The False Dawn of Ending Coronavirus Lockdowns

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We’ve pointed out that too many people don’t want to face up to the fact that conflict between the inevitable force of the coronavirus and the seeming immovable object of our social and economic systems, the coronavirus is in charge. That won’t change until we have a vaccine, which will either take quite a while or will never be attained, or we have treatments that reduce the severity of the disease.

This is a pretty depressing state of affairs, and most people are not wired to confront depressing truths. Even yours truly, who has a dour nature and is also in a lot of ways not badly impacted by the lockdowns (once you factor out how it’s increased the difficulty of dealing with the care of a 92 year old), is feeling pretty down. It seems to be mourning for the loss of the way things used to be.

But it appears instead that many Americans are resorting to magical thinking, that if we just end the lockdowns, things will go back to status quo ante save some nursing home residents croaking early. That’s just not happening. The results of a survey of 23,000 people in 50 states and the District:

Members of both parties think a wait of at least another month in relaxing restrictions is in order.

The lack of a meaningful decline in infection and death rates has registered on the the great unwashed American public. Bloomberg reported that cases rose 2% over the past day, and tried to put a cheery spin that that was lower than the average daily increase of 2.6% over the previous week. But plateauing or only growing slowly from a pretty high level isn’t an happy story. Lambert featured this chart yesterday:

And Americans are getting more evidence that the virus won’t be leaving us any time soon. And there’s every reason to expect infection rates to rise. The Hill:

New internal projections from the Trump administration suggest U.S. deaths will grow on a daily basis to 3,000 by the beginning of June, weeks after states have begun reopening their economies.

The startling figures from models produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) come as more and more states take steps to remove social distancing measures meant to slow the spread of COVID-19….

But lifting the measures could lead to more cases and will raise fears about a second wave from the virus.

The Administration tried denying the report, but who are they kidding? For those paying attention, StatNews had already provided sobering intermediate-term scenarios:

As epidemiologists attempt to scope out what Covid-19 has in store for the U.S. this summer and beyond, they see several potential futures, differing by how often and how severely the no-longer-new coronavirus continues to wallop humankind. But while these scenarios diverge on key details — how much transmission will decrease over the summer, for instance, and how many people have already been infected (and possibly acquired immunity) — they almost unanimously foresee a world that, even when the current outbreak temporarily abates, looks and feels nothing like the world of just three months ago.

It is a world where, even in Western countries, wearing a face mask is no more unusual than carrying a cellphone. A world where even at small social gatherings a friend’s occasional cough feels threatening, where workplaces have the feel of hot zones, and where taking public transit is not as much environmentally correct as personally dangerous….

In one future, a monster wave hit in early 2020 (the current outbreak of millions of cases and a projected hundreds of thousands of deaths globally by August 1), but is followed by alternating mini-waves of much smaller outbreaks every few months with only a few (but never zero) cases in between….

In the second scenario, the current monster wave is followed later this year by one twice as fierce and even longer-lasting, as the outbreak rebounds after a summer when a significant drop in the number of cases and deaths led officials and individuals to let down their guard…After this doubly disastrous second wave, the sea is almost calm, marred only by an occasional wave of cases that number barely one-fifth of what the fall and spring of 2020 saw.

In the third possible future, the current wave creates a new normal, with Covid-19 outbreaks of nearly equal size and, in most cases, duration through the end of 2022. At that point, the best-case scenario is that an effective vaccine has arrived; if not, then the world experiences Covid-19 until at least half of the population has been infected, with or without becoming ill.

What all three scenarios agree on is this: There is virtually no chance Covid-19 will end when the world bids good riddance to a calamitous 2020. The reason is the same as why the disease has taken such a toll its first time through: No one had immunity to the new coronavirus.

And if that isn’t grim enough, you’ll see that these takes assume that getting the coronavirus confers reasonably good immunity, and getting to over 50% of the population having gotten sick will dampen the spread. That conveniently overlooks the notion that the uncontrolled R0 is over 5, which implies that much higher infection levels are needed for new cases to fizzle out.

That 93% who want longer lockdowns means even those who really want to engage in some activities they miss, like getting a haircut, going to a gym, or even going out to a bar or coffeeshop, are going to feel queasy about it. It’s not going to be all that relaxing or fun. The Wall Street Journal provided some tips in Safety Advice for Reopening: How to Reduce Your Risks as Coronavirus Lockdowns Ease, such as:

So the safest move for most people is still to stay home as much as possible. But if you do go out, there are ways to reduce the risks. Here’s what the experts say….

