I have kept public health and economics separate, but they no longer are. Shutting down the economy is a public health measure. The costs of this measure are astronomical — at least a trillion dollars per month. __ John H. Cochrane
We are in the middle of a mass hysteria that is media-driven and at least partially politically motivated. It is already having a devastating impact on financial markets, and threatens to devastate the greater part of the economy. Most of the proposed government actions meant to mitigate harm from the Wuhan Coronavirus will in fact prolong and worsen such harm.
[Editor’s Note: The Medium.com website removed the original version of the Aaron Ginn article linked just above. We are now linking to the ZeroHedge re-posting of the article.]
The Re-Opening Plan
It is delusional to believe that an economy can be “turned off” then “turned back on” like a light bulb.
The option to force everyone to stay home and close all “non-essential” business for three or six months is simply not viable, at least for a disease something short of the bubonic plague. The option to wait two or three weeks and then start thinking about what it takes to allow, say, the local dry cleaner to reopen, which will take another month or so, is simply not viable.
Take two weeks. Find out who has it and who doesn’t. Test test test. Isolate, put out the embers. And reopen. Slowly, cautiously, partly. But reopen.
Shutting everything down and staying home for a few weeks is a [demolition] sledgehammer. OK, our leaders have to hit a virus with a sledgehammer when they have nothing else up their sleeve. But it cannot last. Businesses will close, people will lose jobs, the economy will not be there to start up again.
Needed fast: a plan to open up the economy again in a virus-safe way. Every business should be (and likely is) working hard to figure out how to operate in a virus-safe way. Federal state and local government need to be working 24 hours a day during the next few weeks to promulgate virus-safe practices. Not because they are particularly good at it, but because they are the ones shutting things down, and their permission is needed to reopen, fully or partly. People also will want the confidence to know that businesses they patronize are compliant. You’ve got two weeks — figure out what combination of personal distancing, self-isolation, testing, cleaning, etc. will allow each kind of business to reopen, at least partially. __ Grumpy Economist
Despite what we are told by those who consider themselves our overlords and masters, the world will not come to an end if places of business re-open, and people go back to work — as long as they are trained and prepared to severely restrict the chances of viral spread.
Time to Get Real On Coronavirus
- The Virus Does Not Spread as Easily As We Feared
- Summer Temperatures Likely to “Burn Off” the Virus
- Children and Teens Are Not at High Risk
- Symptoms Show Up Earlier than Thought Previously
- Asymptomatic Spread is Vanishingly Rare
- 93% Who Think They are Positive, Are Not
- 1% of US Cases Will be Severe
- US Fatality Rates Will Decline
- Closing Down Society is Idiotic
- Politicians are Over-Precautioning Countries to Death
COVID-19 doesn’t spread as easily as we first thought or the media had us believe (remember people abandoned their dogs out of fear of getting infected). According to their report if you come in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 you have a 1–5% chance of catching it as well. The variability is large because the infection is based on the type of contact and how long.
The majority of viral infections come from prolonged exposures in confined spaces with other infected individuals. Person-to-person and surface contact is by far the most common cause. From the WHO report, “When a cluster of several infected people occurred in China, it was most often (78–85%) caused by an infection within the family by droplets and other carriers of infection in close contact with an infected person.
Due to COVID-19’s sensitivity to UV light and heat (just like the normal influenza virus), it is very likely that it will “burn off” as humidity increases and temperatures rise.
… The University of Maryland mapped severe COVID-19 outbreaks with local weather patterns around the world, from the US to China. They found that the virus thrives in a certain temperature and humidity channel. “The researchers found that all cities experiencing significant outbreaks of COVID-19 have very similar winter climates with an average temperature of 41 to 52 degrees Fahrenheit, an average humidity level of 47% to 79% with a narrow east-west distribution along the same 30–50 N” latitude”, said the University of Maryland.
It’s already well established that the young aren’t particularly vulnerable. In fact, there isn’t a single death reported below the age of 10 in the world and most children who test positive don’t show symptoms. As well, infection rates are lower for individuals below the age of 19, which is similar to SARS and MERS (COVID-19’s sister viruses).
According to the WHO’s COVID-19 mission in China, only 8.1% of cases were 20-somethings, 1.2% were teens, and 0.9% were 9 or younger. As of the study date February 20th, 78% of the cases reported were ages 30 to 69. The WHO hypothesizes this is for a biological reason and isn’t related to lifestyle or exposure.
… About 8% of cases were in people in their 20s. Those 10 to 19 years old accounted for 1% of cases and those under 10 also accounted for only 1%.
The majority of cases see symptoms within a few days, not two weeks as originally believed.
On true asymptomatic spread, the data is still unclear but increasingly unlikely. Two studies point to a low infection rate from pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. One study said 10% of infections come from people who don’t show symptoms yet. Another WHO study reported 1.2% of confirmed cases were truly asymptomatic. Several studies confirming asymptotic spread have ended up disproven. It is important to note there is a difference between “never showing symptoms” and “pre-symptomatic” and the media is promoting an unproven narrative. Almost all people end up in the latter camp within five days, almost never the former. It is very unlikely for individuals with COVID-19 to never show symptoms. WHO and CDC claim that asymptomatic spread isn’t a concern and quite rare.
… “We still believe, looking at the data, that the force of infection here, the major driver, is people who are symptomatic, unwell, and transmitting to others along the human-to-human route,” Dr. Mike Ryan of WHO Emergencies Program.
