Brace Yourselves: The US Is Setting Up a Ghastly “Natural Experiment”

Yves here. Since this post launched, Virginia had declared a state-wide lockdown till June 10 (although it could be lifted earlier). By contrast, in Alabama, the governor  last Friday only closed all non-essential businesses through April 17.  But the key bit is look how quickly things appear set to get ugly in the US.

By NewDealDemocrat. Originally published at Angry Bear

When I began my “Coronavirus Dashboard,” I was hopeful that it would document the slow progress towards turning a bad situation around, and the ultimate tamping down of the pandemic. Surely increasingly intense and overwhelming public pressure would force a critical mass of government officials to do what was necessary?

Now I am not so sure. The number of cases continue to climb at a double-digit exponential rate, if a less aggressive one than earlier in March. But even more infuriating is that the President of the United States is all but advocating for letting the virus run free come Easter Sunday. This has had a marked effect. The march to universal Statewide lockdowns has almost screeched to a halt. Most importantly, GOP governors in the Confederacy and in the High Plains, plus Arizona, have completely put the brakes on any statewide “stay in place” orders.

And even in those States which have taken relatively aggressive efforts at containment, the level of testing, let alone isolation and quarantine of identified cases, is running far below what is necessary. In fact it looks like it is falling further and further behind.

In short, I suspect that my dashboard is instead going to document the catastrophe of a deadly pandemic allowed to get completely out of control.

Earlier this month I documented, almost daily, how the pandemic was spreading at an average 34.6% daily. Last Monday, I projected that rate forward another 15 days, meaning that by April 5 there would be 2,500,000 cases. Here’s what the actual growth looks like so far compared with that projection:

Date. Projection Actual
Mar 22: 36,001 35,224
Mar 23: 48,458. 46,450
Mar 24: 65,224. 55,225
Mar 25: 87,792. 69,197
Mar 26: 118,168. 86,012
Mar 27: 159,054. 104,837
Mar 28: 214,087. 124,686

The actual rate of increase is approximately 24% for each of the last 7 days. On a “less worse” note, the rate is only 22% over the last 5 days. Even more alarming, here are the dates in which the number of cases expanded by 10:

Mar 2 100
Mar 10 1,000
Mar 19 10,000
Mar 28 100,000

Every 8 or 9 days, the number of infections have risen 10-fold. Let’s project that forward:

Apr 6 1 million
Apr 15 10 million
Apr 22 100 million

At this rate, by the end of April, every man, woman, and child in the US would be infected. That won’t happen, if for no other reason than the virus will spread less efficiently once it mainly “spreads” to people who have already recovered and so will have developed antibody immunity to it.

And here is a graph from Kevin Drum, showing that at the rate deaths have been growing in March, by April 26 there will have been *1 million* US deaths from coronavirus:


To be blunt: so far “social distancing” has only slowed down the exponential rate of increase. While the effects of State and region-wide lockdowns aren’t yet apparent, the fact that testing isn’t keeping up means that we are far, far away from South Korea style monitoring. Another two or three weeks of this kind of exponential growth and the pandemic will simply be pervasive and out of control. Against that the only hope is that the advent of warmer weather in April might naturally damp down the spread, but don’t hold your breath for that.

Against that background, let me get to the second part of my essay: a ghastly “natural experiment” is being set up in three regions of the US.

Here is The NY Times’s most recent map, from Friday March 27, of States that are under total lockdowns plus States where there are only some municipal or regional lockdowns:


Since that time, Alaska, Kansas, and Rhode Island have also gone to statewide lockdown. Both Pennsylvania and Utah are under close to statewide lockdowns.

The US has 3 regions of coronavirus response:

1. Every State in the Mountain and Pacific West, plus Alaska and Hawaii, is under statewide or nearly statewide lockdown, with the exception of Wyoming and Arizona.

2. Every State in the old Union, except for Iowa, Maine, and Maryland, plus North Carolina, is under statewide lockdowns (and really wtf is up with Governor Northam of Virginia, who is a physician?!?)

3. No State in the old Confederacy run by a GOP governor, with the exception of Louisiana, or in the Great Plains west of the Mississippi, except for Kansas, is under a lockdown.

The “natural experiment” that is going to take place over the next few weeks is the rate of spread in the first two regions vs. the third region.

Most likely, over the next two weeks the rate of increase in – and possibly the actual number of – infections in the locked down regions will decrease, while number of infections in the region not locked down will likely continue to grow at an exponential rate, albeit perhaps at a slower one.

Brace yourselves. What has happened in March with regard to the effects of this pandemic is akin to only the first inning of a baseball game. This is almost certainly going to get a lot worse.
Posted by New Deal Democrat

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  1. Isotope_C14

    “Most importantly, GOP governors in the Confederacy and in the High Plains, plus Arizona, have completely put the brakes on any statewide “stay in place” orders.”

    One would almost think that the idea of “Never let a good crisis go to waste” is now the conventional wisdom of the mis-leadership class of corporate capitalism. It’s almost like they want to get rid of all those pesky social security sponges, after all, old people just take from the rich, and produce very little. On top of that, how would they pay for a vaccine?

    On a related note, my mother, who is a trump-derangement syndrome – heavy TV abuser, told me that all the commercials now are for cars. Young people buy cars. Young people don’t buy antacids and need 20x pills for every little ailment. Makes you wonder.

    1. California Bob

      Had to slug through a slew of new ‘socially conscious’ commercials last night to catch the latest episode of Better Call Saul. It seems every fast-food joint, auto manufacturer and, well, pretty much every business was announcing their new awareness and promising to treat customers with concern, care, dignity and cleanliness. IOW, they’re now advertising, at least, that they’re going to treat customers how they should have been treating them in non-crisis times. Gotta love American capitalism.

        1. Arizona Slim

          This just in from Tucson: Police chief announces no-party policy. Link:

          Policy is in response to this soiree, which took place near the Arizona Slim Ranch. Link:

          This particular house is in an area that has been Party Central for quite some time. Our neighborhood has struggled to deal with it. Glad to see that the city is finally cracking down.

      1. Billy

        Bob, I believe that many of the ads you see are sponsored by the Ad Council, and are classified as “non profit” carrying some kind of tax break for the advertising agencies that sponsor it, as well as the media that run it, which offset the very real profits elsewhere.

        It’s Orwelliam pro-war, social control, excusing corporate pillaging for ‘social responsibility’ at its highest art form. For example, the tear-shedding Indian; no mention of corporate polluters, but laying guilt by implication on ‘litterbugs’.

        My solution to help America recover? Take away the tax deductibility of adverting from corporate taxable income.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      But this seems to be a little more “culture-determined”. The governors in the lockdown or semi-lockdown states are lockdowning for the old as well as the young. So there doesn’t appear to be an immediate effort to foster mass coronacide among the old in those states.

      And it appears that the states whose governors support ” mass meet and mingle” are majority conservative states. And their governors are imposing mass meet and mingle on citizens of all ages, not just the old, in their states. So it does look like it could be a natural “political epidemiology experiment”.

      People from the lockdown states should avoid travel to the meet and mingle states even after various bans are lifted. The militant Backwardite Stupidite states could be seething boiling cauldrons of coronavirus. People not from those states should shun and avoid anyone known to be from those states until their personal freedom-from-corona can be verified.

      1. anEnt

        You are an alarmist in an already grave situation, and worse yet, a badly informed one, and still worse, a bigoted one. By this time next year, nearly everyone will have had this virus. Almost no matter what the policy is. There will be no “freedom-from-corona.”

        The policy goals the closures seek are not prevention or eradication, but reducing the peak demand on hospitals and doctors and nurses to some hopefully manageable level, “flattening the curve” and preventing civil disorder. Anyone who tells you otherwise is divorced from reality.

        Another thing: your class is showing. You are able to stay at home. Even in lockdown states, people of lower classes must work, and are as best they can. Unless you farm or have a very large garden and have stores from last year’s harvest, your food is produced and delivered to you by people. If you like many shop at a grocer, then you touch surfaces like cash or credit card terminals touched by others. You should be grateful for delivery drivers’ and grocers’ service to you and tip them well rather than mentally erasing them to serve your sense of cultural superiority — or worse denigrating people for doing what they must to survive.

        Finally, Maryland and Virginia both have issued stay at home orders since this piece was written and having been out there is no difference in behavior apparent to me in how people are handling themselves. Businesses like grocers are still evolving their response and adjusting the signage and such in their stores to better indicate to people how to stay distant from one another while shopping and in line. Some of these measures are well intentioned theatrics with little prophylactic value, like hanging partial sheets of plexiglass with vast gaps for handing stuff to customers at the pharmacy. In short, we’re muddling through as best we can and no one was expecting the next Spanish Flu 100 years later, though it is with a great deal of luck that it was that long between pandemics.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I can tell you Alabama has LOTS of diabetes cases just from flying there regularly. Heavier per capita use of wheelchairs and I am certain a meaningful percentage are due to diabetes (which over time reduces sensation in the feet and impairs balance). Diabetes is a significant co-morbidity. I wonder if smoking is a culprit too, but I don’t see a lot of smokers here (which doesn’t mean they don’t exist, just I’m pretty much always in a “no smoking” setting).

  2. PlutoniumKun

    I think of all possible approaches to the virus, the worst possible is ‘lets have three or four completely different approaches on the same landmass’. And don’t forget the Canadians have taken a very different approach too.

    The initial evidence I’ve seen from European figures (UK and Ireland are a good comparison, as both are islands and both had similar initial roots of infection), is that early action works better than waiting for a lift-off in cases – so far, the curve in Ireland has been distinctly flatter than in the UK (Ireland shut schools and colleges much earlier). It seems to me that the US approach will mean a rolling series of localised potentially catastrophic peaks, which will go on for many months. And unless ‘herd immunity’ works, there is every chance that once past the worst of a peak, a region may well end up with getting hit more than once as the virus mutates and chases its ideal climate.

    The only thing that I think that can save the US from mass casualties is that the virus may not be able to take hold in low density car based suburbs, a sort of natural social distancing experiment that the US excels in. But at the very least, schools would have to be shut for months for this to ‘work’ as an approach.

      1. integer

        Thanks for that. Been a while since I watched a 3Blue1Brown video. IMO it is the best YouTube channel when it comes to explaining complicated math concepts.

  3. The Rev Kev

    Been trying to make sense of that map and all I can guess is that those States in the southern part of the continental United States are betting that as they transition into summer, the hot weather will put a lid on that virus. The northern cooler States do not have that option hence you would tend to see more lockdowns in those States. Of course the experience of countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, etc. should put paid to such a belief but that would mean that those Governors would have to depend on that sciency thingy.

    I can already see a blame game starting between the States, particularly with those fleeing New York and the Governor of Florida had plenty to say about them. He must have forgotten that Spring Break that he hosted not long ago but maybe he assumed that any sick people would simply fly back to their home States so would not be his problem. The only hope to avoid this blame game from getting entrenched is if those States not so badly effected by the virus sent publicized medical teams & equipment to some of those States that will be copping it worse. Otherwise this could get ugly this.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I hate to tell you, you are giving them more credit than they deserve.

      This is Trump country. They believed him when he said the disease was a nothingburger. Admittedly, where I am, Jefferson County, was pretty early to order the closure of non-essential businesses, but its biggest employer the University of Alabama-Birmingham, which has the best med school in the South, and the medical industry is the biggest industry here. However, last weekend was the first here that the churches weren’t giving services. And Governor Ivey, in announcing the closure of non-essential businesses last Friday (no shelter-in-place) said she wanted them back in business on the 17th. That was before Trump announced over the weekend that he wanted social distancing measures to continue for the full month.

      1. Wukchumni

        I’m firmly in the grips of Trump country, and noticed an interesting thing, in that while big coastal cities were experiencing shortages of TP, rice, canned food and any foodstuff that would last 6 months or a year, say 3 weeks ago, all of it was widely available here, because the far right put so much faith in his lies, and frankly I don’t think the evang proles here, could even discern the difference between truth and lies even if it was crystal clear, yes-they are that stupid and influenced by organized dogma.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          FWIW there has definitely been some stockpiling here. Toilet paper and pasta cleaned out early. Meats way thinner stocked than usual. Chicken parts, particularly chicken breasts, sold out. Butter cleaned out in at least one store. Pizzas way thinned out. Eggs in stock but only by virtue of rationing 2 a person. In one store, someone saw a woman have an item pulled out of her hands. But no where near as bad as coastal cities.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            rural texas…same.
            TP especially, but also bread, flour, flour tortilla mix, and on and on.
            heb has got a handle on things, but our little local grocer has not…not enough weight to throw around i assume. store manager is at wits end.

            1. flora

              Here’s a shoutout to local farmers selling to farmers markets and local stores; providing eggs, butter, milk, chicken, beef, and pork; later in the spring they’ll have spring veg like lettuce, kale, peas, green onion, cole, and radishes. Short supply lines are good. The ability to quickly shift production lines(butchering livestock sooner than usual, for example) to fill gaps in the food supply is good.

              Small farmers can’t replace the giant national suppliers but they are helping provide at the local level.

              1. Billy

                We did a farmer’s market in the S.F. Bay Area, plenty of produce, lots of salmon, as restaurants are closed, still some fripperies for sale, (orchids and various massage oils). Huge lines b/c distance between people. The merchants handle and load your food mostly, still some where people pick over stuff.
                This is the only place where we spent cash. Everything else we buy is on the formerly to us ignored credit cards.
                My thinking, charge every thing you buy on credit cards because once your cash is gone, you may not be able to replace it. Also, if things get *really* bad, the government will declare a moratorium on credit card interest, or better yet, all payments. [Cue momentary sounds of laughter from bankers before they go silent]

                1. Anthony G Stegman

                  It seems to me that loading up on debt is THE most rational thing frugal people can do. If you can’t beat ’em join ’em. The central bank is creating trillions of dollars out of thin air, and has lowered interest rates to zero (below zero coming soon), so it makes little sense to save. Once you have loaded up on debt don’t make much effort at all to pay it down. Eventually it will be forgiven.

                  1. drumlin woodchuckles

                    Wouldn’t it be interesting if debt were only eligible for forgiveness aBOVE a certain threshhold?

                    One imagines the authorities saying that “paying back a hundred thousand dollars is easy. ANYone can pay THAT back.
                    So we will only forgive debts aBOVE a hundred thousand dollars.”

          2. Wukchumni

            The situation has changed here in Visalia (which I won’t go anywhere near for the next few months), and no TP/eggs/limited breadstuffs, milk, meats & canned goods. The evangs all got religion all of the sudden, and realized why they ought to do something.

            1. The Rev Kev

              They should have listened to Putin. No, seriously. I caught a bit of him on the news tonight making a speech to his people and he was reminded them that God helps those that help themselves. That is not a bad way of putting it to people I thought.

              1. Buckeye

                Ahhh….the age-old propaganda for ducking responsibility! “God helps those…” blah, blah, blah.

                Also known from M*A*S*H as the “Frank Burns excuse”: If a patient dies,
                it’s “God’s will, or somebody else’s fault.”

                1. The Rev Kev

                  No, not at all. There was a famous American that once said a long time ago that “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

                    1. Billy

                      Stop looking backwards in culturally appropriated anger, look forward in personal apprehension, like when you are a citizen of the New American Parfaittocracy;
                      (99.9% sweat below a level of .1% cream), a newly graduated college student or member of the disappeared Middle Class, who will watch reruns of Leave It To Beaver the way we watched Charlton Heston part the Red Sea.

                    2. xkeyscored

                      (Replying to Billy above; no “Reply” button visible):

                      I only chose slaves as an example. What you say is almost equally true and valid.

                    3. Anon

                      The slaves worked harder than anyone else, with no remuneration. So the ascription was appropriate. Aphorisms aside. Defeating the pandemic is going to take luck, science, better distancing, and likely the contagion reaching Le Orange himself.

                  1. Amfortas the hippie

                    you remind me of a russian navy aphorism i read once, somewhere: trust in god, but row like hell for shore.
                    pretty sound advice…akin to the story after Katrina, wherein the christian on his roof turns away, in turn, a rowboat, a helicopter and a bass boat…”nope, i trust in god”. at the pearly gates, he asks Peter what happened.
                    peter says ” dumba$$$…i/we sent a rowboat, a helicopter and a bass boat…”

              2. xkeyscored

                re: Putin’s god speech (The Rev Kev)
                Except that, as quoted, it leaves open the question of whether we try to help ourselves collectively or individually, eg with guns.

                1. kgw

                  You don’t realize you are nothing without others? I suspect Mr. Putin knows that quite well.

                  1. xkeyscored

                    Absolutely. I was thinking of how some might interpret “God helps those that help themselves.”

          3. Heather

            Here in the Albuquerque area of NM we are much lower than usual on flour, can’t find any bread flour. Also no yeast or dry skim milk powder. Makes me wonder, is everyone staying home and baking bread???
            We gave up trying to go to Costco, the parking lot is a mess. And the governor has ordered a shut down, but you go into a store and there’s no social distancing at all, just everyone milling around. I’m 66 years old, so my oldest daughter is now doing all the shopping, though I used to do it all. I stay home, cook, and watch my grandson do his computer based school work, as all the schools are closed.

            1. The Historian

              You are so right. There isn’t much social distancing going on in my town – Boise. I had to go to Walmart to pick up my meds – my doctor changed one of my meds and the pharmacist wanted to make sure I knew the side effects so I couldn’t even send my children to pick them up even though they have insisted that I do so.

              While I was there I picked up a few things to extend my 3 mo stash and it was like driving through a maize to avoid people congregating in the aisles. Some people just aren’t getting it. I saw lots of people wearing masks and then moving into the 6 foot zone on other people thinking they were safe because, you know, masks. And this wasn’t just younger people – it was older people too. In Boise, we started out slow a couple of weeks ago but now the number of people testing positive has skyrocketed. Sigh! I guess I start the 14 day countdown all over again.

              I must admit that the store was pretty well stocked except for TP, paper towels, bleach and yes, baking goods.

              1. cwalsh

                Went to Wal-Mart for the Tuesday seniors hour. Amazed by all the people crowding at the entrance waiting for opening time. Lots of empty shelf space, but better that 2 weeks ago. Sandpoint ID

                1. Carolinian

                  I went to Walmart this morning (not senior hour) and it was a lot more crowded than same time the previous week. I normally don’t grocery shop that much at Walmart but they have self checkout. The shelves were also better stocked than the previous week but the paper goods section was completely empty.

                  At any rate if the stores are going to be crowded again I think I will start wearing an improvised mask of some sort. The WaPo says the govt is considering asking everyone to do this and that may be wise as it reduces virus spread from the asymptomatic.


                  1. Anon

                    Well, Senior Hour (7-8am) at my local grocer isn’t that much better than regular hours (other than the shelves are slightly better stocked). People handling fruit & veggies directly, 6′ separation violations, payment in cash, folks blocking aisles with carts. Fortunately the health dept. has limited occupation to 100 shoppers at one time. (Yes, they keep count and let shoppers in as another shopper leaves- – -quite the que.

                    I hear the store clerks are getting hazard pay. Good for them!

                  2. drumlin woodchuckles

                    Self-checkout? Lets hope there weren’t any Typhoid Mary corona spreaders covering the self-checkout zone with corona virus.

                    1. Carolinian

                      Or perhaps I’m the unwitting spreader and saved some poor Walmart employee exposure by using self checkout. Surely the much cursed checkout automation is the very definition of “social distancing” (and btw you can scan the item and place in the bag without touching the platten).

                      Perhaps Bezos’ store where you pre register your credit card and just walk out with the goods will also start to make a smidgen of sense.

                1. drumlin woodchuckles

                  Managers in stores where I live have started putting tape lines on the floor at 6 foot spacing to give people guidance on 6 foot distancing.

                2. Anthony G Stegman

                  The six feet spacing is somewhat arbitrary, and not based on science. Researches at MIT have found that a sneeze can send virus traveling nearly 30 feet.

        2. kareninca

          “frankly I don’t think the evang proles here, could even discern the difference between truth and lies even if it was crystal clear, yes-they are that stupid and influenced by organized dogma”

          Maybe those “stupid evangelical proles” had already stocked up? Since maybe they aren’t all so stupid?

          The Bible Church in my New England home town shut down well before my ultra-ultra liberal church in Silicon Valley.

          I really don’t like bigotry, whether it it is against a racial group or a religious group. I don’t understand why saying these sorts of things about Evangelical Christians is considered acceptable here. Orthodox Jews are behaving the same way, and if someone referred to them as “that stupid” here it would be considered ugly and inappropriate (and it would be).

          My ultra-ultra-liberal church contains people who are behaving just as stupidly as these “Evangelicals.” I also know atheists who are behaving just as stupidly. However, I am not going to describe them here and then say that they are stupid because they are ultra-ultra liberal, or because they are atheists. They are behaving stupidly because they are humans.

          I am just so tired of ugly bigotry and I am not going to add to it. But looking at the comments following the original post, it looks like I am the only one who cares.

          1. Historybuff

            Thank you for writing this. I’m not on here very often, but I was disturbed by the tone today. People need to take a step back and hear how they sound. Thank you again

          2. rd

            I know a devout evangelical in the mid-west whose church is doing virtual services over the web and he has everybody in his company working from home. Then there are these idiots:

            Churches are just one opportunity, like Spring Break, for people to do smart or stupid things. People in NYC have been congregating in places and one bar owner there was arrested for being open. The Ohio Republican governor is following in Kasich’s footsteps of trying to do the right thing, so it is not even a matter of being conservative vs progressive. People are just people.

      2. Susan the other

        Ah… social priorities – the real ones when you get right down to it: here in the Corona stricken county of Summit in northern Utah we have the following lockdowns (depending on how essential the thing is): A gathering of 10 people max is all that is allowed – that diplomatically stops all churches from holding session – whatever session that might be. No more congregations singing hymns with enthusiasm. But… the State Liquor Stores, run by the government agency of the State of Utah is allowed to be open still – just shorter hours. The reasons were a combination of: there aren’t enough people to staff the stores and/or the stores are crowded (beyond the 10-person in a close circle rule so we must monitor them with extra personnel). There has been no fine definition put to it. But clearly liquor stores are very close to “essential” businesses (and we are talking Utah here). Even though we no longer have international tourists (I’m convinced we got this from Sundance participants more than tourists but who knows?) – they’ve even forbidden people driving up from SLC for a day trip. I do hope the liquor store workers are safe – and the liquor store stays open. Churches, not so much.

  4. Kevin C. Smith

    Keep the churches open?
    No restrictions in time for Easter Sunday?
    God is not impressed, and neither am I.

    1. notabanktoadie

      It’s interesting how the virus is revealing inherent flaws in our institutions, churches included.

      For example, the New Testament church model is small, house churches much less dominated by clergy than now.

      Nor was church attendance mandatory* as it is in the RCC.

      Not to mention (in this comment) forced physical proximity via wage and rent slavery and people forced off their farms into cities and grocery stores.

      *or go to Hell forever per the RCC.

    2. Adam1

      So here in Monroe County, NY (Rochester area), our #2 case confirmed on March 12th. The patient had not identifiable contact with anyone who had recently been to a covid-19 region. I’m not sure if they ever confirmed it but she said she had symptoms start about the 4th of March leading the health department to speculate that she acquired it at CHURCH on March 1st.

      Sadly this person was also a teacher and went 10 days before being confirmed and quarantined. We’re now over 250 cases and 490 quarantined.

      1. petal

        Adam1, I grew up in Wayne County and still have family there, so I keep an eye on the area news. It’s been amazing to watch the explosion of cases in the Rochester area.

  5. Hank Linderman

    There is so much desire in human beings for things to return to normal that a decrease in reported cases could lead to abandoning social distancing. I’m seeing the decrease beginning yesterday – at least on the charts I’m following – and even though I am aware that we aren’t testing, that the stats are at best too broad to draw many conclusions, I can feel the pull of “getting back to normal”. This is all wishful thinking… How long after infection rates have dropped do we need to remain in place to insure our safety? What would be an *acceptable* infection rate, one that avoids a relapse?

    The scenario presented here is almost incomprehensibly horrible, a long slog through many months of relapse after relapse. I have family members that if they get sick will be hard pressed. The longer the process goes on the worse their odds.

    Otoh, with the grounding of the planes and the shuttering of business, the skies are clearing. Good to know that if we can stop polluting we can perhaps save ourselves and our children. (More wishful thinking…)

    1. ObjectiveFunction

      There is so much desire in human beings for things to return to normal that a decrease in reported cases could lead to abandoning social distancing.

      Singapore, which has been one of the models in terms of response and case tracking so far, has seen some bending back upward of the curve in the last week, although some of this is citizens repatriating from harder hit places overseas. They never went to full stay indoors lockdown, and while the populace has been visibly cooperative, that may not prove enough.

      I fear we may see countries (China, ROK) too eager to get back to business suffer a resurgence, warmer weather notwithstanding.

  6. Seamus Padraig

    The “natural experiment” that is going to take place over the next few weeks is the rate of spread in the first two regions vs. the third region.

    There are a couple of other regions out there–actually countries–that are not on lockdown. One is Sweden:

    So far, so good.

    Another country eschewing the lockdown approach is Belarus:

    It would be interesting to continue monitoring countries like that as a control group. The problem with US states is that it is too easy to cross borders.

    1. Paul O

      Sweden is an interesting case. I have been following it as two weeks back UK appeared to be trying the same thing.

      The Johns Hopkins data does not suggest they are flattening the curve – but the log plot is certainly less steep than many other countries have seen. I think relatively good trust in government and good social bonds have helped them with that (social distancing being generally observed from the outset). They have a comparatively generous sick pay system which helps a lot.

      They have a small population which, outside of Stockholm (perhaps they may end up (plan) locking down just the capital), is well dispersed. They also have a reasonably good health service. That said, if the plan is to ride a single peak to ‘herd immunity’ without being overwhelmed I worry for them.

      1. vlade

        Swedes practiced social distancing well before it was in vogue… And from what I heard, it’s common for a lot of younger people (18-25) to live on their own, not even with flatmates.

        1. campbeln

          Unpossible! Swedes are too highly taxed to ever afford to move out, let alone live on their own! That’s why America’s system is so superior!

        2. rd

          Nebraska seems to be the US version. Very flat growth line with little government push. Nebraskans appear to naturally execute social distancing.

      2. Petter

        Sweden, has as of tomorrow, forbidden visitors to elder care centers. Before today’s decision, it was up to each center to decide for themselves. A little late?
        As of the latest count, Sweden has 180 dead, Norway 39, with almost an equal number of infected. Sweden has twice the population.
        There is a fear, not only in Norway but in most countries, that the hospital systems will be overwhelmed (just watched Governor Cuomo’s press conference.)
        What’s the public reaction going to be if/when we hear news stories of people who could have been saved, dying because the couldn’t get into a hospital?

      3. fajensen

        Sweden is an interesting case. I have been following it as two weeks back UK appeared to be trying the same thing.

        There is a joke about Sweden. When one works with swedes on an international project, the Swedish will rise and declare: “In Sweden we haf A Model for that!”. And then they will break out a mallet and begin to hammer the data, the assumptions and possibly the requirements until everything fits to The Model and The Universal Order thus is restored!

        This is, I.M.O., what is going on. The Swedish has A Model, that model creates reality; behind the decision makers one suspects a no doubt scientifically interesting experiment in heard immunity – the seminal paper beginning with “Assuming Infinite Health Care Capacity and Frictionless Logistics Systems …. “!

        I fear that once primary and secondary health care is crushed under the lack of protective equipment and general respect for the disease, then there will be no effective healthcare available. The 20% of the known cases needing intervention will become critical as does ‘the regular sick people’, and then we will get ‘Spain & Italy’ here also. I wonder how Sweden will take that.

  7. voislav

    I hate to criticise this post, but it’s missing one important point. US is relatively early in the infection cycle, so death rate is lower as the health system is largely able to handle the serious cases. This will change in the coming days. Also, virus will be moving from relatively well provisioned New York and California to the poorer states that are less equipped to deal with the surge in patients. Combined with lack of response from the local government, this sets up many US states up for the Italian scenario.

    1. Jen

      Local hospital in NH currently has 7 cases. They expect 30 by the weekend and 100 by the beginning of next week.

    2. fajensen

      On the plus side, the US has a vast capacity to deal with this once the US admits to itself that it really needs dealing with and that dealing cannot be outsourced to private initiative and rough individualism as The Model demands.

  8. stefan

    I see no way to get a handle on this without widespread available testing, contact-tracing, and quarantine.

    As bills get past due, social turmoil is going to ramp up noticeably.

    It is hard to imagine the kind of shambles we are going to be in just a few months from now.

    1. BobbyK

      As bills get past due, social turmoil is going to ramp up noticeably.

      It is hard to imagine the kind of shambles we are going to be in just a few months from now.

      Honestly think there’s a good chance of an overall collapse in social order in the entire country.