At the Hairdresser or Barbershop

Check out those YouTube tutorials, because Dr. Poland urges people to postpone trips to the salon until there’s more evidence that community transmission of the novel coronavirus is very low. Dr. Kuritzkes concurs. “It’s going to be basically rolling the dice and hoping the person doing your hair hasn’t been recently exposed by another client or somebody in their neighborhood and is shedding virus.” He notes that some research has found that people are most contagious in the two or so days before they exhibit symptoms of Covid-19.

If you do go to the hairdresser or barber shop, Dr. Milton says because “people are going to be really close for an extended period of time,” it is important that both client and professional wear masks. Dr. Kuritzkes says that it probably is safer to have your hairdresser make a house call (if he or she is willing) and cut your hair outside in your backyard.

That means that even those who start re-engaging in “normal” activities are likely to do so selectively, yet another damper on getting back to former spending levels. And it goes without saying that trying to make businesses safer almost always has adverse financial effects. From the Financial Times:

A second wave of job losses could hit developed economies even when governments begin to lift lockdowns, as businesses reassess their ability to operate in an era of continued social distancing, economists have warned….

So far, policymakers have focused on supporting businesses to survive a short-term drop in revenues, while funding them to keep furloughed employees on their payroll. This was meant to help prevent workers from falling into long-term unemployment, while allowing companies and the wider economy to return to full capacity quickly once restrictions were lifted…

Now most economists expect the short-term hit to GDP to be larger, and the recovery more drawn-out, than governments had initially hoped.

“The recovery will be slow, the adjustment will be long and not without pain, for people and businesses,” said Andrea Garnero, a labour market economist at the OECD. “All public spaces will have to be rearranged and I am not sure we will rush to a spending spree as soon as the lockdowns are lifted.”

Mobility data from US states suggested that with or without mandated lockdowns, people would not resume normal activity until the health issues were solved, he added. 

The evidence of deep, lasting damage to the economy is overwhelming. The biggest tell is that Warren Buffett, who is famously cool-headed and prides himself on buying into good franchises on the cheap during crises, not only says he has nothing to buy but actually engaged in distressed selling of airline stocks….meaning even the Sage of Omaha decided to cut losses rather than hope things might eventually come back. And while the “nothing to buy” comes in large measure from Treasury and Fed handout meaning that big companies don’t need the need to come to Berkshire Hathaway for rescues, it also means that Buffett doesn’t deem any sectors to be oversold.

You can’t handwave away over 30 million unemployment claims…and that doesn’t include idled gig economy workers. Many are losing their livelihoods and can’t fall back on wealth, subsistence farming or a “must have” skill. Railing against injustices like unwarranted foreclosures and young people drowning under student debt burdens seems quaint compared to the collapse or radical contraction of entire swathes of the economy: restaurants, entertainment, hotels, car rental, airlines, gyms and personal trainers. And that’s before you get to the knock-on effects of the not-so-badly off reining in their spending out of caution or because there’s less reason. For instance, BBC had a piece on a young professional who returned all her recent workplace wardrobe buys and procured upscale but still cheaper sweats in their place. Similarly, a one-time road warrior who spoke at and attended conferences in the US and abroad, says the confabs are still being held, on Zoom. This lawyer doesn’t seen these events coming back to anything resembling their former scale, even if coronavirus is conquered. New habits and budgets are being set and they’ll be hard to displace. Another contact, with a mid-sized manufacturing business with NASA and top automakers as its customers, says revenues have collapsed to one-fifth of former levels.

The path back to something dimly resembling normalcy is even more difficult in countries hard hit by coronavirus. Take a look at this short BBC video from Naples, ‘It would be better to die’: Italy’s lockdown cost. Stop and go lockdowns could eventually do as much economic damage as Italy’s protracted shutdown has.

A selection of corroborating stories today:

VW warns of rising costs as car market faces deep recession Financial Times

Hertz Prepares to File Bankruptcy If Monday Deadline Is Missed Bloomberg

United Air to Cut at Least 30% of Managers, Administrative Staff Bloomberg

People want to save their jobs, their businesses, get out of the house, have a beer with their friends. But even the young aren’t immune. While their hospitalization rates are lower, some seem unable to shake the bug and remain severely ill for weeks. Doctors regard the level of serious cases among health individuals in their 20s and 30s to be troublingly high. From Business Insider:

Doctors on the front lines say they’re astonished at how many relatively young people are becoming severely ill from the novel coronavirus….Stories of young people getting sick and even dying from the novel coronavirus are becoming common….

But in a hospital on Long Island, the ICU has patients in their 20s, Dr. Dixie Harris, an ICU doctor who flew out from Utah to help with the crisis, said. It’s somewhat unusual to care for so many young people, and doctors feel extra pressure to find ways to help them recover, she said.

