Skip to comments.The Wuhan Virus Is Serious, But Shutting Down Isnít The Long-Term Answer
Posted on 03/25/2020 4:20:55 AM PDT by Kaslin
What to do about the U.S. economy in the wake of the Wuhan virus? The answer requires a mix of both short-term suppression and then long-term mitigation.
Lots of people didnt see the COVID-19 pandemic coming. Many prognosticators who didnt have since found their way into two camps. In the first camp, the occupants are in full panic mode. We should all shut everything down for the time-being, they say. In the second camp, the occupants are borderline dismissive of the Wuhan virus threat. Both sides are completely wrong.
The camp dismissive of the virus is dead wrong. Many do this to argue a never-ending shutdown is wrongheaded which is right but in getting there, they make stupid arguments about how few Americans have it, and its really just the flu.
They forget the law of exponential growth. Because the Wuhan coronavirus spreads so easily, even if contained, the virus is expected to eventually infect at least half of all Americans. Today’s 35,000 infected easily becomes a huge chunk of the population unless people and governments move to limit human interaction.
Tons of people also have the virus, yet they dont have symptoms severe enough to get a test. The official numbers measure only those who have officially been tested, and China’s official numbers are completely wrong.
Were also finding that the virus out of communist China can be really nasty, even for otherwise-healthy young people. Common cases in young people are presenting with an initial fever and aches, followed by breathing problems, and severe headaches and body aches that persist after the virus is gone. There is even evidence the virus can have long-term effects, including on a persons fertility and lung capacity.
But we cant kill the economy because of the virus. Many on Wall Street are now forecasting depressionary gross domestic product prints. Goldman Sachs says Q2, which hasnt even started, will see a GDP contraction of 24 percent the biggest ever quarterly GDP drop on record. Already, masses of Americans who work in industries requiring face-to-face human contact are suffering layoffs. Economists are forecasting an unprecedented spike in jobless claims as a result, which is just not acceptable either. There is another way.
Going forward, policymakers face a tough choice between what Hedgeye demographer Neil Howe calls suppression versus mitigation. Mitigation is where we go about our normal lives, while trying to segment the at-risk population. This strategy allows for quicker herd immunity, if immunity is even possible, but it overloads the health system, and more people die. That is unacceptable.
Suppression opts for a lockdown to avoid overloading the health-care system and minimize deaths. Suppression only works, however, if it buys time to do something say, develop a vaccine or an antiviral. But a vaccine or antiviral wont be ready any time soon, unfortunately. Because of this, long-term suppression just kicks the can down the road, prolonging the shutdown and delaying the pain, even as it does untold damage to the economy. This is also not a viable long-term strategy.
What to do? The answer requires a mix of both: short-term suppression, then long-term mitigation. Again, suppression only makes sense as a means to gain time and supplies.
We need a national strategy wherein the federal government, along with state and local governments, develops a specific plan to stock up on supplies during a pre-set period of suppression. Here, we should allow hospitals to build supplies of masks and ventilators. We should also set up programs to deliver food and supplies to at-risk people, assisting them so they can work and function from their homes in near-isolation for some time.
After this pre-set period, which could last even another month, we should transition toward mitigation. This doesnt mean everything returns to normal, but it means most Americans begin transitioning back into everyday life. The alternative is another depression and no resolution to the Wuhan virus to boot.
Is this a silver bullet? Not at all. Many prognosticators, even on the right, unfortunately, dont understand the economic problems America was facing pre-virus.
Global growth was slowing in 2015 before communist China introduced a massive stimulus that caused a resurgence in global economic indicators. That lasted only for a time, and global growth was again slowing since late 2017. People blamed this on the trade war, but the trade war, which didnt start until at least 2018, was only a small part of that story.
In America, our growth was strong but began slowing in the back half of 2018. There were problems in the American economy a simple tax cut couldnt fix. The Federal Reserve responded to a debt-fueled bust in 2008 by incentivizing even more debt. Where the big debt buildup was households and mortgages, it is now in corporate credit. Going into this year, American corporate debt to GDP is the highest in U.S. history.
This explains why stocks have fallen so hard and so fast. Its just the business cycle, albeit with a Wuhan-virus-sized elephant in the room. Debt is like financial kerosene. It increases the risk of a shock if the economy slows even a little. It also decreases the margin for error when unforeseen events like the coronavirus occur. This is why its an ominous signal for Americas long-term economic health that the Fed is looking to buy U.S. company debt. It hasnt worked in Europe, so why would we double down on an already failed policy?
But America can still choose between an orderly end to the business cycle and the necessary deleveraging that comes with it, or an outright depression. We can have at least a few quarters of somewhat sluggish growth, or unheard-of job-losses and a slide toward socialism. Yes, continue suppression for another couple weeks. But use this time to prepare for a shift to mitigation, meaning the resumption of normalcy for most Americans. We simply cant go on living like this forever.
Where was the great toilet paper escape on this one?
People in densely-populated Singapore and Hong Kong (were talking NYC-dense here), where white collar workers are squashed into tiny cubicles, are managing to go back to work without significant new infections. The secret is face masks. Given the toll imposed by infections, whether in terms of suffering or potential death, Id say it makes sense to charge anyone not wearing a mask with aggravated assault. Minimum 6 months in prison and a felony record. After a few highly-publicized convictions, combined with the medias klieg lights on the scofflaws, everyone will wear a mask.
We can’t even arrest people for robbery in NYC. Face masks...
Because the Wuhan coronavirus spreads so easily, even if contained, the virus is expected to eventually infect at least half of all Americans.
The Spanish Flu of 1918 infected roughly one quarter of the population of this country. The Swine Flu infected about seven percent back in 2009. There are no credible reports that 750 million Chinese have been affected by Covid-19.
Not since the Black Death in the Middle Ages has a pandemic infected the kind of percentage this article suggests. These estimates are wildly exaggerated.
The Democrat goal is to destroy the capitalist economy and rebuild to a brutal socialist state.
From the Federalist, a different view.
Someone please explain to me how shutting down will, in the long term, save lives and prevent people from eventually getting the virus.
Seems to me it will only greatly prolong the disastrous effects, thus inflicting far more damage on the economy and lives in the long run......
Seems to me let it run its course, and it will be gone soon. Devastating effects, yes. But less than the path we are taking.......IMHO.....
But then, what do I know?
I don’t think anyone thought it was the long term answer nor does anyone think this will go on forever.
“Someone please explain to me how shutting down will, in the long term, save lives”
By spreading out serious infections and preventing more cases at one time than there are hospital beds.
“and prevent people from eventually getting the virus.”
The lower we make R0, the fewer people ever get the virus: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3506030/
We don’t yet know if survivors have immunity. There are many reports of re infection from inside China and Hong Kong, and that the second time around it’s worse. If true, that completely discredits the “herd immunity” strategy. We need a vaccine.
This disease is 2 - 3 times as infectious as the flu, and at least 40 million people get the flu every year despite mass vaccination (and theres no vaccine for the China virus). Do the math.
From what I read, it sounds like South Korea did not shut down businesses. They tracked where COVID-19 patients traveled. If they went to a store, the store was closed for cleaning for a few days and reopened. And they’ve been the most successful in the world at containing the virus.
That is not true. All the articles I read said the re-infection idea is just a rumor. Any appearance of that was simply caused by faulty testing or releasing a patient before they were fully cured. This is a virus so your body will have immunity if you survive and clear the infection.
It is definitely true that like a lot of illnesses, symptoms may fade away and come back stronger later. But this is not a re-infection.
It’s a big country. We have the space to make more beds. South Korea converted corporate dormitories into facilities to house the less sick, non-critical patients. This also served as a quarantine to keep them out of the public. The strategy worked. They needed a little time to ramp things up and get things read like any country would. But the idea that we need long-term stay-at-home orders, shutdowns and lockdowns is absolutely absurd. Any government who says that is simply a government that is not doing their job. It would be like the garbageman saying we don’t have the capacity to store your garbage, so you have to keep at home this year.
Well, I have 3 sons with higher math degrees that would understand this, but I sure don’t.
The virus will never disappear, but will always be with us lurking somewhere, so it is inevitable that most of those who are susceptible to getting it eventually get it.......
Like I just said......
So, then if patients are released too early and are still infectious, we don’t know all the parameters. How long must individuals be quarantined after their symptoms are gone to prevent this? Two weeks post-recovery? That means we should be arguing for a national 6-week quarantine for everyone.
“the idea that we need long-term stay-at-home orders, shutdowns and lockdowns is absolutely absurd.”
Agreed - we need an exit strategy.
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