      1. Wukchumni

        With a good many AirBnB/VRBO filling up with people/families from SoCal here-and who knows what their food situation is, I could see them being banished from the community if they don’t have a local address on their driver’s license, when things go weird and the food runs out, and they become nuisances.

      2. orlbucfan

        The one policy I’ve dreaded my whole life is the (corporate) fascists declaring nationwide martial law. This pandemic is activating that pattern. I sure hope I am wrong!

        1. urblintz

          I always thought some version of soma would win over ingsoc as the preferred model:

          “A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.” – Huxley

          They tried, not hard enough, and just can’t pull it off anymore…

          “Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”
          ― George Orwell, 1984

      3. Prairie Bear

        Just listened to a Jimmy Dore segment (Warning for not-family-blog-friendly language) where he talks about some incidents in Sicily and makes the point that the same thing is likely here.

      4. porquoilefoi

        We’re off to a bad start with individual States pursuing “state of exception” policies due to a lack of a centralized response, including “delayed” primary elections. To be clear, I absolutely agree with the decision to delay the elections that were delayed, but it sets a terrible precedent. Individual states deciding whether or not to proceed with a general election between two parties widely percieved to be illegitimate, or else enact martial law or something similar, possibly picking and choosing which state borders among them to close… could get very weird very fast

        1. Big River Bandido

          Considering what a farce the Democrat primary had already become, I’m not sure that delaying it makes a difference one way or another. In neither case will the voters get their wishes or the nation get what it needs. And in no case will the result be legitimate.

          1. wilroncanada

            I suspect that, if the election is held as presently planned, whichever party loses the election, at every level, will declare the results illegitimate. From one to several hundred results will be litigated, many up to the level of the Supreme Court, which will likely approve some results and overturn others (any bets on which way the court decisions will lean?), leaving many unresolved issues to fester. Gunfights among gangs of unruly advocates possible? Eventual declaration of martial law possible?.

    2. chuck roast

      Yes, this fellow throws numbers around like he actually knows what he is talking about. As I understand it, testing is at best poor, hap-hazard or non-existent depending upon locality. How many people have the virus is pretty much guesswork. There is no effective coordinated response by an unprepared and Balkanized government. There is no contact tracing and no enforced quarantine anywhere. Indeed, his Source, Johns Hopkins may have a relatively accurate count of the death toll, but otherwise this Coronavirus Dashboard seems to me to be just conjecture.

      He is, however, very accurate in that what we are participating in is a ghastly natural experiment. This is America after all, a failed state where you are on your own.

      Am I way off base here, or is this borderline making shit up?

      1. periol

        I saw several articles yesterday talking about the “slowdown” in cases in the Seattle area, which must mean that the social distancing is working. No mention of the official announcements regarding limiting testing, the severe backlog in test results coming back, etc.

        Found out my nephew (>10yo) in WA went to the doctor yesterday with cough, fever, and pneumonia. Doctor checked him out and sent him back home for continued observation, no test. Five other people in the house, they don’t know if my nephew has it or not, and since he hasn’t even been tested, the earliest they would *know* is at least 14 days out now. Meanwhile a different nephew had significant heart surgery a few years back, and is surely a pre-existing condition waiting to go bad.

        I want to blame the a***oles in charge, but this is really on a nation of a***oles letting things get to where they are now over decades and decades. It’s sad and frustrating.

      2. GlobalMisanthrope

        I agree with you. And so does Matt Stoller, for what it’s worth. Check out his twitter feed for details.

      3. Amfortas the hippie

        that’s how i see it, Chuck.
        stepdad had 2 home health nurses today(blood test, so he didn’t have to go to VA), both scared.
        “it’s coming.”
        and “it’s only a matter of time”.
        people out here are used to being isolated from all the big city stuff…but we’re not really that isolated. practically half the county works somewhere else…and a great number of the cow people went to the houston stock show before it shut down…and the more well off/encredited travel incessantly for shopping and dinner and seeing a show.
        in normal times, i go to the real grocery store, 45+ miles away only once a month…and i couldn’t do that without mom and i’s arrangement.
        many others think nothing of driving to kerrville(60 miles) or austin(100+) to mess around.
        the hospital 20miles to my north(of the 3 within a day’s ride on horseback, the most pitiful) started drive by testing a week ago(i think)…but only for the symptomatic.
        we have no idea where the derned bug is now…and must assume that it’s everywhere.
        scanner after midnight:”…patient has a fluid filled(pregnant pause) …leg…”
        there have been several scanner events like that…they know that people are listening(that’s a thing out here: local news), and are using euphemism to “avoid panic”, I’m sure.

  9. Tom Stone

    An optimistic view of Sonoma County’s fate would assume a 40% infection rate and a mortality rate somewhere between that of Italy and Spain.
    The population is 500K more or less an skews older for a number of reasons.
    Young people can not afford to live here.
    There are fewer than 200 ICU beds after the recent expansion efforts…We are looking at 20K deaths over the next few months.
    At best.

    1. John Wright

      One of the local police forces in Sonoma County (Santa Rosa) had eight officers test positive for Covid-19.

      This is in a city of 175K population.

      Construction in some areas of California is viewed as critical, so it is proceeding.

      From the Washington Post:

      “San Francisco is experiencing a housing shortage and creating more housing has consistently been Mayor [London] Breed’s top priority in office,” said Sarah Owens, a spokeswoman for the mayor. “It was deemed necessary to continue building housing so that people can afford to live in San Francisco.”

      One might have thought that “button up construction and wait out the storm” would have been the guideline, but it was not.

      With construction workers commuting from outside the areas, they may end up spreading the infection widely.

      But in my area, people are social distancing and the local independent market is working reasonably well..

      Walking around town is somewhat eerie. Few cars, many closed businesses (except grocery stores, banks, takeout restaurants and hardware stores).

      Easy to do social distancing when walking down the middle of the street is an option.

      Some normally sit-down restaurants are doing takeout only where they bring pre-ordered food out to the customer’s car waiting at the curb.

  10. Steve

    On the bright side we are only 8-9 weeks away from herd immunity. Sorry to be dark but it really is all we have. Before quarantines started my simple spreadsheets showed cases doubling from Jan. 21st to March 10th every 4.4 days. March 10th to March 15th changed to approx. every 3.3 days. Then it changed to every 2.5 days. Things have slightly slowed recently with doubling occurring between last Friday morning (82,000) and this morning (164000). If the new doubling slower rate holds or even increases to 6 or 7 days it is still not enough of move the peak case surge out far enough for healthcare workers to be ready for it. Pretty grim

    1. jef

      I have yet to hear the numbers of those infected but not in “the system” this number would be critical in predicting reaching herd immunity state.

      Don’t know for sure but I suspect that number is huge, I personally know two people who have it but are not that sick so can’t get tested.

  11. Vastydeep

    This coronavirus is a remarkable adversary: epidemically high R0, contagious-while-asymptomatic hosts, mundane symptoms for most, but high fatality rate for endangered populations, and long lag-time between infection and ICU/fatality. We should have two goals: 1) to protect the endangered until a vaccine is ready, and 2) to keep exposed populations from overwhelming our healthcare system.

    It thus strikes me that the ideal lockdown should be by risk-group. Youths and low-riskers get out of lockdown first – it sweeps that population, but few end up in ICU. We then ease lockdown by group with increasing risk — coronavirus sweeps, but with less than illimitable dominion because we’ve kept our healthcare system below capacity. The highest-risk groups will need humane, social lockdown until we can immunize everybody at risk.

    Some (albeit voluntary) form of this may be underway in Sweden. I DO NOT favor grandma dying to save the S&P500, but such an approach might cut our risk and keep some economy while protecting the vulnerable.

    1. antidlc

      “Youths and low-riskers get out of lockdown first – it sweeps that population, but few end up in ICU. ”

      Except that a lot of youth and low-riskers still live at home with their parents.

    2. The heretic

      Youths and low risk people might still live with high risk people, which would cause potential explosion of cases. Also, although youth suffer low fataliites, might they still need medical attention? What is the serious cases amoung people age 20 or less, 40 or less…
      Although they are much less likely to die, they might still overload the medica system

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      This has been modeled. Isolating the elderly has a trivial impact on infection rates. You really do need to lock down everyone, particularly since the main infection vector is surfaces. The elderly person going to shop (or have someone shop for him) gets it from the shopping cart (the “cleaning” the stores do is bullshit, they use the same damned rag over and over) and items in the store he takes home.

  12. Sigh

    This germ business puts everybody who’s somewhat numerate into a tizzy. Wish I had a nickel for every college graduate who feverishly plugged exponents into spreadsheets. Exponential growth is a nice heuristic for what’s happening – if you don’t extrapolate too far, which no one can resist doing cause Holy Shit, Math!

    The right way to do this is with a Markov chain. Then your parameters are transition probabilities among states including susceptible, infected, immune, dead, etc., etc. You can see that with four states you need to consider 16 parameters conditionally related to one another based on the premises of your diffusion or contagion model. Exponential growth is one (1) transition probability of 16. So maybe before you go to town with it, thumb through Stochastic Processes for Idiots and look at page 2.

    Fixating on doubling time distracts you from the actual question, which is: What is the absorbing state and what is the path to it? If you purport to quantify stuff you can’t just verbally wave your hands at 15 of the 16 factors.

    Also, lockdown is prison jargon. It really pisses me off when people swallow statist INGSOC hook, line, and sinker like this.

    1. proximity1

      THIS!!! ——-> “Also, lockdown is prison jargon. It really pisses me off when people swallow statist INGSOC hook, line, and sinker like this.”

      Almost my sentiments exactly. But I fear it is a Freudian-slip, not the result of simple knuckle-head sloppy language. Thus, “lock-down” is indicative of what is in the mental pictures of the policy-elite.

      By the way, where, exactly, was its origin? In the halls of government or in the Lamestream Press?

      There is nothing at all surprising in the use of this term so badly out of context nor its complacent acceptance by so many nor in the fact that yours is the very first comment pointing out what came to me immediately about the implications of the abuse of the term and the general failure to notice and react against it.

      1. Tom Bradford

        I feel the same about the use of the word ‘war’ in relation to this. ‘War’ carries an implication of winner and loser, and for anybody but the most pig-headed exceptionalist there is no guarantee that in a war one will be on the winning side. ‘War’, too, carries a built-in implication of sacrifice for the common good, usually of course the young and male who are expected to do the fighting but perhaps in this case it is the old and vulnerable who are being pressured to lay down their lives for the cause.

        And finally ‘war’ imposes social pressures to comply, and obey the leadership in the cause of ‘victory’, while questioning the directives handed down from above is unpatriotic if not downright treason.

        In my neck of the woods the government has been, deliberately I assume, avoiding the ‘war’ talk, and the media has been following. We’re dealing with a ‘threat’ which requires a community response to respond to it. The US has a ‘wartime president’ with all the baggage that entails.

    2. Socal Rhino

      I had a more generous take on this: He knowingly used a highly unrealistic simple model and is comparing reported numbers to it as a way to get a better sense of the reported numbers over time. It’s about as mathematical as looking at a rising trend line and saying “it’s exponential” without making an attempt to derive the function. I don’t get any sense he’s invested in the model or claiming predictive power.

    3. skk

      Because my other hobby modeling work on sports betting is halted and until yesterday I couldn’t find a paper that modeled and predicted US deaths 2, 4, 8 10 days ( but no more than that ) into the future I built my own Bayesian MCMC single variable ( time ) log-linear model, last Saturday. So far the actuals are tracking predictions well, skewing, as expected in the posterior probability pic for each prediction, to the upper limit. E.g for yesterday the model’s prediction for total USA deaths was [xxxx, 3195]. Actuals for yesterday was 3170. For April 7th my model predicts a HPDI range of [7K, 20K] skewing to the upper limit.
      Now I’m working on adding more predictors to the model. But in the first instance people should look at the professional, not ‘retired/hobby modelers – this is the one I found yesterday –

      IHME’s COVID-19 projections were developed in response to requests from the University of Washington School of Medicine and other US hospital systems and state governments working to determine when COVID-19 would overwhelm their ability to care for patients. 

      The forecasts show demand for hospital services in each state, including the availability of ventilators, general hospital beds, and ICU beds.

      1. skk

        Reading the CNN article on projections I see this:

        But standing in the Rose Garden, Birx also mentioned another model, created independently, that “ended up at the same numbers.” That analysis, which is publicly available, paints a grim picture of what’s to come in the US, even with social distancing in place.

        That other model ( she mentions is the I’ve linked to above so from that perspective at least it seems I’ve found an “official” model.

    4. kiers

      True, but the simple exponential math model is a nice accounting device. You extrapolate the exponential and see “how many days behind” you have managed to “bend” as daily numbers come in. There’s value in that.

      Our society is dripping in vile slavery/bondage/sadistic-violent language imbibed with no question. So accordingly is all American subconscious thinking molded: “catch and release”, “catch and kill” (ie stories in national enquirer), “anchor babies”, “wash through”, (as in “let the virus wash through society”, as fuhrer once said, implying a great cleansing), “sh*t-holers”, there’s more but only this much comes to my mind right now….they always find a way to insert sado-terminology in the dialog.

    5. Synoia

      The right way to do this is with a Markov chain

      Sounds suspiciously Russian, and therefor not to be trusted. /S

      What next, the Putin Cain?

  13. Wyoming

    Most importantly, GOP governors in the Confederacy and in the High Plains, plus Arizona, have completely put the brakes on any statewide “stay in place” orders.

    Well the post missed Arizona as the gov put out a shelter in place order yesterday which goes into effect today.

    1. Wyoming

      I would like to add that the figures in this post are useless. And the conclusions are therefore….

      Absent wide scale testing there is absolutely no way to accurately determine the number of infections. Look at his figures throughout the article and the number of significant digits. His numbers imply precision and in reality there is none due to the lack of data or the impreciseness of the data we have. We have large numbers of infected people wandering around without symptoms, but how many? Many sick people are sitting at home or just going to work. We may not be as bad as China on numbers of fatalities but we are certainly missing quite a few deaths which are attributed to other causes due to lack of testing. Extrapolating out weeks with imprecise data and then not even giving a range of possibilities?

      We are certainly flying in the dark and this situation is likely to get much worse. But this is far from helpful.

      1. ChrisPacific

        ‘Useless’ is an overstatement. Yes, there are almost certainly a lot of people out there with the disease who haven’t been tested yet, but the numbers of positive tests form a pretty reliable lower bound, and by themselves are enough to comprehensively reject a number of null hypotheses (it’s a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats, it’s no more dangerous than seasonal flu, etc.) They also track way too closely to exponential to allow for any easy explanation beyond the obvious one, namely that they reflect real exponential growth in the underlying infection rate.

