Sunday, April 05, 2020

Weekend wrap-up

Since about mid-February, I've had then next 10 days circled on my calendar.  April 5 to April 15 should be the worst of this season's COVID19 outbreak in the Northeast. 

The death tolls will be staggering and are likely under-reported by a factor of 2-3x.  It has stunned me to watch leaders in our country act "surprised" by the timing and spread of this disease because its progression has been very easy to chart if you've watched the way it spread around the world. 

So, a week from now I expect New York State will have turned the corner and many of our surrounding states will also be trending in the right direction because we will have curtailed the spread of the virus through our lock downs and isolation efforts.

Unfortunately, large sections of the country did not react with the same speed and thus, the virus is likely to continue to rage in these parts of the country through the end of April.  On May 1st, we will have a difficult choice to make as a nation.  Open up for business and risk a major resurgence of the disease in June or continue with the lock down status for another 3-4 weeks when huge population centers on the East and West coasts are already on the mend.

This is not an easy choice but I suspect we will open back up for business on 5/1 with qualifiers - social distancing will still remain in effect (so no concerts/sports) - and the result will probably be some form of resurgence of the crisis in June.

Unfortunately, I'm equally worried about the ugly, American capitalist showing up early to start celebrating this week as the deadliest week of the outbreak takes hold in the US.

To that end, stocks are already up again tonight (+2% or so) as people want to get optimistic about the turnaround before the worst of the crisis arrives.
Stat of the weekend: In the past 10 years the US added 22.8 million jobs (we can debated the validity of that number another time) but initial claims in the last 2 weeks have wiped out 47% of those job gains.

Something to watch out for - when the economy reopens many retailers, hotels, restaurants will hire people right back.  This will lead to some staggeringly strong jobs numbers.  Don't let any politician try to take credit for the "greatest jobs creation in history" when this happens. 
via @birdyword

A description of what real contact tracing looks like in Hong Kong and how it compares to our response.....

"A friend caught covid-19, so I was put in a HK (Hong Kong) quarantine camp for close contacts 'til it'd been 14 days since I'd seen them. Been out a little while now, never had symptoms of any sort."

Now this isn't a realistic option in the US, but think about that response - every person who came in contact with a known carrier was removed from society and placed in quarantine in a facility (probably an empty hotel or college dorm).  It gives a little perspective on just how dramatically different government responses to this crisis have been.
If you're interested this game plan in the New England Journal of Medicine for defeating COVID19 by the first week of June echoes many of the points I've made in recent weeks.

1) Form a national, unified command
2) Make millions of tests available
3) Supply hospitals with proper equipment
4) Separate risk groups and treat accordingly
5) Mobilize the public
6) Learn through real-time, fundamental research

All solid advice, I hope someone listens.


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