Its March 24th and we now have over 50,000 cases of Covid-19 in this country. We have had almost 700 people die and more than 100 are dying each day now. Many experts believe that we still at the very beginning of the worst of this crisis and that things will get worse before they get better. It is still too early to know if the restrictions and calls for social distancing are going to flatten the curve. These are difficult times.
On Fox news last night Dan Patrick, the Lt. Governor of Texas suggested seniors may be willing to “take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping America that America we love for thier children and grandchildren”. Later the President tweeted that we need to make sure that the cure isn’t worse than the problem. In an interview he indicated that he wanted to get the country working again by Easter Sunday. He made the comment that “we lose thousands of people a year to the flu, we never turn the country off”. He went on to say, “We lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We didn’t call up the automobile companies and say, ‘stop making cars, we don’t want any cars anymore.’ We have to get back to work.”
Upon reflecting on these comments, I think both are making a good point here. I mean we can’t let the stock market go into free fall. If we do, how are the rich hedge fund managers going to be able to afford their vacation homes. I mean really, it’s just the flu. So, what if a few old people die. Well, there are also the diabetics who will also die. People with COPD or high blood pressure are also going to have to lean in and take one for the team here.
You have to look at the bright side of this. When we are all done with this and the virus runs its course just think about how much better things will be. With fewer old people our Medicare and Social Security trust funds will be in much better shape. Getting rid of some people with things like High Blood pressure, diabetes and COPD will reduce our health care costs in this country. I mean we know that 5% of the population spends 50% of all the health care dollars. So, getting rid of a few of them will make things better for the rest of us. Plus, once this virus has done its job our work force will be reduced which will reduce the unemployment rate. Heck, this may be the best thing that ever happened to this country. Well, as long as you survive it.
Ok, I can only be sarcastic for so long and I’ve reached my limit. Time to break out my soap box and climb firmly upon it. To Dan Patrick and President Trump I say this with all due respect, which is not much. “Are you both out of your freaking mind?” “Seriously, have you fallen and taken a serious blow to the head.” Unfortunately, I think the answer to the first question is yes and the second is no.
Ok, let’s get serious and look at what the experts say could happen if we are two quick to remove the restrictions on our country and economy right now. Now these experts are people who have devoted their lives to epidemiology, population health and infectious diseases. These experts universally think that “getting back to work” too early is a terrible idea.
So, here are the numbers if we can’t control this thing. This is a new virus so there is a lot we don’t know. Experts and modeling suggest that without restrictions and social distancing somewhere between 25% and 80% of the population could get infected. We know that on average 20% of those infected require hospitalizations. We know that the fatality rate is as high as 7% in Italy and 2.3% in China. So, what do things look like if only 40% of the US gets infected. If that happens it means that 132 million people would become infected and over 26 million of them would need a hospital bed. If we assume a fatality rate of only 2% that would mean 2.6 million people would die. To put that into perspective there were 38,000 fatalities last year from auto accidents. Another way to look at this is 2.6 million American fatalities are about twice as many deaths as the total casualty count in every war American has ever fought since the revolutionary war.
So, my comment to the President is this. Grow up! Listen to your experts and start leading this country. Your comments are not helpful, and they are dangerous. If you can’t do that then get out of the way and let some adults take over in your place.
Right now, I’m sure there are some people who think that I am just a bleeding-heart liberal using this situation to throw stones at a Republican. Fake news right! Actually, I have voted Republican more than anything else. This is not a political rant. My problem is not the President’s party but rather his comments and actions. While I am on my soap box and we are talking politics, I think Senator Schumer and the Democrats in the Senate should be ashamed of themselves for trying to add their progressive agenda to the stimulus bill. Shame on you. Shame on you Senator McConnell too for thinking it was a good idea to float $500 billion dollars to businesses without enough control or oversight on what they have to do with it. Stock buy backs and executive compensation should not be allowed. A plague on both of your houses.
Look, I’m an economist. The economic damage that will be caused by closing the country for weeks or months is staggering to me. It keeps me up at night. I don’t want to see people lose their jobs or houses. My problem is that I don’t think killing over 2 million American’s in order to keep the economy going and the stock market alive is a good trade off.
It’s time for serious people to make serious plans on how we fight this virus. We know that no matter what we do people will die and the economy will take a serious hit. It’s time to do what is right and best based on facts, data and experts and stop making truly idiotic and dangerous statements.
There, I will get off my soap box now. Thank you for listening.
Be safe and be well.
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