        I do agree that any kind of extrapolation over weeks is an “If X then Y” type deductive exercise rather than a real statistically valid prediction, and that authors don’t always make that point as clear as they should.

    2. Wukchumni

      There’s so many retail loopholes in the Az shelter in place order, including beauty salons.

      Oh well, you go with the far right government you embraced, and you takes your chances.

      1. The Rev Kev

        About a week ago here in Oz the government decreed that any customer in a beauty salon could only be there for a maximum of thirty minutes. Women went so ballistic at the idea of this short a period of time that the Government did a back flip with a triple gainer into reversing themselves by the very next morning.

        1. newcatty

          Wuki, oh well, you have made it clear, in past comments, about your disdain for AZ governor. Many of us would agree. It is true that Arizonans voted him into office. It is fact that Arizona is, politically, a conservative state. But, many of us do not “embrace the far right government”. The foolish pandering to the tourist trade and upper classes in the loopholes is awful. Golf and beauty salons are obviously not essential services. It will not be long before that becomes obvious, as contagion will spread in the Phoenix metro area and beyond. Just like many places out of the metro areas; those of us in smaller towns and cities are aware that city dwellers have moved summer up to spring. They have moved into “second homes” and any ABnB or short-term rental available. So, our grocery stores and clinics and hospitals will be slammed. BTW, some of us are not at all concerned with foregoing a salon treat. I just trimmed my husband’s hair. Mine is just doing it’s own thing . I ” went grey ” long ago.

          1. Wukchumni

            My disdain isn’t for just one Az governor, the last half dozen have been complete doozies, and it’s not your fault the GOP uses your state to attempt to do things that are batshit crazy, and somebody must be voting in these clods, no?

  14. Michael

    The variable response to Covid-19 across the United States brings to mind Colin Woodwards book, “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America”, and Ken Kesey’s hilarious and eloquent novel “Sometimes a Great Notion”. I recommend both for people who are under self quarantine. For those who do not have the inclination or the time, the both books examine on a historical basis how the nation was founded, it’s original invaders, the cultural values they brought with them, and how they are still living today. The first book in a more scholarly manner, and the second in a much more sardonic way.

    These analyses help me cope with my own opinions of different viewpoints with which I have had to contend. I see the differences in approaches to the pandemic on a cultural basis. Living in Minnesota, we have to blend both, as our metro area is very left leaning, and our rural areas are very independent. What we have in common, however, is caring for our neighbors and our elderly who brought us here. This area also was settled by communities that fled starvation in northern Europe, so the culture of commitment to each other is very strong.

    For example, after the toilet paper panic, the state elevated food workers to second tier emergency personnel, giving them free childcare and raising their wages. The effect was profound. We all of a sudden have less hoarding, many more people stocking shelves, and you can tell how appreciative the customers are of the stocking personnel they must step around in the store. There is a sense of community.

    Our restaurants have been decimated like everyone else’s, but at least where I live (where we are privileged) people make a point to do take-out when affordable to support the local businesses.

    From a public health perspective, inasmuch as we are one of the centers of food production we have always had to have a very good public health department, that is trusted by everyone. This has helped enormously in educating the population on what must be done. Our displaced workers are suffering tremendously, but hopefully they will be able to survive this stormed intact.

    1. carl

      Woodward’s book sounds interesting; have you read Albion’s Seed, on the four British groups who settled in the US? Similar subject.

      1. wilroncanada

        Read “Albion’s Seed by David Fischer, but not Woodward’s book. Still on my list (of thousands). He goes further, I understand, to include parts of Canada in his delineations, including Francophone Quebec and half of New Brunswick.

        1. eg

          As does “The Nine Nations of North America” a similar, though older treatment of the same topic

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      “sometimes a great notion” is one of my very favorite books.
      and it had a profound effect on me in that it filled out for me my inherent hardheadedness.
      my whole place…like the alamo…is a monument to stubbornness.
      another of my very favorites, that i’ve been thinking a lot about with all the ramped up gardening(about an acre):: “To a God Unknown”….

  15. Carolinian

    Cases are certainly increasing here whether through spread or greater testing but here’s suggesting that the key metric is the number of deaths rather than the number of cases since there are likely far far more infected than tested. My town just initiated drive through testing but you still need a doctor’s order to drive to the site and get a test so it’s not likely to measure those who aren’t feeling ill.

    So today’s figure for SC is a bit over 900 cases and 18 deaths, all of whom have been elderly or in nursing homes. Needless to say these are not NYC type figures. Meanwhile schools and many businesses are closed along wtih restaurant dining rooms and some public parks. It’s hard to see how a “lockdown” would make things very different since everyone, of course, still has to go to grocery stores or restaurant drive throughs in order to eat. I’d say the “ghastly natural experiment” rhetoric is way over the top.

    1. ShamanicFallout

      Yes. How seriously can we take any of these numbers without significant widespread testing? I’m beginning to see a number of more articles (Dr John Ioannides of Stanford; one posted here yesterday from Switzerland in the Water Cooler comments) that any data we have is totally unreliable. I asked before, if the US has, for instance, 100,000 cases, but the testing is sparse or not even available, how many actual cases are there? 1 million? 10 million? And how many have already had it? Who are the most truly at risk? Is there any solid basis for any mortality figure?
      It’s more than fair to ask these questions without being branded a ‘hoaxer’ or ‘its just a flu’ or ‘have you lost your mind?’.
      We’ve completely turned most of the country inside out- no work, and if there is work, probably no childcare, businesses shuttered (literally it seems- in my neighborhood in Seattle a lot of business have put plywood over all their windows) rent coming due, etc. We are quarantined but our bills are not. And we have seen that our leaders really don’t give a sh*t. What will be the ultimate fallout from this? I fell like I have seen this movie too many times

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      No, number of deaths are not reliable either. In Germany, I am told the reason the Covid-19 death rate is low there is in part because if there is a co-morbidity, like COPD, they are classifying that as the cause of death and not the virus.

      See here in the UK. Deaths understated because people who died at home are not counted:

      At least 40 more people have died from coronavirus in the UK – as hidden deaths at home were today revealed for the first time.

      New figures reveal 210 people died in England and Wales from the killer bug up to March 20 – 23 per cent more than official NHS numbers have shown.

      Yesterday the Department of Health reported 1,408 deaths in the UK but these numbers only include those who have died in NHS hospitals.

      If the 23 per cent increase was applied to yesterday’s hospital-only total of 1,408, it would result in a total of 1,732 deaths.

      The new ONS figures which include non-hospital deaths only go up to March 20 – three days before strict lockdown measures were imposed by Boris Johnson to curb the spread of the disease.

      Unlike the NHS figures, which are limited to those who died in hospital after testing positive for the disease, these wrap in deaths where Covid-19 is mentioned as a suspected cause of death where someone has not necessarily tested positive for the disease.

  16. lyman alpha blob

    Just looking at the author’s own numbers and see that the number of actual cases is far short of their own recent projections. This is kind of glossed over and then the author goes on to make even more dire projections. They also note that 100K cases occurred on March 28 however right above that, they have data showing March 27 as the date for 100K cases.

    I am not trying to downplay what’s happening – clearly people are dying and the response has been haphazard. Just wanted to point out what appear to be some dodgy figures.

