COVID-19 Index
By Richard Bruce BA, MA, and PhC in Economics

Turn the Curve Down

Many people want to give up on the containment of COVID-19 and let it sweep through society. They believe this will allow us to open up and get back to work and normal. Some of these people are willing to concede that we should not overwhelm the medical system, but think we should loosen the lock down as long as the medical system is not overwhelmed.

They believe this is like a the seasonal flu, or maybe a bad flu. That is not the case. An average flu kills one out of a thousand who are infected, and one in five are infected. So one out of five thousand people die. For America that is about 60 thousand. Because this is new fifty percent, probably more, will be infected and a normal estimate of the death rate is two percent. So we will probably lose one percent of the population, for the USA that is about three million. This is like fifty years of the flu concentrated into one, and that assumes that we slow it down enough so that it does not overwhelm the medical system.

We have lost close to a hundred thousand people already, but the above suggests we will lose thirty times that if the disease is simply contained at a level that does not overwhelm the medical system. We have been shut down for two months. Two months times thirty suggests that we will have to maintain the shut down for sixty months or five years.

Thankfully there are a hundred candidate vaccines that we are working on and we hope to have one in a year, but my point is that simply flattening the curve enough so that we do not overwhelm the medical system means we will lose millions and have to wreck the economy for a year and most experts say more.

It should also be noted that simply allowing the economy to open up does not mean that it will return to anything close to normal. The public is likely to avoid resturants, bars and many other crowded businesses. If we simply flatten the curve this will last a very long time.

Many Countries are Turning the Curve Down

There is a better alternative. Instead of just flattening the curve we can turn the curve down. Many counties have done this, in a few weeks they have radically reduced the number of new cases and deaths.

You can check the numbers for yourself on World O Meter corona virus. South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand have all had great success. As of May 24th the USA had 300 deaths per million population, Japan had 6, South Korea 5, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore each had 4, and Taiwan incredibly had .3 deaths per million. Taiwan has done a thousand times better than we have. You can also observe that there have been massive reductions in the daily new cases and deaths in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.

Furthermore several states have seen massive reductions in the spread of COVID-19. These include New York State, New Jersey, and Illinois. You can check the state numbers on World O Meter, just click on USA which is at the top of the list for total infections.

There are many who argue that it can not be done, but note that they are not actually providing numbers or linking to sites with numbers. Their arguments simply consist of words without facts.

If each person who is infected on average infects less than one other person the prevalence of the virus will decline and if this goes on long enough it will disappear all together. The key is to have a reproductive rate of less than one, and if you want to get rid of the virus quickly much less than one. Country after country, state after state, have proved beyond doubt that r can be forced below one.

As the virus is reduced to a very low level people will begin to take risks and there can and will be increases in the spread of the virus. But as the countries and states have dealt with far higher levels of infection they will have a huge testing regime that can quickly contain these out breaks. This is what we see in the numbers, there are little bumps but they are quickly reversed.

This is probably how the human race will deal with COVID-19. Both politicians and people will drag their heals and say it is impossible, but as more and more countries and states succeed they will fall in line. All this foot dragging will make COVID-19 much more deadly, and greatly increase the economic cost but the result will be the same.

I suspect that when people look at the huge differences between how one country has done vs another there will be political consequence for those who dragged their feet. As Bob Dylan said in his song, "The Times They Are a-Changin," "For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled."


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