks will be critical. And they’re often not being required, even while particularly dangerous venues such as in-door restaurants and churches reopen.

The problem for the US is that it has failed to crush down the case numbers to a manageable (contact traceable) level. It’s much easier to keep R0 below 1 once contact tracing has a large impact on spread.
But contact tracing is only effective at a low level of disease incidence, not if you have tens of thousands of new infections every day.

The failure of the US to take the necessary actions to crush the curve and build a national contact tracing infrastructure means that going forward, it will have to be much more restrictive to keep R0 below 1.
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