    Yes, because we have botched the response I believe we should now err on the side of caution. But I also can’t help but feel like there are a number of people who are almost hoping for a rapidly increasing death count because they feel that it will finally prove them right that Orange Man is Bad.

    Let’s keep a level head here.

    1. Basil Pesto

      But I also can’t help but feel like there are a number of people who are almost hoping for a rapidly increasing death count because they feel that it will finally prove them right that Orange Man is Bad.

      I don’t think it’s that, so much as some people have a reverse-panglossian, worst-of-all-possible-worlds tendency.

    2. Altandmain

      Just looking at the author’s own numbers and see that the number of actual cases is far short of their own recent projections. This is kind of glossed over and then the author goes on to make even more dire projections. They also note that 100K cases occurred on March 28 however right above that, they have data showing March 27 as the date for 100K cases.

      The problem is that the number of cases might actually be closer to the projections.

      We seem to have a huge backlog of cases right now. There is no way to prove or disprove that, unless the whole population was tested, which we don’t have the ability to do.

  17. Kurtismayfield

    The logistics of this is really interesting, and what may cause some craziness on the part of the consumer. The supermarkets are trying to become like Costco/BJ’s now… since they don’t have the logiitical capacity to keep up they are limited to what is shipped in. I am in contact with employees at a local distribution that is alternating what weeks stores get non-essential stuff.. the general merchandise stuff that supermarkets carry… and is focused on getting in the essentials. They don’t have the capacity to keep up, so they are only shipping to some stores one week, then other stores the next.

    I have the feeling this is what is going to bite us in the rear in the Northeast.. not enough logistics to keep up with constant demand. Think about it, no restaurants/other modes of eating besides the Supermarkets.. when is the last time that has happened? So now the markets have to catch up, and they don’t have the logistics to do it. JIT delivery bites us in the butt if this continues for months.

  18. Larry Y

    I’d like to make some observations in NJ:
    – high population density and being a bedroom community of NYC makes us very vulnerable
    – PMC class dominated by two industries, FIRE and health/pharma. My own personal network is dominated by the latter. The pharma giants have major offices or HQ here, including R&D. Quest and Bioreference, two of the largest testing companies, have their HQ in North Jersey, along with large labs. Both are hiring. NJ is very much struggling, even as the front-line workers utilize their networks of neighbors, fellow parents in their public/private schools, etc. Supplies and workers from non-critical business lines (skin care, deoderant, etc.) are being diverted.
    – Lakewood, NJ has problems with a religious community. However, instead of evangelical Christians, it’s a particular community of Orthodox Jews (ultra? haredi? also see measles). It’s gotten ugly. Multiple weddings. School buses running for a Talmudic school.
    – Restrictions in parks are popping up, because some too crowded. Facilities like bathrooms, playgrounds are closed, with some parks closed outright, while others have their parking lots closed to preclude out-of-town visitors.

  19. Grumpy Engineer

    Virginia implemented a partial shutdown back on March 23rd. Then it was expanded in scope yesterday. I’m not a Northam fan, but I thought his orders were fairly well done. They shut down the riskier stuff while still leaving room for people to get the goods and services they actually NEED.

    1. PhillyPhilly

      I’m seeing a decrease in the daily rates for the US as well. The rate of growth is still high, but if you fit an exponential to the past 14 days you get a 28% daily increase. Fitting to the past 7 gets 20%, and fitting to the past 5 gets 17.6%. There is definitely a declining trend. It will be interesting to see if the growth in death statistics follows the same pattern, but we are a few weeks away from that.

      1. rd

        Some of that decrease may be in difficulty scaling up the rate of testing. That is a log graph, so testing needs are rising exponentially but the system is struggling to turn those around quickly – there is a good chance that the long turnaround time for Quest Diagnostics tests is a reason that the California cases are flattening.

        some states aren’t doing a lot of testing, so there cases may be rising quickly but nobody would know until people show up in the hospital two weeks later.

  20. anon y'mouse

    my only supplement to these thoughts are that it should be extremely clear that USians do not take enough real vacations (“holidays” don’t count, because that is just another cycle of obligations). here and in other states, people are having a celebration in all of the recreational areas, kids are running wild in the streets and food is sold out in the stores like it’s the 4th of July.

    people here are overdue for down time where they are not expected to do or be anything. it might be insane at this time, but it is also a depressing reminder of just how enslaved everyone here is to the grindstone mindset.

    1. notabanktoadie

      Excellent point. And “enslaved” is not just a mindset but a reality – and to hypocrites such as bankers and other rentiers.

    2. Tony Wright

      So, maybe a “lightglobe moment ” approaching for some – ” Do we need to work so long to buy a whole lot of non-essential stuff which is underused and ends up in landfill?”.
      Looking for a silver lining to a very dark cloud….

      1. notabanktoadie

        I see mass consumption as the “mess of pottage” for the (legally*) stolen birthrights of family farms, businesses, and the commons.

        The solution to mass consumption then is to restore those birthrights.

        *e.g. via government privileges for the usury cartel, aka “the banks.”

  21. Jenna

    An update on Maryland: Gov. Hogan (R) requested/called-for citizens to “Stay at Home” starting March 13. During past 2 weeks, a progressive closing of restaurants, bars, then retain, then all “non-essential” businesses. Effective 8:00pm Monday March 30, Maryland is now in an officially “ordered” “Stay-at-Home” (lockdown allowing for trips only to grocers, doctors and pharmacies and individuals outdoors for exercise purposes).

  22. Tim

    “To be blunt: so far “social distancing” has only slowed down the exponential rate of increase.”

    I’m not an optimist, but I do understand a geometric curve. My answer to that statement is SO WHAT. It always was going to be geometric, if we’ve slowed it down, then we are bending the curve.

    And to me the curves are still pretty meaningless until there is widespread testing available in every nook and cranny of our society. We started from so far behind.

    I view the current “infected” curve as only be as informative to tell me how many kits are becoming available, not the rate of spread of the virus. WIth the curve bending 30% of anticipated in the face of ramping testing, I’d argue we are almost on the backside of this thing for the spring.

  23. JAinNV

    The NYTimes map is incorrect. Nevada has required non-essential businesses to close to the public since March 20, with criminal penalties for violations. No gatherings of more than ten people, social distancing of six feet, and travel only for essential purposes. Essentially the same as California. This hits the casinos hard. No hot spots here, yet, but it will happen eventually.

    1. Carolinian

      Re using China as a model–your predictor says that peak deaths per day in Italy will happen April 3 which will be this coming Friday. Therefore if that does happen then it might be some measure of the accuracy of the predictions.

  24. Monty

    Very optimistic of them to compare what happened in China to what’s going on in USA. China shut it down, and then enforced mask wearing for anyone going outside. They tested widely as people moved around from place to place, and incarcerated the people who were sick. They also have teams in hazmat suits who distributed food to where people lived.

    Compare that to the lemmings at Costco and the super churches. The only thing that’s going to stop this here, is eventually running out of available hosts.

    1. rd

      The US “herd immunity” approach is similar to the two guys in the forest who encountered a bear. One started running. The other guy yelled “You can’t outrun the bear”. The response “I don’t have to; I only have to outrun you.”

      The experiment right now is how long to wait it out in hiding until enough people have gotten sick that transmission is dramatically reduced naturally. it appears some states are deliberately trying to shorten that period without knowing it.

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