And the press isn’t helping. There’s way too much vaccine boosterism, for instance. There may never be one worth a tinker’s dam if getting sick confers little or only short-term immunity. And “twelve months to eighteen months” to get one even if there is one is on the wild side of optimistic given how long clinical trials typically take and the history of safety issues with early vaccines (as in there are bona fide reasons the process takes as long as it does). If you want to give the anti-vaxxers a shot in the arm, rushing a vaccine out the door is a prime way to do it.

Having said that, there’s a cheery story tonight on a new antibody reported to block SARS-Cov-2, which therefore would make for an effective vaccine if all pans out. But if I read this correctly, the researchers are at the petri dish stage.

So it’s not just the general public that reacting to news skewed toward the upside. So is Mr. Market. From Gavyn Davies in the Financial Times:

According to a very interesting analysis by Zach Pandl of Goldman Sachs, the equity markets are assuming that the storm will blow over very quickly, with GDP growth rates being higher not lower than normal in 2021. On that basis, equities do not look particularly overvalued.

However, Mr Pandl adds that this outcome would be unique among recent recessions in the country. In a normal cyclical downturn, predictions for GDP growth are reduced in successive years once a recession becomes inevitable. This is particularly true in the second year after the recession starts, suggesting no early bounceback to previous peak activity. The decline in output becomes persistent, not a springboard for recovery.

The use of the “r” word seems awfully cheery. Nouriel Roubini, despite his write-up being scattered and unduly worried about public debt, seems closer to right order of magnitude with The Coming Greater Depression of the 2020s.

Robert Reich points out that the way Trump is setting out to end the lockdowns will cause more deaths…which, as we pointed out earlier, will put a dent in consumers’ willingness to gad about and spend. From the Guardian:

Trump’s labor department has decided that furloughed employees “must accept” an employer’s offer to return to work and therefore forfeit unemployment benefits, regardless of Covid-19….

Forcing people to choose between getting Covid-19 or losing their livelihood is inhumane. It is also nonsensical. Public health still depends on as many workers as possible staying home. That’s a big reason why Congress provided the extra benefits….

Trump is pushing to give businesses that reopen a “liability shield” against legal action by workers or customers who get infected by the virus.

This week, he announced he would use the Defense Production Act to force meat-processing plants to remain open, despite high rates of Covid-19 infections and deaths among meatpackers…

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, insists that proposed legislation giving state and local governments funding they desperately need must include legal immunity for corporations that cause workers or consumers to become infected….

But how can the economy safely reopen if companies don’t have an incentive to keep people safe? Promises to provide protective gear and other safeguards are worthless absent the threat of damages if workers or customers become infected.

Normally we reserve Antidotes to Links, but this post is so gloomy that it seemed necessary to offer some relief. I must confess that I don’t relate to this sort of thing, but I anticipate many of you will (hat tip Dr. Kevin):

A feel-good story (hat tip dk) on thanking USPS carriers (Threadreader version here):

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  1. Lambert Strether

    That there’s even the possibility of the United States becoming a global reservoir for #COVID19 makes me ashamed to be an American. Guess I’ve got to buy a maple leaf lapel pin.

    1. Samuel Conner

      Perhaps it’s part of the plan to reduce immigration — a campaign promise fulfilled.

      And, from the perspective of those who refuse to acknowledge the implications of MMT, it improves the “affordability” of Social Security.

      A two-fer!

      1. Kurtismayfield

        That was my thought as well.. this is just a way to get rid of those pesky Social Security recipients. I mean that is why we still have smoking in this country right? If you are dead by 60 from Lung Cancer or a cardiovascular issue, you don’t collect Social security or Medicare.. and you paid into the system all your life!

    2. Biologist

      >…the United States becoming a global reservoir for #COVID19

      Imagine the world divided into countries that did control Covid-19 (South Korea, China, other Asian countries, perhaps some European ones) and those that did not (US, UK, probably many others), with the former ones trading and having relatively open borders amongst themselves, and the latter being a persistent Covid-19 reservoir to which the rest of the world closes their borders.

      1. Monty

        Then imagine Tariff Man, Sam SWIFT and Sally Sanctions insisting they allow free movement of infectious Americans, or face the consequences.

        1. ambrit

          If the “First Responders” get their act together, they’ll give the “Reservoir Dogs” the middle finger and continue re-regionalizing the world economy.
          We are entering the phase of “Put Up or Shut Up.”

      2. Bsoder

        Control of what Covid-19? No nation has control of that. All there is, is the control of infection and death. Sooner or later everyone on earth gets exposed and either lives or dies. That is the entire story.

        1. rd

          Control means delaying infection for many people. If doctors figure out the various ways it kills people or causes serious permanent damage, and can treat it, then it become a treatable disease. Right now it is not. It will take at least until September for that. So if we can reduce the number of people getting sick until 2021, then there is a good chance that the fear of the disease can be reduced which will let people go about their daily life.

        2. Susan the other

          There is a new triage service here in this state and I’m sure elsewhere. Whenever there is a report of more than one case of Covid anywhere. Triage isn’t really the right description – a team of hazmatted and equipped professionals rushes to the site (usually a home for disabled, etc.); isolates and quarantines them; takes the worst off to the emergency room and puts the whole place on lockdown. That works for at-risk groups – but the problem is, you are right, individuals that linger or harbor or don’t really feel very sick ever but also never clear the virus. Cover-19 is finding its way into every nook and cranny on earth. The only antidote is caution and distance and maintaining good nutrition. The only “control” is to slow it down until we can kill it off.

          1. ambrit

            I’d say that the “control” will be when most of the world’s population severely susceptable to this Dreaded Pathogen die off and a more robust population emerges. Straight genetic adaptation seems to be the only “sure” way of dealing with this. Think generations.

            1. JBird4049

              In many cases, humans never get good immunity. Often a disease decreases in virulence, but still slices through a population every generation. Smallpox would hit a community whenever a large enough virgin population of children. Over time Smallpox evolved a second milder strain that would kill only 10-15% of the victims. Sometimes less. The more lethal strain was double or more and both were one of the reasons beauty patches were developed as facial scarring was common. Syphilis stopped being lethal a generation or so after it first appears in Europe, but the physical symptoms were nightmare fuel. Real nightmare fuel.

              So while diseases usually go from Hellish to merely horrible, it can take centuries like Smallpox or less than a century with Syphilis. Smallpox itself, even though it was effectively eradicated by 1977, killed more people than all the combined wars of the entire 20th century.

              I think that is not the deaths that will happen that will do the most damage, but the split between the 80% exploited Essentials/Disposables from the 20% Meritocracy’s Professional Managerial Classes; often in wartime countries socially do wonderfully, win or lose, because everyone is involved and is facing the same risks.

              If you look at the populations of all the countries involved in both world wars the more the general population was attacked, the greater the resolve (and weirdly the percentage of the population suffering from mental illness.) Emotionally, individuals and populations suffered horribly, but mentally it was “screw you and your bombs, I’m back at factory/front lines; TLDR; the greater and the more widespread the suffering was inflicted, the stronger and more cohesive a population became. Conversely, the more concentrated, unequal and unfair suffering is, the more fragile a society becomes.

              Does anyone notice some (perhaps unexpected) changes or reactions in Afghanistan, Yemeni, and American societies recently and the reasons for them?

              This giving trillions of dollars to the billionaires, large corporations and all the big financial concerns immediately after the quarantine while being condescending in speech as well as slow and niggardly in the fairly small, insufficient, hard to get, aid for most businesses and individual Americans.

              Now, the political leadership at all levels want to end the quarantine early because the economy is tanking. It is tanking because nowhere near enough financial aid or effective, forget free, healthcare was given. If they people had some assurances that some serious, real aid was coming and free, open healthcare was available even just for a limited time, the economic would still be reduced, but alive, and we wouldn’t have these foolish anti-mask protests.

              Honestly, our leadership in general, political, economic, and religious are fools who think that they are wise, poltroons thinking that they are honest and hardworking, and not only deceitful, but also duplicitous, while believing that they are honest. As a group, they has much compassion, decency, and, to be old fashioned, honor as a toxic waste dump.

              I am not sure how to dislodge this suicidal cabal, but if we don’t, they probably take us with them. No thanks. I got a family, country, and world I want to see continue when I’m gone.

            2. John Zelnicker

              May 5, 2020 at 4:00 pm

              Good evening, ambrit. I hope you and Phyl are doing alright. It is truly tough times.

              You had to bring up that scenario, didn’t you? Given the givens, I think that’s the only “solution” in which we can be completely confident.

              Vaccines are unlikely to work, immunity after infection may or may not exist, so herd immunity may be impossible, and the virus seems to attack a wide variety of organs and biological processes according to the age of the victim. Along with the virus mutating, I think that’s going to make it very difficult to find an effective treatment.

              I’m hopeful I can avoid it long enough to die of old age (which I am already).

        3. Tom Bradford


          Sooner or later everyone on earth gets exposed and either lives or dies. That is the entire story.

          Well no, it isn’t. That’s just the insular, exceptionalist US view. New Zealand has recorded no new cases for two consecutive days and has reduced its ‘live’ cases to less than 200 reducing by 20-30 a day, and Australia with several other Asian countries (including China?) are on course to eradicating it within their borders fairly soon. The chart above shows many other countries on the same track. If EVERY country had achieved the same it would have been eradicated from the earth long before it had infected everyone, just as we were able to eradicate smallpox without having to infect everyone to take their chances.

          It’s the fact that the US in particular, but also the UK and a few other standouts, failed to do what was patently necessary means that the responsible, competent nations of the earth are going to have to treat them like pariahs as the infection burns out within them.

        4. The Rev Kev

          Yeah, about that “bubble”. I can’t see it going forward at the moment. NZ is serious at eradication but our PM in Oz has something else in mind. I am thinking that he merely wants the numbers to get low enough to open up the borders to emigrants once again (for the good of the economy!) and maybe even tourists.

          You would think that what happened in Singapore would be warning enough but he is all about the economy and in his speeches refers to workers rather than people. He is really pushing a contact app and this would make sense if you were willing to tolerate constant clusters of infections to help mop up afterwards.

          NZ are not idiotic enough to open themselves to a fresh bout of infections from Australia and she almost said as much accidentally in a press conference. Why would you spend tens and maybe hundreds of billions of dollars fighting this virus if you don’t go for eradication? If you don’t you really have nothing tos how for it, do you?

          Venting mode disengaged.

          1. JBird4049

            Venting on this insanity is perfectly fine. Just think about what would happen if a COVID19 strain became as lethal as the 1918 flu or even Smallpox which sometimes had a 30% death rate in Old World Populations that had centuries of epidemics. With this kind of bumbling, it would be a nightmare.

            Also the longer and more widespread the disease is the more likely a more lethal strain will appear. Nice.

        5. Lambert Strether

          > Control of what Covid-19? No nation has control of that.

          Control in the sense that the curve goes down and isn’t an effing plateau, at which point we say “Mission Accomplished!” and get back to work

      3. rd

        New Zealand and Australia are having discussions of having a travel bubble allowing travel the countries, but highly limited to other countries.

        Canada is getting it under control. The US may open its border (although I think Trump won’t just because the problems are always from the outside) but I think it will be a while before Canada opens its border to US travellers.

        But I am wondering why people are talking about waves? I don’t see evidence in the US that it is signfiicantly declining nationally. Instead, it appears to be hitting steady-state. I think waves will hit individual areas but overall, I suspect we will just see a steady state numebr of cases nationally based on how the government officials and business leaders are pushing re-opening. It will be up to the individual people to manage the risk outside the workplace. Areas that have high usage of bars, restaurants, etc. are likely to see waves hit them. A single large concert could crush a hospital. Other areas will likely be steady-state with a trickle of cases coming from various exposures.

        So I think we will see construction, manufacturing, some retail, professional services return but the entire entertainment, gym, tourism, hotel, airline, and restaurant/bar eco-system is going to be in a world of hurt for the next couple of years. That is probably 10% or more national unemployment in those categories for 18 months to 24 months. It will slam retail/restaurant real estate. I don’t see unemployment dropping below 10% until 2022.

        If they really want to have an effective re-opening, instead of a paper re-opening, then they need to get massively better on testing and contact tracing. Order of magnitude better, I don’t think Trump’s heart is in that. He is relying on magical thinking.

      4. Kfish

        Australia and New Zealand are currently working towards a mutual-travel agreement, already being nicknamed ‘The Bubble’ online.

    3. Painted Shut

      While you’re out shopping for lapel pins, perhaps consider a matching set of pearls. The clutchable kind.

      The point of reopening is to give people choices. People who want to remain locked down are still welcome to do so. There is a risk with everything, yet people choose to ride motorcycles instead of driving a Prius, scuba dive instead of taking a bubble bath, skydive instead of sitting next to a fan, etc. You choose what risk you’re willing to tolerate.

      Maybe things return to normal, maybe they don’t. Maybe people worry about corona virus, or maybe they worry about where their corona gets its lime. But at least we can choose.

      1. The Rev Kev

        As a thought experiment, what if you were alive as an adult in December of 1941. How many choices would you have had then and how would what you call normal radically changed in the following months. How many risks would you have been free to choose in the coming years? What would have happened to all your plans and all your choices? This pandemic is on the same level and Coronavirus does not care what you want. It has its own plans if it gets into you.

        1. MLTPB

          After Dec 1941, young people were drafted in response.

          This pandemic is of a different category, I think. Drafting young people again will not do it.

          1. Wukchumni

            What if a young Londoner in September of 1940 had the blackout curtains removed @ night and all lights on, with a neon-lit bullseye on the roof of their flat?

            Kinda feels similar yet different to our assorted loonies who are so eager to inflict danger on others by their actions, ‘it’s all about me’. (somebody translate that into Latin)

      2. Kurtismayfield

        Except the choices that you list are risks to the individual who makes those choices.. COVID-19 is a risk to others as you spread it around. This is more akin to terrorism (Where another individual takes actions to damage the lives of others) than “individual responsibility” (Where your actions affect you).

        Are you in support of people driving their vehicles recklessly and endangering others?

        Are you in support of people handling firearms recklessly and endangering others?

        1. MLTPB

          Interestingly, as noted above, 93% want a longer lockdowns.

          If we were to put it to vote, that would be what the people want. In a totalitarian regime, maybe the party chief dictates.

          1. Painted Shut

            That’s because our “lockdown” hasn’t really been a lockdown. I bet plenty of tunes would change if we actually locked down, 100%, nothing open, no “essential ___”, everyone home and indoors at all times.

            I find it a double standard that folks on here are okay with the fact that some people have been going to work, putting themselves at risk health wise, so that you can maintain a level of convenience, but when the time comes for you to maybe have to get out, like they’ve been doing all along, suddenly it “isn’t safe”.

            That point of view isn’t much different than Nancy Pelosi and her ice cream freezer.

            1. Monty

              One of the points of the lock down was to reduce the opportunity for essential workers to meet infectious people and get sick. If you’re not keeping the wheels on the bus, get out of the way for now. If they all got sick, and those parts of the economy we really need to survive have to shut down, we’re all screwed.

              I think these essential workers should be paid handsomely for their trouble, e.g. it would have been fair for .gov to give them AT LEAST the same $600 fed bonus and state unemployment checks that laid off workers received for staying home.

              That would have also incentivized people in a low risk group, who are allegedly champing at the bit to work, to get jobs in that sector.

              I can’t see how not locking down would have protected society any better, but I would love to hear what you think I am missing. How does having loads more sick people running around help?.

              1. Painted Shut

                I was in agreement with the initial 15 days to slow the spread. I was kind of okay with the additional 30 days to flatten the curve. But the folks who say that we should still remain locked down, I cannot agree with.

                The point was always to mitigate the spread so as not to overwhelm the health care system, but for some reason, there’s been scope creep to the point where folks think lockdown should continue until all risk has passed.

                That point of view seemingly ignores the fact that Coronavirus is not the only thing people can die from. It’s not the only risk people from the dawn of time have had to work with.

                Ultimately, it was a social contract of sorts – stay home, we’re in this together, you’ll be made whole. I held up my end. Waiting on the rest.

              2. Painted Shut

                If they all got sick, and those parts of the economy we really need to survive have to shut down, we’re all screwed.

                Nah, you know better than that. If Brenna and Jax get sick, they’ll hire McKenna and Jon to stock shelves, run registers, and retrieve buggies. Essential was never about people, only about roles.

                1. Geo

                  Brenna and Jax are expendable anyway. We’re better off without them. Losers!

                  Keep digging. You’re only sounding like more of a sadist with each post.

                  1. HotFlash

                    Go easy, Geo. He/she doesn’t sound like a sadist to me, just a person of good faith who has been betrayed by their society and is now at the end of their rope, through no fault of their own, looking at starving in a gutter. A responsible government (which is the expression of society) would make them whole.

                    And you can’t just blame the gummint. As Lambert quotes in his masthead, “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

                    We all have failed PaintedShut and millions of other people. America has failed wholesale. We need to think hard and fast about how to fix this. Humans can go for maybe 21 days without food. We get very weak after 7 days or so. I have a set of plans for making tumbrils go-karts out of old pallets and bicycle wheels. If we are going to have to resort to Plan C or D, we’d best get on it while we still have the strength.

                    1. JBird4049

                      I get faint after four days here of not eating. :-(

                      At least California has restored my full SNAP and it only took a pandemic, but what about others especially in states like Florida? Being nonchalant about quarantine in this epidemic is both foolish and selfish, but food and gas has to be gotten somehow. TPTB don’t seem to care whether they or us, live or die. We’re disposable regardless of where we live or what political party we belong to.

                2. The Rev Kev

                  The fightback against lockdown is not by people that want to go back to work as hairdressers and waiters. It is by people who either want their hairdressers and waiters back at work earning money for them or immature adults who want their hair done again in a salon or have waiters serve them their meals & drinks once again.

                  1. HotFlash

                    Well, yes, but also maybe people who just want to pay their rent and feed their kids? If it is good for Society as a Whole that people stay home, then Society as a Whole (BTW govt is the executive branch of society) should make sure that they are adequately compensated.

            2. Will S.

              What site have you been reading? Most of the commentariat here has been advocating for increased pay for those of us at work, because they recognize it already isn’t safe. And don’t you dare pretend to speak for those of us in “essential” industries. We don’t want the lockdown to end yet either.

              I’m sorry you’re out of work; that sucks. But quit acting as though this has anything to do with high minded ideals or anything other than your own desire to be gainfully employed again.

              And at least where I am, there are plenty of openings in the grocery business, just saying.

              1. Painted Shut

                Sure, “fighting for” increased pay. Also, Hillary Clinton bought pizza for essential hospital workers in NY. The pizza, at least, can provide a modicum of sustenance.

                I never said I spoke for anyone. But you don’t represent all of them either. So take it down a few notches, bro. Lockdown’s over! Pull up a spot at the beach and chill.

                1. Will S.

                  Do you just enjoy trafficking in BS and false equivalencies? Where do you get off using this site’s own colloquialisms to pretend we are somehow equivalent to the Democrat party?

                  Convenient how you never “said” you spoke for anyone, just implied you know how we’re thinking. I never pretended to speak for everyone in the myriad professions deemed “essential,” but the difference between you and me is that I am one of those whom you so tellingly call “them.” I speak to my fellow workers on a daily basis and what I tell you is reflective of our shared opinions. You speak of others’ entitlement as if you have some experience of putting your health on the line for others’ “essential services” but have none. Frankly, I have a hard time believing you’re not simply being disingenuous.

                  1. Painted Shut

                    I didn’t know Fainting Couch Salesman was what they had deemed an essential position.

                    1. Yves Smith Post author

                      You’ve asked to be banned with this gratuitous nastiness. And I am only too happy to oblige. This is not a chat board, commenting is a privilege, not a right, and you’ve repeatedly violated out written site Policies.

            3. Geo

              Please site one time on here when anyone encouraged that. No one here has in all the reading I’ve done. Yes, some jobs are “essential” and that is why everyone with any sense wants them protected with proper gear – and especially – with everyone not essential staying the *family blog* home!

              You want to compare us to Pelosi as some sort of privileged elite yet you spout shallow tripe that endangers those who are forced by circumstance to work right now. So, who is the elitist? The ones wanting to take precautions or the one willing to sacrifice some worthless pawns to the free market and a pandemic?

        2. juno mas

          Yes, Mr. K. It is the lack of awareness of the risk to others that is the frightening (terrorizing) element of this virus.

          Young folks in my town don’t seem to get it. High school age kids are parading around in close groupings and unconcerned with keeping distance with others (young and old). They seem oblivious that they may be infected, without symptoms, and transmitting the virus to one another, and eventually to their parents and grandparents.

          Not to be outdone, older men, out of work, are congregating on ocean jetties to fish, drink beer, and fight one another over personal slights. The Harbor Patrol refuses to intervene because concern for “personal contagion”. The virus spreads farther and wider.

          The social fabric will continue to fray.

        3. marku52

          Exactly. My analogy: My neighbor sits on his front porch and shoots a gun at random times and directions. Sometimes into the air, sometimes into the ground. sometimes into my house.

          “What are you doing?” I implore. “Hey, he says, “you don’t want to get hit, buy a bulletproof vest. Build a concrete wall between our houses.

          Your safety is not my responsibility!”

          Same damned thing.

          1. Painted Shut

            Not the same thing! For one, in your analogy, you are at home. So in order to be like your analogy, I would need to know that I have Coronavirus, and I would need to break into your house and cough in your face.

            Again, not the same thing as I was saying above.

            1. YankeeFrank

              No its not the same. Its worse. Its not you doing the shooting, its a guy you let into your house by leaving your front door open (you get a nice breeze that way) that’s doing the shooting. But you knew there was a decent chance someone would come in and start shooting up your neighbors’ property if you left your door open and you just don’t care. You have a responsibility to not infect others whether you like it or not.

              1. Painted Shut

                Others have a responsibility to not be somewhere where they can catch it. Also known as “personal responsibility”.

                1. Monty

                  Does the victim of drunk driver bear any personal responsibiliy, if they are hurt in an accident?

                  1. Painted Shut

                    A drunk driver is the equivalent of someone who has symptoms (feels sick) and knowingly goes out spreading the virus anyway. I would agree that such persons are guilty.

                    If one is asymptomatic though, that’s like two people driving in a rainstorm and getting in a no-fault accident. Both were out driving in the rain. Both knew the risks. Neither party is at fault.

                    1. Monty

                      That simply isn’t true. We are well aware that people are contagious without symptoms.

                      Ignorance is not a valid defence in the eyes of the law.

                    2. JBird4049

                      Ignorance is usually not a valid defense, but individuals can be healthy and symptom free while unknowingly spreading a deadly disease. And if the only way to find out is using those tests that we have a shortage of and no connections or money to get one…

                    3. vlade

                      True, but the fact that you can be infectious byt asymptomatic is well known.

                      Hence the assumption that we’d behave (within reasonable bounds) as if we were infectious, for example masks at least in enclosed spaces, distancing etc. Whole it may not be a legal duty, IMO it is a civic duty right now.

            2. Monty

              We know people are infectious before they develop any symptoms.

              We also know that a few people that catch the disease can die or get extremely sick from it.