Iceland is leading the globe in testing its entire population of ~300,000 for asymptomatic spread, not just those that show symptoms. They randomly tested 1,800 citizens who don’t show symptoms and, as far as they knew, were not exposed to positive individuals. Of this sample, only 19 tested positive for COVID-19, or 1.1% of the sample.
Looking at the success in S. Korea and Singapore, the important tool in our war chest is measurement. If we are concerned about the general non-infected population, what is the probability those who show symptoms actually test positive? What is the chance that the cough from your neighbor is COVID-19? This “conversion rate” will show whether or not you have a cold (another coronavirus) or are heading into isolation for two weeks. Global data shows that ~95% of people who are tested aren’t positive. The positivity rate varies by country.
As of mid-March, the US has a significantly lower case severity rate than other countries. Our current severe caseload is similar to South Korea. This data has been spotty in the past; however, lower severity is reflected in the US COVID-19 fatality rates .
Early reports from CDC, suggest that 12% of COVID-19 cases need some form of hospitalization, which is lower than the projected severity rate of 20%, with 80% being mild cases.
Higher fatality rates in China, Iran, and Italy are more likely associated with a sudden shock to the healthcare system unable to address demands and doesn’t accurately reflect viral fatality rates. As COVID-19 spread throughout China, the fatality rate drastically fell outside of Hubei. This was attributed to the outbreak slowing spreading to several provinces with low infection rates.
… “The one situation where an entire, closed population was tested was the Diamond Princess cruise ship and its quarantine passengers. The case fatality rate there was 1.0%, but this was a largely elderly population, in which the death rate from Covid-19 is much higher.
Based on transmission evidence children are more likely to catch COVID-19 in the home than at school. As well, they are more likely to expose older vulnerable adults as multi-generational homes are more common. As well, the school provides a single point of testing a large population for a possible infection in the home to prevent community spread.
… With such little evidence of prolific community spread and our guiding healthcare institutions reporting the same results, shuttering the local economy is a distraction and arbitrary with limited accretive gain outside of greatly annoying millions and bankrupting hundreds of businesses. The data is overwhelming at this point that community-based spread and airborne transmission is not a threat. We don’t have significant examples of spreading through restaurants or gyms. When you consider the environment COVID-19 prefers, isolating every family in their home is a perfect situation for infection and transmission among other family members. Evidence from South Korea and Singapore shows that it is completely possible and preferred to continue on with life while making accommodations that are data-driven, such as social distancing and regular temperature checks.
Local governments and politicians are inflicting massive harm and disruption with little evidence to support their draconian edicts. Every local government is in a mimetic race to one-up each other in authoritarian city ordinances to show us who has more “abundance of caution”. Politicians are competing, not on more evidence or more COVID-19 cures but more caution. As unemployment rises and families feel unbearably burdened already, they feel pressure to “fix” the situation they created with even more radical and “creative” policy solutions. This only creates more problems and an even larger snowball effect.
We Cannot Afford this Wallowing in Doom
We will see that the “shut it down” approach being taken by politicians — who are egged on by the media — is exactly the wrong approach, if they want to have a functioning society on the other side of the abyss.
The media are at the forefront of stirring up apocalyptic dread over Covid-19. In Europe, there is also a performative apocalypticism in some of the more extreme clampdowns on everyday life and social engagement by the political authorities, in particular in Italy, Spain and France. Many governments seem to be driven less by a reasoned, evidence-fuelled strategy of limiting both the spread of the disease and the disorganisation of economic life, than by an urge to be seen to be taking action. They seem motivated more by an instinct to perform the role of worriers about apocalypse, for the benefit of the dread-ridden cultural elites, rather than by the responsibility to behave as true moral leaders who might galvanise the public in a collective mission against illness and a concerted effort to protect economic life.
A key problem with this performative apocalypticism is that it fails to think through the consequences of its actions. So obsessed are today’s fashionable doom-predictors with offsetting what they see as the horrendous consequences of human behaviour – whether it’s our polluting activities or our wrong-headed voting habits – that they fail to factor in the consequences of their own agenda of fear.
… Hundreds of thousands of people in Italy and Ireland have lost their jobs already, in the night-time, hotel and entertainment sectors in particular. That is a social and health cost, too: job loss can lead to the loss of one’s home, the breakdown of one’s marriage, and to a palpable and destructive feeling of social expediency. As to keeping elderly people indoors for months on end, as is now being proposed in the UK, it is perfectly legitimate to ask whether this poses an even greater threat to our older citizens’ sense of personal and social wellbeing than their taking their chances with a disease that is not a death sentence for older people (though it impacts on them harder than it does on the young).
The point is, there is such a thing as doing too little and also such a thing as doing too much. __ Apocalypse is a Luxury
A careful and measured re-opening of businesses, schools, and meeting places should begin taking place as soon as the people involved can be trained in effective virus detection and virus control/disinfection methods. This training — along with social distancing of those most at risk — is where the primary efforts of most government agencies (outside of the CDC and NIH) involved in fighting the novel coronavirus, should go.
Vital Supplies Could be Scaled Up if Gov. Red Tape Slashed
N95 Respirator Masks filter at least 95% of airborne particles measuring 0.3 microns. Many manufacturers of respirators would like to help out. But current government regulations leave manufacturers wide open to lawsuits. This is one of many places where government action could smooth the way for private industry to help solve an important shortage.
Another area with similar bottlenecks is in the FDA drug approval process, and in the shockingly slow approval process for viral testing.
Government bureaucracy has its uses, but it can also be a millstone around society’s neck.