Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Social Distancing Day 3

COVID-19 is sweeping the world and China and Italy have already been overwhelmed by the massive number of individuals requiring hospitalizations.  After being dismissive of these countries' draconian measures to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, individual states and institutions began to take notice.

The NBA and NHL canceled games.  Universities began to cancel the remainder of the school year.  County school districts then set up remote learning to minimize children's interactions with their peers.  Churches began to cancel services.

The Federal government then took the strange step of banning travel from Europe (excluding the UK and Ireland) forcing Americans to pack quickly into plans over a 24 hour period and wait for massive amounts of time in close contact at international airports while inadequate numbers of inadequately trained border patrol attempted to screen patients for symptoms.

In Colorado, my employer instituted social distancing in the work place starting March 16.  This was a few days behind peer organizations.  Governor Polis then announced that all casinos, gyms and theaters would be closed to the public for 30 days and restaurants and bars could no longer provide public seating for 30 days.

It is very difficult to determine the effectiveness of these measures as the United States does not have adequate numbers of test kits or public health infrastructure to monitor an epidemic.  Historically, COVID-19 will play out with X number of individuals being infected, a percentage of that number requiring hospitalization and a percentage of those dying.  However the rate at which X is realized can be manipulated.

Before the chicken pox vaccine, people would have pox parties so that all the kids in the community could "get it over with."  However chicken pox is not life threatening.  It is itchy and miserable.  Additionally, chicken pox as an adult can have more dire health consequences.

Due to the percentage of infected individuals that may require hospitalization, public health officials are striving to spread the pain over months rather than weeks.  The economic impact will be greater, but the number of deaths due to inadequate ventilators will be lower as more of those who require hospitalization can get the care they need.

The media is touting this as the biggest disruption to American lives since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, September 11, 2001 when 2,977 victims were realized and more than 6000 others injured.  People were afraid to fly and the world stepped up airline travel security.  18 years later, 4,432 guns were seized in US airports in 2019.

The response to COVID-19 is in a similar vain that people are afraid to travel (or in some cases leave their homes) and the world is stepping up its public health measures.  Global production has declined and private institutions are reducing investment which is driving down the economy.

Food and medical supplies have yet to be disrupted.  However, as an interconnected global economy with increasing numbers of workers in that supply chain being potentially infected and under mandatory or self directed quarantine, food exporters will see waste and food importers will see shortfalls.

No comments: