Lockdown Rebelliousness: Denying that Coronavirus Is in Charge

The natives are getting restive. USA Today chronicled protests across the US against the coronavirus “shelter at home” and less-extreme forms of activity restriction. Most were small, only a hundred or so in places like Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia. The largest was in Lansing, Michigan, despite Michigan suffering the third-highest death toll. Drivers set out to gridlock the capital and succeeded well enough to also block a hospital entrance:

Most of the protestors wanted restrictions removed so they could go back to work or get their business back in operation. For instance, an account from Utah:

Deborah Palmer, a St. George resident who owns a small business, says that her concern for her family’s job security is what brought her out to the march.

“My daughter is out of work, my husband’s work has slowed down and I’m out of work because of this,” Palmer said. “I hope our representatives and our governing officials get to see that there is a great number of us who do not support the government mandate and restrictions taking away our rights.”

And it’s undeniable that the coronavirus-induced shutdown have already exacted a huge toll. Data for March, when the restrictions weren’t in place for the entire month, show much more severe damage than most economists foresaw. Note featured Mohamed El-Erian, Martin Wolf, and Goldman forecasts which were all more dour than the mainstream “quick rebound” take, which seemed obviously nonsensical.

The Financial Times today, which seldom practices hair-on-fire journalism, nevertheless sounds five alarms in its lead story, New data shows vast scale of US economic breakdown:

Data from all corners of the US economy published on Wednesday revealed the scale of the collapse in consumer demand, industrial activity and confidence, suggesting the hit from coronavirus lockdowns has been deeper even than feared.

Two measures in particular were historically bad: US industrial production showed the biggest monthly decline since the end of the second world war, while retail sales dropped by the most since the data started being collected in 1992…..

Industrial production, a broad gauge of output from factories, mines and utilities, fell 5.4 per cent in March from the previous month, according to the Federal Reserve, its worst performance since 1946.

Headline retail sales, a measure of sales in shops and restaurants, fell 8.7 per cent, according to the Commerce Department, erasing four years of growth….

Purchases at grocery stores surged by 27 per cent as consumers filled up their pantries, but there was a 27 per cent drop at bars and restaurants, which in many cases had to shut their doors. Sales at petrol stations sank by 17 per cent as people stayed home.

Clothing sales were cut in half, the worst of any category. Car and furniture sales each dropped by a quarter.

And aside from that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

Mind you, in some ways, the US is in a self-created worst of all possible worlds. I’m hoisting this chart from a cross post by Ilargi today:

As we know, except for Northern California, US states and cities imposed restrictions too late, and even then too haltingly, to slow the rapid rise of infection. We still are not terribly locked down. And from what I can tell in Alabama, far too few people are wearing masks, and too many employers are cavalier about employee safety. For instance, at the CVS, the staff isn’t wearing masks. I suspect management perversely wants everything to look normal. Yes, they finally installed plexiglass shields between the cashiers and the patrons, way later than either of the big local grocers.

This clearly does not cut it. First, CVS has tried hard to push customers to use self-checkout. From what I can tell, customers need assistance about 1/4 of the time. So the unmasked cashiers put the public at risk when forced regularly during the day to sally forth to those machines.

Second, the cashiers regularly have to have a manager come over either to approve a transaction (say a refund) or clear up a mess of some sort. That puts the manager and the cashier in unsafe proximity to each other.

Needless to say, this is endemic locally. I’ve seen no business with 100% mask use, and the public use seems to be about 20%. People seem to think either they don’t need to bother, or that only a medical mask is adequate.

One of my pet peeves is the lack of modeling by our media and political leaders. Every TV talking head should be in a mask. Fauci off all people should be in a mask, along with every governor, mayor and public health official when they get in front of a camera.

Even worse, the Trump anti-lockdown messaging has done a lot of damage. Not only were red states, particularly in the South, slow to act, but belief in whether coronavirus is dangerous is split along party lines, which individuals behaving accordingly. From Wired:

For the latest study on this topic, a group of economists led by Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow used cell phone location data gathered across the US from the end of January to early April to measure the extent to which people had limited their trips to stores, restaurants, hotels, and other public gathering spots. Then they matched up those changes of behavior, at the county level, with vote shares in the last presidential election. The group’s new working paper, posted Monday, describes the major finding: The more decisively a county went for Donald Trump in 2016, the less its residents have been hiding out from public spaces.

That’s true even controlling for local case numbers, population density, and the timing of statewide social-distancing instructions. In Pulaski County, Kentucky, for example—where 82 percent of voters backed Trump in 2016—residents reduced their visits to so-called points of interest by 51 percent over the duration of the study. In contrast, demographically similar Washington County, Vermont—where Hillary Clinton won by a huge margin—saw trips decline by 71 percent. Both counties had registered only a handful of confirmed cases, while their state governments issued stay-at-home orders on March 26 and March 25, respectively.

The conundrum, as readers no doubt appreciate, is that wanting things to go back to normal won’t make them go back to normal. If people are worried about safety, they won’t fully re-engage in former activities. Perversely, it’s safer to fly now, despite the generally high infection numbers, because airports are empty. No one at TSA check-ins save the TSA. Virtually empty waiting areas. Enough room on planes that the odds of reseating yourself in a row all by yourself are high. But the effective high level of social distancing on flights due to the collapse of travel (due to the lack of tourist attractions and business justifications) is an aberration of the moment.

For instance, what happens if restaurants try to reopen now? Maybe there are ones both manned and patronized by only under 40 year olds. But it’s the middle aged and recently retired that are the biggest and most regular spenders. Will they come back in full right away? Doubtful, particularly for any with co-morbities.

Indeed, despite Trump thumping for an earlier removal of restrictions, and governors like Alabama’s Ivey who is sure to be indifferent to the poor and the black dying, there are quite a few who have a grip on the tradeoffs, even in red and purple states. For instance, again from USA Today:

Earlier, the [Ohio] first-term Republican governor [Mike DeWine] made it clear during an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that any loosening of the stay-at-home order would be contingent on coronavirus testing results and other health data.

“Whenever we open up, however we do it, if people aren’t confident, if they don’t think they’re safe, they’re not going to go to restaurants, they’re not going to go to bars, they’re not going to really get back into society,” DeWine said.

And corporate leaders are also trying to beat some sense into Trump. From the Wall Street Journal:

Banking and financial services executives told President Trump that his administration needed to dramatically increase the availability of coronavirus testing before the public would be confident enough to return to work, eat at restaurants or shop in retail establishments….

The people involved in the first call, which included executives from banking, financial services, food and beverage, hospitality and retail industries, described current testing levels in the U.S. as inadequate to effectively reopen the economy.

Some executives suggested that they were attempting to secure their own virus testing kits for employees and possibly customers as well, the people said.

Mr. Trump also touted the potential of a saliva test to determine whether people have Covid-19, arguing that it would let companies get back to work faster. The CEOs voiced approval for this idea. The president said reopening the country would not mean the end of social distancing and that people might have to get used to wearing masks even after businesses reopened, the people said.

This all sounds well and good, but get real. Trump has not been on board with any sort of muscular Federal action. To think he’s gotten religion on testing after doing close to nothing to increase production of PPE is quite a stretch. Similarly, Trump has been extremely cool about the CDC’s recommendation about mask-wearing in public.

So the most likely outcome is that too many parts of the country will ease up too early. Due to the poor access to testing, particularly in red states, it will take a few weeks (2-14 days of incubation + 5-7 days for a case to go from “mild to sort of bad” into viral pneumonia) for deaths to spike up again and be sustained to prove the reversal was a bad idea.

So businesses and confidence would be hit again with the false dawn and need for re-tightening.

If Americans were more disciplined, and would wear masks and would observe social distancing (including restaurants and bars removing seating), it might not be so risky to lift the restrictions. But that isn’t how we roll.

And don’t kid yourself that red state rubes who’ve consumed too much pro-Trump talk radio are the big sinners. Don’t forget the 1%ers who fled to the Hamptons or other enclaves, in some cases knowing they were infected. And you see priorities like this among the top 10%:

I am clearly showing my age. A child who had tantrums every time it couldn’t have something it wanted would be recognized as badly spoiled, and that was the result of over-indulgence. I wonder how this parent would cope with a personal train wreck that resulted in him and his family living in a car. That outcome may be more likely that he realizes.

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204 comments

  1. Bad Robot

    There are ways around the lockdown, but they require a massive compliance from the public. Some countries have this capability, but I do wonder about the USA.
    Definitely, CV19 is in charge here.

    Reply
    1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

      No. Someone or some group is holding the global economy’s head underwater.

      What do you mean by ‘massive compliance? Taking Bill Gates’ nano-marker, so the cops will just ‘know’ who’s ‘clean’ and who’s ‘unclean’?

      It’s another of life’s bitter ironies how I’m seeing people who at any other time would pose as rebels fall right into line and do what they’re told. Supposedly suspicious of the motives of capital, yet enthusiastically obedient to ‘hair on fire’ narratives from the corporate media.
      None of the numbers match up. It’s just Shock Doctrine in action.

      If it ruins Wall Street, then some good can come out of it. Meanwhile, the folks at Davos will know how well their Event 201 war game was modelled.

      Reply
        1. Anon

          Well so far the spoiled children are people like Yves and Nicky Taleb. The numbers and data do not support the thesis that C19 us in charge. I am willing to risk a few more deaths from a new flue than from destroying the economy. And the comment about the 10% is nonsense. On one hand you complain only rich people can afford to isolate but then you want to keep the people who can’t afford to isolate locked down. In my neck of the woods the teenagers hanging out in groups breaking the social distancing guidelines are not from the 10%.

          Yves – no one is stopping one percenters like you from hiding in your house for the next year or however long it takes you to feel safe. So have at it. The rest of us will work through this and keep the wheels on without you.

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith Post author

            No, you are a spoiled child. You don’t care that workers in meatpacking plants are getting sick at such a rate that the US has had to shut down >5% of pork production. More meatpacking plants are likely to be closed.

            Nurses are going on a one day strike to protest their exposure to the disease.

            Workers successfully shut down auto plants in the South early, again because they didn’t want to take the risk of getting sick when they were the sole or primary breadwinner for their families. Mike Elk has been chronicling the considerable labor protests by both badly and not so badly paid factory workers over being made to work in this crisis.

            In a mill I know well, the Escanaba paper mill in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the workers are very upset the mill is open and they are being asked to work when it’s impossible to maintain social distancing and management refuses to put up barriers where they can. Management somehow got the mill classified as essential even though it makes mere publishing paper (can’t be used for PPE) and there’s plenty of it in warehouses.

            And do you forget that teachers forced the closure of NYC schools? They didn’t want to be exposed to the contagion. And how about the 50 NYC transit workers who have died? It would be more if the system were running a fuller schedule. The MTA is having to give massive death benefits, $500K, to get the employees to continue to show up.

            You also seem to miss that this isn’t just about the risk of death. For serious cases, which is about 15% of the total, a high level of people with no underlying co-morbidities, including the young, suffer permanent and serious health damage. And it can show up a lot of ways: lungs, heart, kidneys, neurological functions.

            And get a grip about who I am. Would I work punishing hours if I were rich at my advanced age? Would I have given up my New York apartment? The income threshold for the 1% is over $420,000. That’s higher than Goldman’s pay. The 1% net worth threshold is $10 million. Tell me how many self-made single never married women are worth over $10 million, particularly ones who worked for professional services firms. The two places are entertainment plus maybe a very few in private equity or hedge funds.

            I’d just write for New York Magazine 2x a month, where I have an open offer to do so, and kick back. . For a self-employed writer? At a blog? You have rocks in your head.

            All your comments prove you are utterly disconnected with reality and can only spew resentment at those who dispute YOUR selfish views.

            Reply
            1. Chris Hargens

              Nice detailed reply, Yves. Sure, the working/middle classes are suffering because they are out of work, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore how C19 is playing out on the ground. If proponents of “Let’s go back to normal” were to acknowledge this reality and still advocate for those out-of-work, then perhaps they’d put their efforts into pressuring the government and corporate powers into giving the out-of-work more financial support.

              Reply
              1. L

                I think at this point they have to. The problem is that our political classes still think this is just another political problem to argue about not the existential crisis that it really is. You can see this in how quickly the congressional activity devolved to messaging and how so many of them skipped town on schedule. Trump is a buffoon on a good day but he is scoring points when he complains that they are not doing their job.

                Meanwhile the only one who is taking it seriously has paid the price of losing the primary to a guy who is worried that fee healthcare costs money.

                To put it simply, there is no economy if we are all dead

                Reply
            2. Krystyn Podgajski

              Anon is like one of the kids in the Hitler Youth. Indoctrinated by capitalism ready to fight on the front lines. But for what? A better iPhone? A night in a restaurant? Higher GDP?

              So much of what people have and do is just fluff to which they all have become addicted. Food, clothing, and shelter is all we need. Let us get back to the basics and ignore the consumerism that destroyed the planet and made “the good life” a reality for the few and a desperate aspiration for the many.

              There is no excuse why we cannot fund every worker that needs to stay home and for food to be distributed in an equitable way. But that is anti-capitalist and does not fit the Social Darwinist narrative.

              Reply
              1. XXYY

                Thank you for saying this. If there’s any silver lining to what’s happening now, it’s that we are all getting a better measure of what is really important and what isn’t very important. Shelter, food, water and power, healthcare, trash collection, and being with family are vital. All the other things much less so.

                I like to think this realization will be the most lasting effect of the coronavirus.

                Reply
              2. jsn

                It seems to me, the underlying issue here is that none of the things that could be done for ordinary people are being done.

                Yes all the things you say can be done, but they aren’t. So those without an inclination to systems thinking, which is most people, respond to very immediate and real threats of personal bankruptcy, massive downward mobility and vastly greater exposure to negative health outcomes the economic reality is imposing on them, personally, now, in real time.

                As observed in the Taleb post, people are notoriously bad at evaluating relative risks, fearing shark attack more than car crash despite the exponentially greater danger of a crash. There is NO messaging out there right now countervailing this tendency. R’s are saying go to work, D’s appear to be saying “go die” to anyone who can’t afford not to.

                Reply
            3. Bulfinch

              While I realize anonymous bird droppings like the one above are something like Viagra for the hackles, I appreciate you leaving it up here and responding to it. It’s informative in a way, and of some value.

              Reply
            4. jsn

              That the DC Dems have created a condition in which no official help can reach the middle class without months of toil, paperwork and condescension virtually guarantees that the Red Blue divide will be hardened.

              The “selfish” reality being expressed by Red constituencies would be mitigted in the extreme if they were being supported in the same way the duopoly has seen to it corpoate donors are supported. The perception in Red states is that Dems are happy to see “deplorables” die.

              For those that remain healthy and haven’t seen someone close succumb, the impression is that the lock down will knock them from the social position in which they fell safe soon and leave them even more vulnerable to the virus.

              This is not to defend the “brave” Anon, but to observe that these differences are being hardened by the efforts of both parties with no let up in sight. It is only outside the formal political process now that anything meaningful is being done.

              Reply
            5. JohnMc

              “no underlying co-morbidities”

              to the extent that diabetes is significantly under-diagnosed, i question this every time i see it repeated. diabetes only gets diagnosed when blood sugar rises notwithstanding the reality that people often become insulin resistant years and decades prior to blood sugar elevation. during that ‘asymptomatic’ period, the elevated insulin levels resulting from insulin resistance can cause significant physiological changes, one obvious example being the accumulation of fat in and around abdominal organs resulting in chronic inflammation.

              until diabetes is recognized as a disease of elevated insulin and not elevated blood sugar, this ‘underlying co-morbidity’ is not likely to be recognized.

              Reply
              1. JBird4049

                I think insulin resistance and diabetes is going to get much, much worse this year.

                No job, or hiking, or gym visits means not getting the marvelous health benefits that exercise gives against things like diabetes. Of course, that means those underlying co-morbidities that can get people dead from this disease are just going to increase.

                Reply
              2. Shiloh1

                Obesity itself should be considered s co-morbidity, but politically incorrect for everyone except Denninger to mention. The country had a date with that destiny sooner than later, anyway. MetLife height and weight tables from 100 years ago are a good enough guide.

                Reply
              3. eg

                Yup — metabolic syndrome is a familyblog along with its fellow travelers. Tragically the ignorance of metabolic dysregulation and its effects is perniciously widespread.

                Reply
            6. skippy

              Just the knowledge that the second wave of infections from the Spanish flu was responsible for 90%ish of the mortality makes statements like above absurd.

              Reply
            7. Oso

              Yves, thank you.
              it’s my people mostly doing the meatpacking work, my people suffering in ICE detention being pepper sprayed for trying to make masks from t shirts while the guards don’t use PPE (links available). a close friend just lost her dad to CV, several close friends have quarantined themselves or their children with high fever and coughs because that is what responding ambulance workers have told them to do. black and brown people are dying disproportionately. I agree with all your points and have your back.

              Reply
            8. Francesco

              Right, but (much) worst than that. People able to be connected to an awful reality understand there is a limit in ICU beds. That number of beds could be improved and new hospitals dedicated to Covid-19 can be built in record time like in Wuhan. But the real bootleneck is this: it takes at least 6 years to have a new medical doctor, 8-10 years for a specialist, at least 3 years for a nurse. Furthermore they are overly exposed, in Italy we lost 1% of our hospital doctors. Let the virus spread and even the most powerful nation will risk to be sent back to the stone age in just a few months. Wait to see what will happen in places like Pakistan or sub-saharian Africa in critical conditions even before Covid-19. Also, RNA viruses are very unstable, the larger the pool of infected people, the larger the number of strains that will naturally develop, so large that a general vaccine could never be developed . Another reason to help those countries without hesitation, but no, save Wall Street. The more I look at this, the more I think is a big one, and not a deep but short lived bad accident. Thanks for writing.

              Reply
          2. prodigalson

            It’s all fun and games until you or a loved one can’t breathe. This is not THE plague but it is A plague and that should be your mental model going forward. 20% hospitalization rate across the board, 5% death rate or so, and if those beds are all full already or the docs and nurses are all sick then the death rate spikes up to whatever people who manage to survive without hospitalization occurs.

            But you can’t fix stupid. Modern life has allowed many people who would have been eaten by bears in yonder years to muddle through, decisions during this pandemic are likely to help re-focus priorities. You don’t have to worry about your business or money if your dead. I’ve already got an extended relative on a ventilator and not likely to survive.

            This is coming for you and your family too anon, 20% hospitalization bro, if you have 5 members in your family likely one of them is going to the ER in the near future.

            Reply
            1. Monty

              I think we are discovering that it’s less dangerous than that. For example, The British Medical Journal published an article saying that when China tested people attempting to enter the country. It found that 4/5 positive cases had no symptoms at all. It’s quite hard to believe the other 20% were rushed to the ICU.

              Covid-19: four fifths of cases are asymptomatic, China figures indicate

              However, even if ICU admissions are much lower than 20%, and the death rate is *only* ~0.5% (which I think is more likely), if everybody gets it in the end, that’s a heavy toll! 330m * 0.005 would be 1.65m dead.

              Reply
              1. MLTPB

                I don’t know if there was ever a case where everyone got it.

                In the Middle Aages, it came back many times.

                So, not all 350 miilion get it the first time. Maybe 30%, or 105 million, for example get it.

                This happens three times, says, 2020, 2023, and 2028, and each time 30%. Now, we are back to 315 millions. Four times, we are at 420 miilion, more than 350 million.

                These are just examples. The situation will unfold not simply.

                Reply
              2. CuriosityConcern

                Monty, I’d like to reach out and share my understanding with hope you will reconsider your stance.
                My reading of your post and op is that you both actually agree on hospitalization rates from COVID. And I would agree with you that 20% is a nothingburger if only a small amount of a population is infected at a time(actually I don’t fully agree but I can understand the reasoning behind the argument). Unfortunately, 20% becomes more big-macish when more of the population is infected, due to limitations on hospital capacity. Seeing as it is difficult to rapidly accumulate medical personnel, I can’t see how we can humanely treat the 20% unless we make sure 20% is below medical capacity.
                Other nations have implemented ubi to help their populations deal with quarantine, if we could do the same in the US would it change your stance on quarantine?

                Reply
                  1. Monty

                    Some say 50-80% develop no symptoms at all, and none of these show up in the daily case numbers.

                    Could it be that only 40% of infected people are sick enough to get tested, and 20% of that group get very sick indeed. So about an 8% hospitalisation rate?

                    Splitting hairs somewhat, because that’s still unmanageably high percentage, if a lot of people get sick at once.

                    I think a UBI, paying people to stay at home, is a great idea. I fear it’s much too kind hearted for the Ayn Rand enthusiasts that run this country to consider though.

                    Reply
              3. Oregoncharles

                A tilted sample – people who are traveling – but it illustrates one of the big problems with this virus: the effects range all the way from nil to fatal – roughly, it seems, on a bell curve, aside from discriminating against the old and sick. Which most things do.

                That makes it much more infectious, but it also makes it easier to pretend that “Oh, I won’t get it; or I’ll shrug it off, like a cold.” Maybe. But you aren’t everybody, either.

                So, to a great extent, reactions reflect both personal circumstances and personal attitudes toward risk. But ideally, public policy is about EVERYBODY. Unfortunately, we have a lot of terrible leadership, with little prospect of better, and a deliberately deteriorated medical infrastructure. 3rd World, as Lambert keeps saying.

                If we’re really lucky, the survivors will learn something from this experience.

                Reply
            2. Shiloh1

              I wouldn’t be caught dead in an ER or ICU. I wear a DNR bracelet on all my runs. 19:59 5K or die trying.

              Reply
            3. Carey

              >20% hospitalization rate across the board, 5% death rate or so

              Can you back that up? Stats from my region support neither of those claims, and can be found within this thread.

              Reply
          3. vlade

            There was this chap, called Johnson. I think I read a story or two about him, first how he boasted about shaking hands with hospital staff and patients. Can’t really remember the latter story, maybe someone will remind me?

            Reply
          4. Bsoder

            I have found that dead employees, well ‘associates’ we call them, actual do less work then normal and it is discouraging to those still alive. Covid-19 is not the flu, in the same hiv isn’t. People who get sick from it continue to have serious medically problems. You need to pay attention to facts and science not magic ideas about reality. One thing is real clear about CV19 you hang out in groups, everyone gets infected, 20% get real sick, 10% hospital sick, and more or less 5% die. And this on top of a difficult flu season. Have we become so jaded where we say ok what’s 100,000 (CV19 & flu)people dying ever year because I couldn’t be bothered. Jobs were everyone can be tested daily and solid PPE is provided are they only ‘safe’ jobs. As you may be an asymptomatic carrier – what gives you the right to infect another person? If you have hiv and infect another person it’s a felony charge, and they do charge you.

            Reply
            1. The Rev Kev

              Your comment reminded me of something that I read about years ago. ‘Dead peasants insurance’. Companies insure the lives of their employees and the employees don’t even know it. A guy will die and leave his family destitute as he was the sole bread winner but his company will cash in thank you very much. I wonder how many policies are being cashed in at the moment?

              https://www.businessinsider.com.au/is-there-a-dead-peasant-life-insurance-policy-out-on-you-2011-11

              Reply
            2. Carey

              > One thing is real clear about CV19 you hang out in groups, everyone gets infected, 20% get real sick, 10% hospital sick, and more or less 5% die.

              few-benefiting bot

              Reply
          5. Tom Denman

            The economy vs. human lives is a false dichotomy. Yves noted above that essential activities are already hampered because of the present COVID-19 illness rate.

            Flattening the curve not only works to avoid overwhelming our long under-resourced hospitals but to protect supply chains. I don’t see why it’s so hard to understand that if enough workers in crucial businesses become sick and out of action at the same time the supply chains for food and other necessities will collapse or at least be far more seriously impeded than they are now and the resulting economic damage will be infinitely worse and take far longer to repair.

            If you don’t care about the lives and health of people you regard as expendable (or your own loved ones) you might want to protect the economy.

            Reply
          6. wilroncanada

            Dear MR ymous
            …a few more deaths from a new flue? What the hell kind of business are you in? Pre-death cremation? Sounds like a pipe dream to me. Are you going to choose those you wish to premate? One would guess from your scorching comment you have a lot of enemas.
            Sorry Yves. sometimes these @$$holes really get to me!

            Reply
          7. eg

            Where does this “primacy of the economy” nonsense come from? The economy exists to serve people, NOT the other way ’round.

            Yeesh …

            Reply
        2. False Solace

          “Paranoia”. I guess nobody else saw the bodies piling up in Italy, Spain, and NYC. As if China, that bastion of concern for health and human life, would shut down entire regions for no good reason.

          How many more refrigerated trucks full of corpses do people need to figure it out.

          Reply
          1. L

            Unfortunately I’m afraid that if you are accustomed to getting all of your world through a narrow screen and have been trained to believe that all news you dislike is “fake news” then no amount of body bags will convince you, until they are your own.

            Reply
          2. jsn

            One of the core geniuses of Financial Capitalism is to have moved all of the most damaging activities to places where only the victims can see it.

            Reply
          3. fajensen

            How many more refrigerated trucks full of corpses do people need to figure it out.

            I’d say about one, sitting right on their front yard!

            Reply
      1. Monty

        I think it is to do with the kind of society you live in. Collective like Japan, or Individualist like USA. If the government of an Individualist society asks it’s people politely to take precautions, there will not be enough compliance for the policy to work. The virus will spread far and wide, killing many more than it would otherwise. In order to avoid these unnecessary casualties, they have to enforce compliance.

        re Numbers not matching. Take a look at the chart on this post.
        https://twitter.com/gdinwiddie/status/1250130371242582016?s=19

        Reply
        1. Chris Hargens

          USA individualist, perhaps in some aspirational sense, but we sure do indulge in bread and circuses. BTW, thanks for the chart. Might be a good predictor.

          Reply
        2. L

          We have been capable of collective action historically. What has happened now I’m afraid is that the very idea of a collective has been savaged as people have been trained to believe that we are not a nation but that they are in their little tribe and that the others (in many cases their neighbors) don’t count and don’t speak the truth. Thus our capacity for collective action has been deliberately poisoned.

          Reply
          1. Wukchumni

            I found it was very common for people in L.A. not to know their neighbors, as anonymity rules.

            How do you go about doing collective action in a milieu that never got around to mixing with one another?

            Reply
            1. vlade

              When we lived in the UK, it was really weird. We lived in a few places. Where our neighbors were >70, we got on very well with them, and became good friends (despite us being often the age of their grandchildren). When the neighbors were our age, we usually could even get them to say hello.

              One of our digs (the one we hated the most, for a large number of reasons) was a new development in a moderately large town in East Anglia. We literally didn’t see our neigbors for a month since we moved in. Then one weekend, one of them was moving a lawn in front of his townhouse, so I run out to say hello and introduce myself. When I said hello, it was blingingly obvious he believed I came to complain about his lawnmoving, and could not believe I just waned to say hello and introduce myself.

              Really weird.

              Reply
              1. Nick Alcock

                That’s not always true. I moved into a new development in a moderately large town in East Anglia ten years ago. It’s the friendliest place I’ve ever lived. We even had a “socially distanced party” with people playing guitar and kazoo, with everyone spaced out in their front gardens or in the parking lot in front. :)

                I suspect it’s path-contingent: i.e. it varies not only from town to town but from estate to estate, and depends greatly on the characters of the first people to move in.

                Reply
            2. Oso

              Wukchumni
              my experience, there’s existing frameworks in places where people fall thru the cracks as far as being able to exist in the system, generally in black and brown communities. an internet search typically works, if not in those areas there are always flyers. Copwatch in any area is a good starting place. typically there are allies who work with them, who you could connect with. might not be a lot of people to organize with, but you’d certainly be an asset, regardless. be blessed.

              Reply
          2. MLTPB

            Japan has been slow in this case.

            Perhaps it’s not collectivist or individualist, but authoritarian vs power diffusion.

            Even then, in Russia, we are seeing more and more cases.

            Reply
        3. Freddy el Desfibradddor

          You contrast “collective” with “individualist” – let me suggest another point along that dimension – we could call it “communitarian” – I watch the daily Nova Scotia updates on YouTube from the premier and chief medical officer because I aspire to move there [I applied to receive a certificate of Canadian citizenship by descent, which I think I will probably get, although maybe a bit delayed by current events]. There’s not really a big contrast with how things are being handled by the government of my current state of Maryland; at the federal level, however, the difference is stark.

          Reply
      2. Handsome Johnny

        Apparently Deborah Palmer sees her family somewhat differently than the rest of the country does ? “My husbands work has slowed” ? Huh Most folks have no work ! It’s a TEAM sport Deborah, we all have to play nice. I’d guess you’re way ahead of many of your neighbors. Maybe you could share with the others ?
        As far as posing as a rebel, I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the sixties and seventies. I’m all about “RESIST” . However, I just finished six weeks of intense Radiation Therapy as well as six weeks of Chemo Therapy. I’m currently embarking on Imuno Therapy which will take a full year. Needless to say, my immune system has been compromised. You betcha I’m going to follow all the instructions the Governor of my state (Inslee) hands down. It seems to be working well here. The idea that you fall into the “sheep” category if you follow the guidelines is baloney. I’d like to stick around for a while to see how this mess turns out, thank you. Many people have similar issues. If you make it through the gauntlet of lies and innuendo which you feel so free to spout, I’d like to talk to you about where you’ve been and what you’ve done and importantly, what you’ve seen in YOUR life ? How many should die before we quit calling it a “HOAX” ??

        Reply
      3. Carey

        >None of the numbers match up. It’s just Shock Doctrine in action.

        My impression as well. Lots of off-the-record anecdotes, and fuzzy/funny numbers.

        Reply
          1. Monty

            Doesn’t this just suggest to you that there has not been a big outbreak in that area at this time? No big outbreak, no big body count. If you’re not mingling with new people you can’t catch it. If you don’t catch it, it can’t harm you.

            If the precautions are relaxed, and then a lot of infected people come to that area and spread the virus, is there be any reason to think the numbers wouldn’t go up?

            Reply
    2. False Solace

      There would be less psychological resistance to the needed social distancing measures if the public were receiving meaningful financial help. Instead, unemployment offices are swamped. SNAP requires a 30 page form in Texas. The emergency $1200 payment has a long list of restrictions — and comes as too little too late. The small business loan program is oversubscribed if you can even get your bank to let you sign up. And who wants to take out a loan to keep a business going when there are no customers.

      People who are anxious about their financial future are going to resist restrictions. The psychopathic ruling class doesn’t care how many of you die, they just want their numbers on a chart to go up. So don’t worry. As soon as the billionaires get their own personal ventilators lined up all this is done. They’ll pay extra for your blood plasma if you survive.

      Reply
      1. DanB

        You oh-so are correct. Meanwhile, our non-essential Congress is away cynically pretending to judiciously wait and see how their “Rescue Package” plays out. The response of all but a select few elected officials in this nation has been reactive, inadequate, and irresponsible -actually depraved and indifferent.

        Reply
      2. ShamanicFallout

        I agree with False Solace. This is the problem. When regular working stiffs like a lot of are not able to work, and thus not able to pay the rent, bills, food etc., people will truly start getting edgy. And obviously we are already seeing this. I follow a little bit of our Gov, Inslee’s twitter updates and I have seen a noticeable shift from ‘thanks we truly support your efforts’, to ‘dude, open this thing up, my landlord wants me out by May 15 and I have no income anymore’. Or ‘you say you are about saving lives, well fine, what about me and my family’s lives and livelihood?’ My mom is a dyed in the wool centrist Inslee type Dem and even she has had enough.

        If you have the power to quarantine people then you should have the power to ‘quarantine their bills’ as it were.

        But as it is, the government support is too little or even nonexistent, too difficult to get and it is leaving people in more precarious situation. Are we really capable here of widespread testing? And what about getting enough masks to enough people? I am not optimistic. I can’t imagine what is going to be the atmosphere if they extend the ‘lockdowns’ after May 4 (here in WA anyway)

        Reply
      3. lyman alpha blob

        I agree. Make sure everyone is taken care of financially, and people will play along even if they are skeptical.

        But when Uncle Sugar bails out companies that don’t even need it with trillions of dollars while everyone else suffers, either by being forced to keep working in what the government says are unsafe conditions, or by having your income taken away with no prospect of it returning any time soon, that’s when people start smelling a rat, justified or not. Especially when the leading “Resistance” candidate is telling everyone they are most definitely not going to get an improved healthcare system in the middle of a pandemic we’re all told to be very afraid of.

        It is ludicrous that people have to fill out 30 page forms to get a minimal benefit while profligate airlines can apply for bailouts in the billions by basically telling the treasury their company name and how much they’d like sent their way. The actual Treasury Dept form for this was linked to here a week or so ago.

        The government response is not at all commensurate with the danger we’re being told we face, and until that changes, people are going to be skeptical and rebellious.

        I’m an extremely non-essential paper pushing desk jockey. I’m working from home, have only had to take a fairly minor pay cut, and have already received the stimulus check. My checking account balance is bigger that it has been in years because we haven’t spent much money in the last several weeks. Riding this out hasn’t been all that tough for me.

        But for many years I worked in the restaurant industry, and if I still did I would be completely [family blog]ed right now, probably wondering if I was going to lose my apartment. Millions and millions of people are in that situation right now I’d imagine. They aren’t going to stay quiet forever.

        Reply
        1. JBird4049

          Regardless of ideology most have an instinctive sense of fairness. Sending billions to people and who don’t need it or who already destroyed the company before the quarantine while sending peanuts to everyone else is so not fair.

          This is something that crosses the boundaries that divide the 90% (And probably chunks of the Professional Managerial Class.) as the loss of work, income, or anything else is beyond an individual’s control or responsibility.

          So if Citizens GE, Boeing, and Bain all get essentially free money while Citizens John, Jose, and Jennifer get the streets I see some unpleasantness happening.

          What I simply do not understand is the imbecility of putting Congress on recess when the economy has only begun free falling and people are looking at destitution. Add that all fifty states are going to be slammed financially. Maybe they think shoveling money into the feeding troughs of the 1% makes everything okay? Or are they trying to start an actual war?

          Reply
      4. Aumua

        You are correct, but the people strutting around out there at the state capitol or whatever with their assault rifles don’t see any psychopathic ruling class. What they see are socialist, communist Democrats trying to take away their freedoms and remove their fuhrer from power. Cause that’s what Rush and Sean Hannity are telling them, day after day. These aren’t really grassroots protests.

        Reply
        1. JBird4049

          Perhaps, but I can tell you from experience that trying to pay the rent while going on the No-Food Diet (boy, do you lose weight quickly!) focuses the mind firmly on one’s income and expenses and why they never can match. How do we cover rent? How we eat? What about gas? If you have anyone depending on you, be it family, partner, or pet, you get bonus pressure.

          It gets really real. Getting all anguished over some nonsense by either party is just noise. It becomes forget the blather, what you doing for me today? Whatever party starts real pushing relief for the general from the quarantine and depression will win the next few elections.

          In a few more months, even the Trump Fanatics will be looking at the empty pantry, or the pass due car payment, and wondering why they don’t have even peanuts while the corporations are made whole. If they are small business owners, they will be wondering even more. And if the virus cuts loose after a too short quarantine…

          Stupid, stupid, stupid.

          Reply
          1. Aumua

            Oh yeah I’m not saying that these people aren’t feeling real pressure or that they have no right to be angry. Just that their anger is being deliberately channeled in a somewhat fascistic direction.

            Reply
      5. wilroncanada

        False solace
        In terms of support, or lack thereof, I would agree with you. There will always be complaints about lack of speed of support, but unfortunately in much of the US it has been lack of attempt at support. Canada, and particularly BC and Alberta, have done much better, both in control of the disease, as well as in support to mitigate part of the anxiety of loss of income.

        Reply
    3. XXYY

      So the most likely outcome is that too many parts of the country will ease up too early. Due to the poor access to testing, particularly in red states, it will take a few weeks (2-14 days of incubation + 5-7 days for a case to go from “mild to sort of bad” into viral pneumonia) for deaths to spike up again and be sustained to prove the reversal was a bad idea.

      I think this is is going to be the way things play out going forward. It’s already happening in some parts of Japan.

      Remember, in the real world, nothing much has changed in the last month or two: everyone is still wide open to being infected by the virus and except for a tiny minority, no one has any immunity at all. The virus now seems to be endemic almost everywhere. 50% of infected people are asymptomatic. So the minute people start going out and interacting with each other, infection rates are going to start spiking again.

      People talk about testing as being some kind of panacea, but I have a hard time seeing how that will work. Unless 300 million US residents (to say nothing of the rest of the world) are tested daily, or hourly, we won’t really know what we’re dealing with. One can become infected 5 minutes after being tested (perhaps as a result of visiting the testing facility). In any case, a country that can’t put together a modern national healthcare system like every other advanced nation, or even fund its Post Office for that matter, is not going to be able to manage a gigantic and costly logistical and technical effort like this.

      I wish I could be more optimistic.

      Reply
      1. fajensen

        People talk about testing as being some kind of panacea, but I have a hard time seeing how that will work.

        Testing helps deciding on what to do.

        If it could be confirmed that the rather ominous cold, with pains and sensations of breathing in talcum power coming-and-going, that wife & I have had for the last 4 weeks was the milder version of Covid-19 we might be more eager to risk ‘participating in the economy’ as it were.

        I bet that many feels that way too.

        Reply
    4. John Hacker

      Hmmm. The virus goes away when it warms up….. Why’s Miami a Hot spot? Its been in the high eighties and minity for a month.

      Reply
  2. JohnHerbieHancock

    In Michigan, at least, the protests were spurred (funded?) by a DeVos-family-aligned astro-turfing group.

    I presume to get back at the Democratic governor for her criticism of Trump’s handling of the crisis. Presumably this endeared Betsy to her boss.

    Reply
      1. mpalomar

        quick qwant search turns up Michigan Freedom Fund with connections but in this instance no direct or very tenuous link to Devos family funding.
        “The event was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the DeVos-backed Michigan Freedom Fund to defy and protest prudent stay-at-home, public health orders from Governor Gretchen Whitmer.”

        Reply
        1. Bill Smith

          So funded means it was organized by a group? I took ‘funded’ to mean that somehow the people who showed up got money(?) in some way.

          Reply
          1. mpalomar

            I skimmed two articles and my take away is there is a prior funding connection between Devos and Michigan FF.
            From Oct 2018, the Detroit News,
            “Lansing — A conservative group with ties to the powerful DeVos family of West Michigan is pumping at least $1.2 million into an effort to fight a ballot measure for an independent redistricting commission.

            The spending by the Michigan Freedom Fund was disclosed Monday…”

            The prior article linked states the MFF was an orgainizer of the event.

            Reply
      1. remmer

        Don’t kid yourself. Look at Yves’ comment below. 100 people holding signs can be dismissed as idiots who all read the same right-wing website. But there were thousands of protesters in Lansing. Something that big has to be organized, and organizations need to be funded. Right-wing groups have that funding.

        Reply
        1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

          But supposedly Greta Thunberg just was some little wee moppet who happened to be sitting on the sidewalk with a forlorn one-kid protest against the inexorable forces of climate change. Yeap. No fnding there. No corporate agenda.
          We’re all being played here.

          Reply
          1. Aumua

            Yeah but so what? There’s not really any connection to Thunberg here except to say that powerful interest groups are capable of spreading various kinds of propaganda.

            Reply
          2. fajensen

            Funny how supposedly big men are afraid of one young and opinionated girl?

            Must be Chinese Steroids making them ‘Alphas’ stupid and shrink their balls too?

            Reply
    1. Code Name D

      Accept mask are still not readily available. Most of the ones I am seeing are home made or dust filters.

      Reply
      1. Arizona Slim

        A few days ago, oh, I think it was NC Links, showed a video of a guy in Korea. He’d just gotten back from traveling and he didn’t feel right.

        So, he made a phone call. It was to some sort of government entity that sent an ambulance so he could be tested. No charge for the ambulance ride, and, ISTR, the test was free as well.

        Before he left the testing site, he was issued a package which included all sorts of things that are in short supply here. No charge for that either.

        Amazing what a government can do during a crisis.

        Reply
            1. Michael Fiorillo

              Based on recent events, I’d say we’ve officially “graduated” from fallen First World nation to full-blown “S*#thole Country” status…

              Reply
      2. sd

        Nothing wrong with home made. We’re wearing home made masks to go for walks. In addition to various folded bandannas, etc we have some masks we made and some we received from a neighbor. We do have (1) N95 used only to go to the grocery store once a week.

        Reply
      3. Noel Nospamington

        For those of us who are not capable seamstresses, it is impossible to buy masks here in Canada, even cloth ones. I suspect that the situation in the USA is no different. I and a few others have been wearing scarves or bandanas instead. But this is a small percentage of people.

        Most likely widespread use of masks by the population won’t occur until there are sufficient medical grade (N95) masks available at reasonable (pre-pandemic) prices.

        It is not enough to ask people to wear masks to protect others from getting sick, especially since masks are hot and uncomfortable. Most people need a strong personal incentive to wear a mask, such as getting protection against the virus for themselves.

        It is a shame that medical grade N95 mask production and widespread testing has not been able to meet the current demand during this pandemic, when this is necessary to help reopen the economy.

        Reply
    2. rd

      It is a huge issue that the response has been politicized because it is crippling an effective response. It hit the big centers with international travel first but is now working its way into the rural heartland: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/15/coronavirus-hot-spots-farm-belt-189272?cid=apn

      Because this is now viewed in many areas as “just a big city thing” and an over-reaction, it could rip through the rural areas like a scythe.It also means that it will be richocheting around the country for quite a while because there will be places ignoring it as other places get it under control. That will allow for re-infections.

      I don’t think many of the politicians realize that it they re-open the country and nobody shows up at the airports, hotels, restaurants, bars, etc. that they will still be dealing with massive unemployment. Anybody who can work from home will if people don’t believe it is udner control and managed properly.

      The subterranean economy of undocumented workers at farms, construction sites, hotels, meat packing plants is anotehr avenue for it to keep richocheting, especialyl since many of those people are migrant workers who go from place to place. Refusal to acknowledge and address their existence other than in demonization and show-trial deportations means that there will be sources of infection in many places. One of the reasons many of the Asian countries do well in these events is because they are generally mono-cultural with very few subterranean populations.

      Reply
      1. Aumua

        It is a huge issue that the response has been politicized because it is crippling an effective response.

        Yes, there is more than one parallel that can be drawn between this and some other major existential threat to our species, which name I can’t quite remember right now…

        Probably the same kind of pattern will emerge again if yet a third threat evolves.

        Reply
  3. xkeyscored

    “Whenever we open up, however we do it, if people aren’t confident, if they don’t think they’re safe, they’re not going to go to restaurants, they’re not going to go to bars, they’re not going to really get back into society,” DeWine said.

    I think it’s worse than that. As you note, some are protesting the restrictions already, confident they are unnecessary, and they would presumably be eager to get back to work, bars and restaurants, even if others stay away as much as they can. Result? People who don’t take this seriously having lots of social contact, leading to new outbreaks.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Look at the numbers. The biggest protest was funded. The rest were literally around 100 each. That’s the functional equivalent of zero in America.

      Businesses have overheads. Opening and having only 40-70% of your revenues come back is a slow death. Most businesses don’t have a high enough proportion of variable costs. A restaurant has to buy enough food to serve a decent # of menu items, for instance.

      I can guarantee a lot of older restaurant patrons won’t dine in person for a while. Anyone paying attention know it’s not just the death risk but the high % of people who sustain serious and permanent damage even if they survive a bad case.

      They might order out, but hardly any states allow for booze to be takeout. So they lose their highest margin item, the bar tab.

      And entertainment is really dead. The paying tickets for theater, symphonies, and opera are purchased by >60 year olds. In NYC, that will also really hurt Time Square hotels and theater district restaurants. You’d see similar dynamics for restaurants in smaller cities near the symphony stages.

      Reply
      1. Code Name D

        Something that needs to be investigates are “best industry practices” that promote high debt loads and few reserves for emergencies. A lot of business will collapse simply because they followed BIPs that are frequently mandates by bank loans and credit agreements.

        Reply
      2. xkeyscored

        Businesses may indeed die a slow death due to fewer customers, but in the meantime just re-opening means their workers, many of whom are short enough of money to probably return, become infection centres with or without customers. And how many people will take Trump at face value and decide it’s time to return to society because he says they can and should? It wouldn’t take that many to get us back to square one, even if most show more caution.

        Reply
      3. Rod

        One of my pet peeves is the lack of modeling by our media and political leaders.


        thanks for this simple truth.
        You get that home training growing up-It’s what adults are supposed to do–y’know–for the kids(yours and any others)

        Reply
      4. JBird4049

        I know that this might be off topic but this last bit got to me.

        The paying tickets for theater, symphonies, and opera are purchased by >60 year olds.

        That is just another symptom of the hollow economy. Everything cost so darn much including almost any public events including sports, concerts, and museums. This at the same time when most Americans are either sinking or barely afloat financially.

        I have also noticed that many (most?) of the people doing the grunt work be it the museum’s docents or the symphony’s second violin. Rather like public education. All that money is going somewhere, but not to the people doing the work.

        I think that plenty of younger people would go to these events if they could afford it. Symphonies and opera, were not always for the wealthy.

        Reply
  4. Bill Smith

    Isn’t Michigan the state that with some of the lame / confusing parts of the stay at home order?

    Can buy pot, can’t buy garden seeds? Can use a rowboat, can’t use a motorboat? Can’t go stay in your
    lake cottage if you are a Michigan resident but if you are from out of state you can?

    There were a bunch of other dumb things.

    Maybe some explaining of why on some of these things might help.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You appear to have missed the comment up thread about the role of outside funding in the Lansing protests. Or do you believe context should include only pro-Trump talking points?

      New York, which is another high infection state, has closed nurseries and other gardening supply stores as non-essential. Perhaps an important bit of context is how severe the outbreak is, which was included.

      All of 6% of homes in Michigan are seasonal homes. That includes the ones owned by out-of-staters.

      Reply
  5. PlutoniumKun

    I was wondering what the result of Covid would be politically the US, and I think here is the answer. It will cause people to bunker down into their political positions even more firmly, and with even less logic. Trump supporters who protest at hospitals are idiots, but they are no more perverse and idiotic than the reaction of many Democrats. So I predict that whatever happens between now and November, Covid will not significantly alter existing political trajectories (unless of course it kills one or more of the candidates, not exactly a distant possibility).

    At least from a scientific background, the confused response in the US is giving scientists lots of useful comparative data for use in future pandemic modelling, so at least Trump is giving that service to science.

    Reply
    1. hemeantwell

      I suspect that some of the Lansing protesters looked beyond their immediate economic plight and were also angry about Trump’s falling election prospects, just as Trump himself is. While I think you’re right about enhanced siloing among firm supporters on both sides, those who are not will likely either be horrified away from Trump by his bungled handling of covid, or will drift away as a weak economy encourages them to “vote for change.”

      Reply
    2. Keith

      I suspect campaign 2020 will be quite entertaining. Grab some popcorn and watch the next reality TV, who wants to be the POTUS. I agree that political positions will harden and the insanity will rise, which should add to the entertainment value. If the world is going to burn, might as well sit back and enjoy!

      Reply
        1. DanB

          mle,

          I grew up in 1960s Motown. The “Rescue CARE Package” actions Congress and Trump are visiting on the nation are from the neoliberal playbook that Detroit has been subjected to for several decades by neoliberalism.

          Reply
      1. Aumua

        Yeah I mean at least until the conflagration comes pounding on your door.

        But until when, we do have the amazing Internet to keep us comfortable!

        Reply
  6. HotFlash

    Ordering people to stay home without pay is literally to ordering them to dig their own graves. Big companies get trillions for no reason (this ‘bailout’ label is not even a fig leaf) and living people are sentenced to homelessness and starvation. Your overseers elected representatives have forgotten the rule about bread and circuses. This will go down in history as the corona virus coup, but that history will be written – and read — only outside the US, which is quickly sinking into barbarism. Meanwhile, other countries are paying their citizens to stay home and keep themselves and their fellow citizens safe. You see, that would be the appropriate national defense in this situation. The US? Oh, no, and as one of your neighbours, I am very concerned.

    Meanwhile, you could have had Bernie. Turns out it really was a matter of life and death.

    Reply
    1. Henry Moon Pie

      We have descended again to the Sane and Insane Rich. The IRs, concentrated among Propertarian types, openly preach culling of the herd, rejoicing at the death of us Eaters. The Sane Rich, constituted primarily of “enlightened” billionaires and Obama alums, salivates at the prospect of a profitable and thoroughly merit-based Panopticon wheeled in as the way to “get back to normal.”

      I have no interest in either of their worlds. The virus is pushing us inexorably in the direction of fundamental reassessment of who we are and how we got to be that way. These folks are still so desperately fixated on returning to a lost world where they were at the top of status and material comfort that they’re still incapable of seeing any way forward that does not make life shorter and/or worse for the majority of us. No imagination. No vision. Nothing worthy of being called “leadership.”

      Reply
    2. John

      The give away to corporations could and should have been largely directed to maintenance of wages, but then wage earners do not have overpaid lobbyists explaining to congress how wonderful life for them is going to be if only they listen carefully.

      Reply
  7. The Rev Kev

    This is a disaster waiting to happen. A President too keen to restart the economy whatever the cost. People acting like little children who are tired of being at home with the worst people that they know – themselves. I saw a clip of that fracas in Michigan and I heard one female voice say that ‘We want to go back to work. We want our employees back again. We want to go to the hair salon!’ Jee-zuz! Do they actually know any people that are in those hospitals themselves?

    But having these idiots park in front of hospitals itself? Beeping their horns? What is that supposed to accomplish? Instead of the doctors coming out to talk to these idiots, what they should have done was to have some of their walking patients come out to talk to them instead. Maybe rest their hands on the windshield. Cough on the windows perhaps. I can believe that some sections are not talking it seriously in Alabama. There is a chicken plant there which has the workers side by side. So the management hands out face-masks at the start of the shift. For ten cents a mask!

    Reply
    1. hemeantwell

      The hospital blocking could be a shot of vicious stupidity heard ’round the world. It’s so stupid I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes right-wing CT material.

      Reply
    2. Upstater

      Rev, your suggestion to have walking patients out to talk with the protesters was the funniest thing I’ve read about COVID. Thankfully my coffee was long finished. Still have tears in my eyes from laughing so hard. Thanks!

      Reply
      1. BIDTIDPRN

        Agreed. A mental image of a bare ass in a too-small hospital gown, dragging an IV stand and staggering like the walking dead made me chuckle. I think those folks would have run, as if those poor patients had the plague or something.

        Reply
    3. Phacops

      I am without words to describe the utter stupidity and dangerous ignorance that those protestors represent. One has trouble just knowing how to answer those malignant clowns. It is as if the Gish Gallop was made flesh. The clear danger that they would deliberately place their neighbors in, as well as the ill in hospitals shows to me that these creatures should not possess firearms.

      But, I wonder what the protest in my state, Michigan, says about our dysfunctional economy? My county, Benzie, has 30% of households unable to meet the ALICE minimums of affording life’s necessities. I guess when people are insecure in their employment, sustenance, shelter, and health, they can be easily manipulated. Given that both parties wish to do nothing about that insecurity I guess we are in for some interesting times.

      Reply
  8. Steve

    I think one of the most dangerous beliefs about the Covid crisis is that we are ever going back to the economy or social system that existed before the pandemic. Long term immunity after recovering from the virus is not a sure thing. There is also little reason to believe that once vaccine is created that it will be anymore effective than our current flu vaccines. The longer people are allowed to think things will return to pre-Covid normal the angrier they are going to get when it doesn’t.

    Reply
    1. Synoia

      Long term

      The US does not do long term very well.

      Trump is impatient probably because his fortune is tied up in leverages Real Estate. I suspect attendance at his golf courses and Hotels is nowhere near breakeven point.

      The paucity of payments to the people in the US is very apparent. It appears as the FOAD (F off and die response by the US to every need of the non 1% .

      Reply
      1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

        Hard to make long term plans when you struggle to make rent. The project was fairly well designed but the flaws were manifest early on.

        Reply
      2. California Bob

        Does Trump still get an unsupervised $500B? If so, he’ll be fine, as will his family and the best sycophants.

        Reply
        1. fajensen

          To people like Donald Trump, ‘winning’ is not about being ‘fine’.

          Their sole ‘Purpose of Life’ is to be like gladiators ascending a huge pyramid made of smooth granite, using all means possible on the way up, and then when they finally reach the very top, they will take a huge dump. A rather unhealthy one with everything they had to swallow on the way up in it. Right on the tip so everyone lower down gets smeared in it and some maybe falls off! This ritual is often called ‘showing leadership’ and making ‘tough calls’ and ‘difficult decisions’.

          The virulent hatred for Bill Gates and George Soros comes from the fact that those people got off the ‘pyramid-of-win’ before the ‘winners’ could crap on them and that their new-found ‘mission’ is not to crap on the lower levels, but to help people – which makes the ‘winners’ look like they are bad people!

          Our ‘winners’ don’t like that look at all. They like to be bad, but not to look bad!

          Reply
          1. Michael Fiorillo

            I can’t comment on Gates’ donations for scientific research, but as a NYC public school teacher who had to withstand years of vicious and incompetent intrusions from his foundation, all of it couched in the appropriated and morally vain language of “social justice,” I can assure you that his “malanthropic” (i.e. using non-profit status to promote one’s personal and class interests) efforts have absolutely nothing to do with helping people.

            Reply
    2. Ford Prefect

      There isn’t a vaccine yet for any of the seven coronavirus strains. So I hold out hope for one, but it is by no means a given there will be one.

      There are a lot of fundamental societal questions that will need to be answered, such as children going to school, day cares etc. over the next 12-24 months until we know if a vaccine is likely or not. the current political climate is not conducive to rational discussions regarding these difficult decisions.

      However, I am baffled at how Trump is approaching this, because the demographics of his supporters include many severely at risk populations. Is he actually trying to actually kill and maim his voters before the election?

      Reply
      1. Wmkohler

        While it is by no means a given that a vaccine is possible, I’m not sure this point is specifically substantiated by the fact that there aren’t vaccines for any of the other known coronavirus strains. I recall reading that the lack of a “common cold” coronavirus vaccine is due to the fact that there are four coronaviruses that are known to cause the common cold, and altogether they’re estimated to account for only 15% of colds. So, given that people experience an average of four colds per year, you would potentially be giving people four vaccines so they would have a better-than-50% chance of experiencing one less cold that year.

        Reply
    3. lordkoos

      Vaccines may be problematic, however so far the virus does not seem to mutate at the rate that the common flu does, so that is hopeful. What is likely is that (hopefully) some effective treatments will be found before a safe vaccine.

      Spoiled and sheltered Americans, having never experienced a military invasion, occupation, or a pandemic in their lifetimes will be having a very difficult time with this situation as time goes on, I’m sure.

      Reply
  9. thoughtfulperson

    I’ve heard rumors of some interesting plans from Massachusetts where the state is highering case trackers. I believe their plan is to start doing basic epidemiological prevention work. Of course they will need a lot of tests too.

    We know S Korea has been pretty successful with prevention (testing, case tracking, isolate those exposed and infected). I wonder if anyone knows of examples of countries or states that have failed to prevent an outbreak, and being forced into mitigation (social distancing etc) going back successfully to prevention?

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      Logically, once a pathogen becomes endemic in a population, prevention is impossible until all the susceptible die off. Then, a new generation of susceptible individuals rises up to be mown down in a subsequent wave of infection. That is how the European diseases worked in essentially performing genocide on the American Aboriginals. Herd immunity is just another way of saying cull the herd.
      At this stage in the game, we may have no other way through.
      Mother Nature is a bitch.

      Reply
      1. Phacops

        Well, because of circumstance, by our Revolutionary War Americans represented an immunologically naive population with respect to smallpox. Fighting smallpox led to our military leaders to make hard decisiona about strategy, and probably impacted the length of the war. Pox Americana is an interesting history of this.

        Reply
  10. Bob Hertz

    I do not live in Michigan so I could be wrong…….but I suspect a racial animus behind some of the current protests there.

    White folks in more rural areas are being told to shelter in place, in order to preserve medical supplies for the often-black virus patients in urban Detroit……

    As a side issue– why is a playground swing off limits? Why are any state parks closed (other than closing the park restrooms)? This is nanny-state-ism at its worst.

    Reply
    1. jrkrideau

      why is a playground swing off limits?

      Asymptomatic adult pushes healthy child and contaminates the swing. Next child and parent come along and get contaminated. Parent then goes on to infect whole family.

      Reply
    2. Monty

      I think it is probably because, when you meet someone in public, in a park or playground for instance, there is a chance you will infect them, or they will infect you. Some of those infected people will die a few weeks later.

      The nanny state doesn’t want more people to die, so they close their areas that where people might congregate and infect each other.

      Reply
    3. Keith

      I agree. They did this non-sense in WA state, too. Turns out we are supposed to go fishing, either. Good thing, though, is that the local and federal parks remain open and police are not bothering people on or around the lakes and rivers on the eastern side of the state. I think with the media hysteria and the political overreaction, individuals need to chart their own course and make a plan that is best for them. Similar to the hurricane warnings when I lived in the Gulf Coast- ignore the media and get the info yourself for a rational decision. Right now, media is in hysterics mode and politicians are in CYA mode, which sadly, is par for the coarse.

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        The thing about individuals charting their own courses is that as things hotted up in Wuhan, a lot of individuals fled before the detestable Nanny State reduced the fleeing. And the fleet took the virus with them, and thereby hangs one part of the tale of what happens when individuals make all the individual choices that (especially if they are asymptomatic or presymptomatic) screw over a whole other bunch of individuals.

        Yes indeed, “we” can trust that if only individuals are allowed to chart their own courses, no bad will occur. What is certain is that there are plenty of individuals who out of perceived necessity, ignorance, or just the pathopsychology like that dentist in south FL who intentionally infected many patients with his HIV.

        Reply
      2. lordkoos

        I live in WA state and as far as I’m concerned the main reason we have gotten the CV infection rate somewhat under control, after a fairly major outbreak in Seattle, is because people are following the recommended behaviors.

        It’s beginning to look like the first casualty of a pandemic is the truth…

        Reply
    4. BIDTIDPRN

      I live in Northern CA and they were open for a minute…but then EVERY SINGLE PERSON would visit them on the weekends and it was a mob scene…so, they closed them to avoid the crowds and massive infection transmission risk. My friends in pharmacy and healthcare who work on the front lines tell me it’s pretty quiet. ERs are empty due to fear as are MD offices, clinics, and pharmacy had a surge initially around March 13 when lockdown started but it has tapered off and simmered down. Working in healthcare policy, I am extremely busy and tucked in on permanent telework. The three letter pharmacy chain and it’s cohorts are still treating their employees like crap, cutting hours, and telling them they aren’t considered healthcare workers so they don’t count for PPE….which is BS but thankfully, my colleagues are wearing PPE either obtained via the company or as contraband. What a world!

      Reply
    5. False Solace

      The level of small-minded, selfish, willful ignorance in the comments is deeply concerning. This is not directed at Bob Hertz.

      States closed down playgrounds, boat landings, and some parks because of the mob scenes and crowds which made it impossible to observe social distancing. People traveling to remote areas with limited hospital beds spread the virus to small towns with no resources. Trying to shut down interstate commerce is probably not legal for a state governor to attempt and just results in tit-for-tat squabbles between states. How many people can fit in a rowboat vs a motorboat, and which could conceivably be used for exercise? This just goes to Yves’ main point — rebelliousness and denialism will result in the virus flaring up again. People too lazy to think about things for 15 seconds, who are unwilling to temporarily give up a few pleasures, will kill people who did their best to avoid contagion. We’re just seeing more proof that when human health and safety go up against the almighty dollar, the humans lose.

      It would be nice if the feds could get their act together and put out a consistent message. I can’t count how many times Trump contradicted his own experts at the same briefing. No wonder people are confused. The virus can’t spread itself — but it has plenty of helpers.

      Reply
  11. Grayce

    For people who say they are not afraid to go out in public and demand “civil liberties” there is an anecdote circulating: I used to have a dog that was not afraid of traffic.”

    Reply
    1. Monty

      That’s a classic!

      If these folks were just going to infect each other, I’d be all for them getting out and congregating. I think there might be some positive knock-on effects in the local gene pool.

      Reply
      1. wilroncanada

        My version of the oold Don Harron joke (different towns). I moved from Hamilton to Vancouver–lowered the IQ in both places.

        Reply
  12. Larry

    Sheltering in place won’t work because income support and debt relief is inadequate. Imagine a landscaper who lives week to week wondering how he will buy food while seeing grocery store clerks working. That’s going to seem unfair really quickly. Especially with some leaders talking about opening up shop ASAP. To ask for long term sacrifice and compliance, we must secure people’s short term needs.

    Reply
    1. Noone from Nowheresville

      Yep, you get into the essential people question which Lambert posited after the Schumer proposal.

      Are people who go to work to maintain health, supply lines, transportation, sanitation, food access, etc essential? Yes. Absolutely. Should they receive just compensation given their added risks? Without question. That shouldn’t even be up for debate with the federal government spigot.

      But people who follow stay-at-home orders are also essential. We can’t bend the curve and give medical teams a chance to survive the peaks without them. They deserve to be taken care of as well.

      Turns out taking care of “people” isn’t part of the current plan. Not really. The fictitious people of our own creation aka corporations / limited liability partnerships / private equity / etc. are current peoples who are being taken care of in an expedited fashion. The bare minimal “handouts” to real persons are even being funneled back to those same fictitious people during a pandemic.

      Real people need to be counted as people. Real people are essential, not numbers or units on fictitious person’s spreadsheet.

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        Even self-interest among the elites ought to point to paying people a living stipend while efforts are underway to try to at least mitigate the spread and impact of this disease. Starving people without even “access” to health care are going to become a restive beast, and maintaining people who as the fat tail diminishes would with proper precautions be able to go back to work if the weren’t terminated or debilitated by loss of shelter and food, seems like a no-brainer. But then our rulers don’t seem to be very brainy when it comes to promoting species homeostasis.

        Reply
        1. lordkoos

          I sometimes speculate that what is intended is massive social unrest – what can explain the lack of policies to help working people weather a crisis of this sort? If this is not what our rulers want to happen, then they are even more stupid than I thought.

          If such unrest does occur, then it becomes an opportunity for serious social control — curfews, heavy-handed policing, perhaps troops on the streets, online censorship, etc.

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.

            First, most Republican pols think the virus threat is exaggerated and can’t be bothered to deal with data or talk to experts.

            Second, as we have explained, the 30+ years of anti-government sentiment and resulting gutted departments (and few senior people going to government for good motives). means government has severely diminished operational capacity. Budget cutting at the CDC started under Bush and continued under Obama. But more important, look at the response in South Korea. Tests with no waits and results in <2 days, typically <12 hours. Software for the people who are told to self quarantine to log their temperature 2x a day. The government gives them masks, cleaning products, safe garbage disposal bags. They are assigned a health care worker who will talk to them and get them food. The US is incapable of doing anything like that.

            Reply
    2. HotFlash

      Here in Canada, and in many (most?) other first- and even second-world countries, people who are asked to stay home for the good of the nation are *paid to do so*. We’re not likely to get rich on $2000/mo, but we can probably pay our rent/mortgage and get some groceries. Banks have suspended mortgage payments, waived fees, deferred credit card minimums, (eg, Royal Bank of Canada personal and business measures). Businesses get help, and not just loans. The income for the next 6, 12, or 18 months is *gone*, loans only help if you (person or business) can make up the losses, otherwise it’s just another wealth grab. Utility co’s here are deferring shut-offs, but mostly they won’t have to b/c we are getting a de facto UBI for the duration. Everyone has health care, not attached to employment. We’ll be fine.

      Meanwhile in the US, people are told to stay home (if they can keep one) and starve? Why should airlines and *cruise lines* FFS!!! be bailed out and nail salons, hair dressers, and barber shops left to twist in the wind?

      Economist Mark Blythe is famous for (among other things) pointing out that the Hamptons are not a defensible position. Well, neither are we here in Canada. And I worry.

      Reply
      1. Altandmain

        Depends on a lot of factors.

        $2k CAD a month is probably enough for a single person living in a cheaper city, but if you have a family living in Toronto or Vancouver, that may not be adequate.

        Reply
          1. eg

            I have a co-worker whose two children (one in Grade 11, the other in 2nd year University) are both eligible for and receiving the $2000 a month — so their household income has actually increased because of COVID-19

            Reply
  13. Tom67

    I cite: “And don’t kid yourself that red state rubes who’ve consumed too much pro-Trump talk radio are the big sinners. Don’t forget the 1%ers who fled to the Hamptons or other enclaves, in some cases knowing they were infected.” That is why I love Nakedcapitalism. No mindless partisanship but telling it like it is.

    Reply
  14. Kurtismayfield

    The optics on this are awful.. they waited for this to pull off a protest, and stood by and watched Flint happen? The lack of empathy for others is striking.

    Reply
    1. Wyoming

      The likelyhood that these people had any idea what was going on in Flint is absurd.

      And the likelyhood that they are motivated by racism to want to have their lives back is also absurd.

      These are just regular people who have had their means to take care of themselves taken away and they are getting desperate. They have families and children you know. It is just standard human selfishness of a completely justifiable kind. They can see that they are being sacrificed and just are not comfortable with that long goodby.

      IF we had chosen to provide them support so that they could see they were not going to lose everything if we continue down this path you might get a different reaction. But we are choosing to cut them adrift. Expect consequences.

      Where exactly is ‘your’ empathy?

      Reply
    2. DanB

      Detroit has been an ongoing catastrophe for decades at the hands of the state and federal governments. They have ignored and simultaneously punished the city. The so-called recovery there is in an 8 square mile neoliberal zone. I don’t know how to put this so I’ll just say it, Detroit is not recovering, the rest of the nation is on the road to becoming Detroit.

      Reply
  15. InquiringMind

    Not intended as a defense of the protestors: but it seems like blockage of the hospital was an unintended consequence, not a stated goal of the protest. The hospital spokesman said that the Emergency entrance was not blocked (it’s on the other side of the building from the pictured road).

    That said, unintended consequences matter a lot in a situation like the one we’re in…and people acting out like this are going to suffer and cause lots of unintended consequences.

    Reply
      1. Wyoming

        Expecting people to behave sensibly in the current situation is perhaps asking too much? I would bet that there will be a lot more of this lack of sensibility a few weeks from now than there is today.

        This situation reminds me a lot of the creation of the story to justify the Iraq war. I sat in many meetings where the people I worked with argued over and over again that No that is not what happened, No that is not true, No they did not work together, No there is no WMD, etc, etc. I saw people I knew throw their careers away because they refused to cooperate and be associated with where the train was going. But I knew and they knew the train was going there anyway. And it did.

        We are not going to act sensibly.

        Reply
        1. Thomas Jennings

          The Iraq war and the Coronacrisis are not comparable and the train ain’t goin where Trump/USG wants it to go. Unlike Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld, Trump, et al. cannot create their own reality. The virus is in charge and there is no hand waving it away.

          Reply
  16. Bryan

    This is largely excellent, but the closing of outdoor, spacious parks and playgrounds is not sound policy. You are in very little danger properly distanced in an outdoor park, particularly in the sunshine.

    Complains would go up significantly if people are given healthy opportunities for physical exercise and being outside. Big mistake to close them down.

    Reply
    1. Koldmilk

      I believe the worry is that if allowed outdoor exercise people won’t maintain social distance. There are also bottlenecks where social distancing fails. I’ve seen stores that limit the number of customers at a time to maintain space for social distancing end up with dense queues outside waiting to get in with insufficient distance between people.

      Reply
    2. sd

      Los Angeles had to close parks trails, and their parking lots because they got so full, it was impossible to practice social distancing. Same with beaches and boardwalks, etc.

      Reply
      1. wilroncanada

        Even in a small city like Victoria, the crowds in some parks and on some trails were so crowded that they had to be closed for “distancing” to work. And playgrounds. And beaches

        Reply
    3. Anon

      (I am NOT the Anon whose comments to whom Yves replied up thread.)

      If tend to agree, in considered circumstance. The OPEN spaces of a park should be available, while playground equipment (personal proximity and equipment surface exposure) are decidedly off-limit.

      LA County (10M pop.) has closed all it’s beaches after thousands flocked there on weekends. Adjacent Ventura County (upcoast) still allows ocean access. My county (still further upcoast) still has SOME beach parking and allows beach access, if you walk or ride. Without car parking large picnic like gatherings are discouraged. Beach use here is mostly families spaced broadly across the strand. That isn’t the case in LA County.

      Reply
      1. HotFlash

        Our parks here in Toronto are still sorta kinda open. There are signs at the park entrances about social distancing. Kids gotta play, adults gotta exercise, dogs gotta be walked. I have seen parents spray the swings with disinfectant before letting their kids play on them. That seems OK to me. Disinfecting swings seems like something a parent can do. If not (cost concerns, sanitizer availability), there are other means. My favourite local supermarket has a line of carts marked “handles sanitized” and similar for the tote baskets. That seems like an activity with little risk — ie, cart-sanitizing employees don’t need to be close to customers w/o protective gear. Even my local little stores (health food, convenience, liquor) are marking their aisles one-way. demarcating line-waiting distances and limiting # of people in the store — one out, one in.

        Life is pretty close to normal here, in terms of what we need (food, shelter) but really, much nicer. Sky is bluer than I have ever seen, the din of the city is now a gentle purr, the air smells so much better, and I can ride my bike on the main street without fear for my life. I will take this normal over the old one in a heartbeat.

        Reply
  17. tyvek

    Everything in life requires risk. There is no guarantee that anyone of us will make it one more day, for a litany of possible reasons. Having experience with ICU’s, I have regularly seen how the healthiest adults and children will get some 1-in-a-thousand or 1-in-a-million disease and pass away. For us to now say, “Here is a disease that mainly has mortality amongst the elderly (mortality for under 50’s is low and for under 40’s is very low and for under 30’s extremely low). We are going to shut down the economy and life because of this disease because even one death is too much. And anyone who disagrees with us is a greedy 10% PMC, etc.” Well that is an out of touch sentiment, and is unreasonable given the daily realities of life. At the end of the day, we can never completely eliminate risk from our lives and we have to live with some level of risk. Maybe the risk has gone up, but life has to continue as well.

    Moreover, at this point the response has become politicized. It is being mismanaged at all levels in the US, even the (Northern) California response that was indicated in the post to be exemplary. Many of the governors are trying to show contrast with Trump, while other governors are trying to show contrast with Democrat governors. The emptiness of their response can be seen in Gavin Newsom’s plan to reopen California, which consists of empty platitudes and unrealistic goals that will likely not be accomplished until 2022 the earliest. Is it reasonable that we shut down life for 2 years?

    Reply
    1. Koldmilk

      We are going to shut down the economy and life because of this disease because even one death is too much.

      is a gross misrepresentation of what is being called for. The actual statement is

      We have to reduce the economy and restrict daily activities otherwise one million will die.

      .

      You miss that the point is that actions can be taken to reduce the increased risk from this epidemic. You want us to choose to not take these steps because “life is full of risk anyway”.

      Reply
    2. False Solace

      > Is it reasonable that we shut down life for 2 years?

      It sounds like you are trying to reason with a virus. Do you think you will succeed in persuading it? The virus doesn’t care about your preferences. If you don’t want to social distance, it will keep on swamping hospitals.

      The fatality rate of the virus is almost beside the point. The critical issue is the 15% who need hospitalization. Weeks in an ICU on a ventilator with a dedicated nurse for every 2 patients. Do you think such things grow on trees?

      There are countries that have managed to avoid shutdowns. But it has taken vastly more resources (testing, contact tracing, enforced quarantine with income support) than any western country has attempted.

      Reply
    3. tongorad

      Is it reasonable that we shut down life for 2 years?

      What part of the virus is in charge do you not understand?

      The government should be paying people to stay home – this is the only reasonable position.
      Socialism or barbarism.

      Reply
      1. tyvek

        That is not the only reasonable position. That is your opinion and the opinion of many. But different people have different risk profiles and preferences, and there are many for whom they are willing to take a (very low for the young) risk to be able do some of the activities of life.

        And another thing you are callously forgetting is that the shutdown is itself causing substantial losses of life. I talked with someone who works in an ER, and they said that people are scared to come to the ER because of the lockdown and panic over covid-19. So patients who would have come to the ER with appendicitis do not come into the ER until after their appendix has burst and the pain unbearable. Or someone who may have had mild chest pain does not come into the ER until their condition evolves to a stroke and they have lost the ability to move half their body. These are actual examples from just 1 ER in a mid-sized city. People who need life-saving cancer surgeries or organ transplants cannot get them either, because their surgeries are considered non-essential. Are their lives worth giving up because you are scared of covid-19?

        Reply
        1. Monty

          To be honest, I think i’d be just fine driving home after 10 pints at the pub. I am a great driver, and would be extra careful. By your logic, I should be free to do that, if I am prepared to take the risk.

          Reply
        2. Grebo

          Yes, people have different risk preferences, especially if they think it is other people at risk.

          Healthcare is being shut down instead of ramped up. Workers are being abandoned instead of supported. Neither of these things are necessary outcomes of a lockdown.

          Reply
        3. Alternate Delegate

          Please don’t dismiss tyvek’s point about the costs, including opportunity costs.

          This is something that has bothered me for a long time about Taleb-style “precautionary principle” arguments. These arguments tend to make it impossible to put a metric on the cost side of the cost-benefit analysis. And that problem gets glossed over because of the too-easy distracting segue into “whose cost?” arguments.

          The “precautionary principle” can just as well be used to justify spending the entire federal budget on an “Asteroid Watch and Deflection Command”.

          Instead, there are many risks, including many extinction-level threats, and a diversity of local responses (precisely the opposite of an autocratic top-down “precautionary principle”) is often a robust survival strategy.

          At the same time, social responses start to take precedence over individual responses as the correlation of individual risks increases. Example: climate change cannot be handled by a diversity of local responses. Nonlinearity and “convexity” and correlation and feedback are all perfectly real and true – we have very little grip on the absolute size of many of these risks.

          Nevertheless, that does not make the costs irrelevant. The costs are very much relevant to a rational discussion.

          Reply
          1. Monty

            If you know it’s a case of: “if and not when” an asteroid will come into a collision course with Earth, doesn’t it makes perfect sense to have an “Asteroid Watch and Deflection Command”? Seems kind of silly to let an asteroid kill us so we don’t ruin the economy, doesn’t it? Who else is positioned to operate such an organization, but the government? It doesn’t need to consume 100% of their budget, it just needs to have a plan to prevent our annihilation at short notice. When the benefit is “not going extinct”, how can any cost be too high? What’s all that money going to do with itself, if we are dead?

            Reply
          2. tongorad

            Nevertheless, that does not make the costs irrelevant. The costs are very much relevant to a rational discussion.

            O Spirit of gravity *clutches pearls*

            What exactly is “the entire federal budget?” Do you imagine it to be like a household or business?
            Do you not understand that we can afford to do something like this:

            BBC: Coronavirus: Government to pay up to 80% of workers’ wages

            The government has faced huge pressure to intervene to support workers to prevent mass unemployment as anti-virus measures have seen many firms’ revenues evaporate almost overnight.
            This move is an incredible intervention for any British government, let alone a Conservative one, but proportionate to the size of the terrible, but temporary, economic impact that could follow the coronavirus shutdowns.

            In theory, it should save hundreds of thousands of jobs. Perhaps more. Employers have to accept that the government is doing something they would have never imagined a UK government to do.

            At 80% cent of wages up to £2,500 a month it is a scheme more generous than some of the high welfare Scandinavian countries. It instantly transforms the social safety net of this nation.

            Reply
          3. Grebo

            Part of Taleb’s point (I think) is that cost/benefit analysis is sometimes not appropriate or meaningful, and this is one of those times.

            And my point above is that some of the costs imputed to the lockdown are in fact due to bad government policy; a false dichotomy is being constructed. We could safeguard our livelihoods, normal health, and our grannies if we wanted to. However, you still wouldn’t be allowed down the pub.

            Reply
    4. HotFlash

      My dear tyvek (interesting choice of screen name).

      I assure you, my ‘life’ has not been ‘shut down’. If the ‘economy’ is shut down, I have not actually noticed it. Something-something-stock market? No, not actually feelin’ it here. In fact, I feel that the quality of my life has improved, that we-all are much closer by virtue of the CVB shutdowns to reversing climate change, community solidarity, and rebuilding a local economy WRT food chain, manufacturing, on and on, and perhaps most importantly, identifying once and for all, what is really an essential service.

      Eg, banks: loans to small bizz, essential. We can tell that b/c since they are *not* doing them, many, many small bizzes will fail in just a few weeks. HELLO!!! Small bizzes do not have the resources to weather this storm. Most are running week-to-week with only a bank line of credit to keep them paying payroll and paying suppliers. Oh, I read that they are out of funds. Making mega-bucks on for-profit hospitals and going long N95 masks? Not so much, societally-wise.

      OK, so what we humans need right now: food, clothing, shelter, medical care, companionship.

      What is essential but not urgent: our stories, history, literature, music, art, and dance. Note: these are not momentary must-haves, but without them, a society dies because it cannot remember and improve itself.

      Reply
  18. Travis Bickle

    Having just read one of the preceding links about Taleb and complexity, it coincides with my thinking that any hope by US policos for rationally managing this thing is futile; all we can do is the smart thing for ourselves and those we are responsible for. It reminds me of those animal channel segment when something like an alligator relentlessly swallows a screaming raccoon.

    COVID is such an animal and all the sturm y drang is really rather pointless. It will have its way, and what we need to do is take care of ourselves, because the challenge is clearly overwhelming the political system as now constructed.

    Social distancing will allow the overall system, and us personally, to gird ourselves as best we can. But, it is not going to help things much, except to the extent the medical community will be better prepared. Even a vaccine, when it eventually arrives, will only be partially effective (pick a number for effectiveness, based on other vaccines).

    Those noble words about every life being precious, and being able to restart an economy but not a life are, in the final analysis, empty. At some point people will starve and chaos will ensue if the economy is not allowed to restart. The alligator does not care how loud the raccoon screams. But this is all off-topic.

    What is on-topic is that the natural winnowing in times like these in way too complex to anticipate or manage. These yahoos in Lansing and elsewhere may be propelling themselves toward just such a dispassionate accounting, as will the prideful ignorance and arrogance of Clyde Bundt and his ilk. Meanwhile, those who know how to do their homework, with the discipline to follow through, will prevail.

    Trump, and many of his followers, represent the bottom half of the class who barely got through high school. The observation of the “Fredo” phenomena (Michael Corleone’s ineffectual brother), after Trumps’s election, is enduring. From time to time the herd is culled, and many of these people seem determined to depart on their own one-way fishing trips.

    Reply
    1. Monty

      “At some point people will starve and chaos will ensue if the economy is not allowed to restart. ”

      The essential economy (e.g. food production) was never stopped in the first place, it doesn’t need to reopen to prevent us from starving. It is open and it is currently protected by having the non essential economy staying out of their way, and not spreading the virus to essential workers.

      The government could just give people money, so they can cover their obligations and eat during this extraordinary period. Sadly, it seems that rather than demanding the government do this, some people would rather condemn the sick and elderly to an early grave.

      Reply
      1. Travis Bickle

        Putting a finer point on things, I’d largely agree with what you say.

        Still, the rest of the economy, at some point, and to some extent, needs to function, even if at some barely minimal level. If not, things start to deteriorate, physically and societally.

        I live in Ecuador, which has serious communal buy-in to take mitigation seriously. It’s downright heartening. When they say ESSENTIAL services here they mean it, and the people support it, however weak their grasp on how to properly use gloves and masks, or the concept of enforcing social distancing with friends they’ve known all their life, after all.

        Still, when the fridge goes out it must be fixed, and I’m now using a cooler, while a neighbor is giving me a bit of space in his restaurant’s freezer. Even when put into a medically induced coma, the patient needs to be maintained and serviced, however minimally.

        Entropy eventually always sets-in, and serious mitigation simply cannot be kept up indefinitely. Eventually something gives.

        Reply
        1. Monty

          I saw some tragic pictures in the news out of Ecuador. The bodies left in the street. Is that something you have seen first hand? I hope you’re not having to many problems personally.
          Stay safe and good luck!

          Reply
    2. HotFlash

      ll we can do is the smart thing for ourselves and those we are responsible for

      Well, yeah, but what if our neighbours (note the spelling, I mean *you*, America) are covid-hoax-believing, not- paid-to-stay-home, then the me-and-the-family-are-gonna-die people are not at all unreasonable under the current regime.. As a former Michigander, I do not think that these people are all idiots, only maybe some of them. But hey? If the choice is ‘starve or shoot’, I’ll put my money on them shootin’.

      Reply
  19. Ignim Brites

    “Data for March, when the restrictions weren’t in place for the entire month, show much more severe damage than most economists foresaw.” It seems reasonable to expect that 40 million people will be unemployed by the end of April. It seems unreasonable to expect that a significant portion of these will be back by the end of June. It hardly seems unlikely that second quarter GDP will be down 20%.

    Reply
  20. Bob Hertz

    Regarding the closing of state parks:

    I appreciate several thoughtful comments. However, I have been going to public parks for 50 years, and 100% of the persons I have encountered are gentle souls who play by the rules. If you tell them to stay 6 feet away from others, they will.

    I am referring to state and national parks by the way. Most of these have about one person per square mile even when they are busy.

    The comment about closing swing sets was very disturbing to me. If we are going to close every public place where a surface can have germs, how will we ever open a restaurant or a post office or a gas station again? It is time to take minute chances.

    Obviously I am not a scientist in any way, so maybe I have missed something here,

    Reply
  21. Dennis Brown

    We here in Canada have only one tenth the population of the U.S.A. so perhaps direct comparisons are inappropriate. But the Covid-19 statistics in Canada are quite different than in U.S.A.

    Here in British Columbia we have a population of just over 5M people. Not big by U.S. standards, but comparable to an entire country like Denmark. As of April 15th, we had 1561 cases. 131 were hospitalized. 59 ended up in I.C.U. 75 people have died, 955 have already recovered. All the deaths were aged 60 and over, with the overwhelming percentage of those over 80 years old. Our hospital system has never reached anything close to overload and the curve has been steadily “flattening” for more than a week.

    I do not say any of this to imply that others on this site have no reason to be upset or afraid. Or to gloat as a Canadian.The disease is most definitely contagious and a threat. We here in B.C. have been social distancing, quite well. But thankfully without any of the draconian and authoritarian tendencies exhibited by other authorities around the globe.

    My concern throughout has been that the reaction to this disease is advancing faster than the knowledge of the actual nature of the disease itself. Particularly the true fatality rate, which will never be known until until we have sufficient data to truly determine the number of people who have been exposed to the disease. Which will take some time.

    It seems that a major factor in all this is that those countries with better health care systems and infrastructure have fared better than those than those that do not. I’d prefer that we globally respond to that fact instead of contemplating draconian policies to restrict citizen’s rights and ruin the lives of billions of working class people. Or in the advancement a series of agendas of the Military or big Pharma.

    Let’s fight this disease with compassion, reason, and solidarity. And not descend into mass acrimony and distrust. For what it’s worth I don’t believe that anyone questioning all the hysteria about this disease promulgated by the media should be made a target of shaming for simply doubting some of the politicized reaction to Covid-19.

    Reply
    1. Travis Bickle

      Ditto that.

      There is an enormous amount of good thinking that is being brought to bear on getting to the bottom of this thing, despite a natural knee-jerk instinct to grab for whatever shiny ideas present themselves as panaceas.

      The medical community is getting plenty of data to slice & dice, studies will be run and protocols developed apace, and eventually the thing will be managed. How good that solution looks, based on what we had pre C19, is another question.

      Until then, our worse enemy is ourselves.

      Reply
  22. Oregoncharles

    ” SOBS. Yesterday marked 4 weeks since she’s played with another child.”

    I’m going to disagree with Yves here. Isolation is really, really bad for people, especially children. Raises the suicide rate, at the extreme. So it isn’t just a matter of “rebelliousness,” although that will happen; there are serious mental health consequences, especially combined with the stresses of physical danger and economic collapse. Greenwald weighs in on this, unfortunately with a podcast I haven’t listened to yet, but the point is clear enough: https://theintercept.com/2020/04/15/watch-the-mental-health-dimensions-of-the-coronavirus-pandemic-and-isolation-measures/; the earlier one just below it, with “Press Secretary Brianha Joy Gray, who announced that at least for now she would not be endorsing Biden, and the activist and journalist Benjamin Dixon” (Bruce Dixon’s son, perchance?), discussing the options after Bernie’s withdrawal, is also relevant to the choices a lot of NC readers are facing. Haven’t had a chance to hear that one, either.

    End digression. The truth is, kids will probably recover, because they do; some adults may not. The dilemma is very real.

    Reply
  23. Ignim Brites

    Didn’t Canada close its border with the US. So much for compassion and solidarity. So much for Canadian nice. I guess we can start talking aboat the ugly Canadian.

    Reply
    1. Dennis Brown

      Ignim, before you label us as “ugly” Canadians your government closed the border to us at the same. I’m not trying to affect superficial “Canadian nice” or sanctimony here.

      I’m just trying to concentrate on data and in the process avoid descending into nastiness and name calling, which will certainly doom us all. Best wishes to you any way!

      Reply
      1. Ignim Brites

        Best wishes to you too Dennis. I”m just being sarcastic and not about Canadians or Canadian niceness.

        Reply
  24. MLTPB

    The two counties mentioned above are similar density wise, Pulaski, KY and Washinton Vermont..

    Pulaski, 677 sq mi., 64,000 pop. Apprx.

    Washington, 695 sq mi., 58,000 pop., apprx.

    Two cities in Washington:

    Barre, pop. density of 2,180 per sq mi.
    Montpelier, pop density of 739 per sq mi.

    One city in Pulaski:

    Somerset pop density of 990 per sq mi.

    It would seem the denser Barre might perhaps contribute some difference in mobility change (71% lower vs 51% lower)

    Whether the counties are surrounded by dense or sparse counties would also make some difference. Pulaski is next to Lake Cumberland. Washington county is next to Chittenten, the most populous Vermont county.

    I don’t know if these factors made any significant difference.

    Reply
  25. E Williams

    Yves’ quip that the “natives are restless” puts the wrong labels on the players. Since 1492, conquistadores/filibusters/pirates/developers have taken advantage of epidemics to secure dominance over the natives. When those guys heard that 70% of the victims of covid-19 were black, they perceived an entirely different set of signals. “Green light! No problem! We’ll take the land when the natives are dead!” The movement to re-start the economy is ambiguous enough. But nothing can explain defunding the World Health Organization except genocidal thinking. I fear genocide’s next step — when they stop black people, now presumed infectious, from entering stores and businesses.

    Reply
  26. Eureka Springs

    What good is an economy when you’re sick or dead? What good is an economy/society I get sick in with no doctor, not even a z pac to ride it out with a fighting chance?

    Spoke to my friends who work in three major hospitals in central Arkansas. Administration has decided not to tell anyone from doctors on down if a patient tests positive. So all those heath care professionals can only guess as to their exposure. Friends suspect the main reason for this is so hospitals don’t have to pay for employee quarantine.

    This alone should be reason enough to shut it all down. I’ve been ready for a general strike for my entire adult life. If we don’t push back from time to time, in response systemic warfare, yes I said and mean warfare, against us, we are no better than slaves in chains. Worse since the chains are of our mind only.

    Reply
    1. Eureka Springs

      Also spoke with a dear friend who was laid off over winter which is common in our tourist town. Unemployment denied her request for extension one week after she returned to work and was laid off again because employer was forced to close.

      Madness everywhere. She’ll lay in bed in the fetal position for a while…. but countless many like her will have to take dramatic risky/desperate/angry action soon. I can’t help but be shocked more hasn’t happened by now and that there must be lots of looting and such we are not getting reports on.

      Reply

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