              If you care about potentially killing someone who gets a bad case of Covid19 from you, doesn’t it follow that you ought to act like you’re infectious at all times, and wear a mask just in case?

              What would you think about a person who might have AIDS, if they willingly had unprotected sex?

              I could care less if people want to take risks and kill themselves. Please go for it. Be my guest!

              However, when your antics are endangering my mum’s life, we have got a problem.

      3. mpalomar

        “The point of reopening is to give people choices”
        – Until much more is understood about covid-19, i.e. R0, etiology, array of possible affects, those would be false choices.

        1. Painted Shut

          Along with #NeverTrump, #NeverHillary, #NeverBiden, I can see it’s time for a new category: #NeverReopen-ers.

          1. The Rev Kev

            The ghosts of your grandparents who lived through the first flu pandemic of 1918-1919 have come back and want to have a few words to you about what the score is in dealing with a pandemic. And I think that both grandfathers are pulling out their leather belts. :)

          2. mpalomar

            What would one do if confined to a small apartment with internet, books and an ever more tenuous survivable supply of sustenance? Additionally there is egress through four doors out of confinement to the world. Any particular door is encumbered with a varying likelihood of death for you and everyone you know, friends and family.

            Exiting one door represents a 2% chance that you will die and the certainty that 2% of your friends and family will die, the next door is 20%, the next 50%, and the next a 75% chance that you will die and 75% of friends and family will die. With the passage of time spent in this increasingly difficult confinement, more is understood about how to improve the chances for your choosing the optimal door for you and your associates survival. At what point do you declare your situation intolerable and gamble on a door?

            Clearly those disposed to make these decisions for US society have arranged the controllable circumstances of the experiment to make it intolerable to sustain quarantine.

      4. CallMeTeach

        People who want to remain locked down are still welcome to do so.

        No, not really. The vast majority of people won’t have the choice to stay home, especially with Trump saying they must go back or lose Unemployment Benefits. If it’s starve or maybe get sick, there is no choice. It’s like those who say to “protect the vulnerable.” Does anyone have any idea how many people that actually is? Far more than most assume, I would think. Far more than just those over 60. And more importantly, what does this “protection” look like? I’m fairly young, but have asthma, will I be paid to stay safe? Or will I have to work so I don’t starve?

      5. hrefnam

        Yes, but…

        The more you exercise your “choice”, the more you expose the rest of us to its potential consequences. Those of us who choose to stay in lockdown will still be unable to avoid the weekly trip to the grocery, or the gas station, or the drive to the post office, etc. If too many of you are “risking it”, the infection rate among the “brave” ones will go up, which means that when *we* venture forth to run our unavoidable errands, the world into which we’re forced to venture will be that much more infected, thus increasing *our* risk of infection, and all because the “brave” ones chose to risk their lives … and all of our lives, as well.

        Just a thought.

        1. Painted Shut

          Oh right, because “we’re all in this together…”

          Well, I stayed in for the 45 days and now find myself unemployed. I hope people apply the same vim and vigor and spirit of togetherness when it comes to getting everyone back to work in a great job.

          And I don’t just mean the government. Hiring managers, decision makers, folks who can make a referral, etc. (regular people) – I stayed home to save grandma, and maybe to save you personally. Ready to help me get a job now? Because we’re all in this together right?

          Guessing that won’t happen. Guessing it will be the usual undignified cattle call, suck up, begging, “who you know” process that the hiring process has become. And that’s if I’m even lucky enough to have my resume looked at by a human being. This times 32 million unemployed, and counting, will find ourselves in this on our own.

          1. hrefnam

            Well, yes, actually, we’re all in it together, whether we like it or not. That’s just a fact of life.

            I understand about unemployment: I lost my career to the GFC/Recession (unemployed too long, middle-aged, so age discrimination, etc.), and I’ve been on the margins for the past 10 years. I know all about cattle calls, discriminatory algorithms, the “who you know” circus, the never-ending job search … and food banks, I know about food banks, too. I’m not speaking from a position of smug, material comfort, and I didn’t mean to aggravate you.

            But I do believe what I wrote: the more people “risk it”, the more they risk the lives of those around them, whether the others choose to “risk it” or not.

            There’s no easy answer to this.

          2. Left in Wisconsin

            This is a better argument than “choices.” If you’ve got 100 dogs chasing 50 bones, choice may decide which dog gets a bone but not how many dogs go hungry. And framing it as choice makes it seem like the problem is with the dogs, not the (lack of) opportunity.

            I completely agree that there is a lot of temporary and contingent “we are all in this together” in the current moment that I do not expect to last. Without a (socialist) politics to bind those commitments, most (but not all) of it is likely to prove to be self-interest masquerading as social concern.

            1. Painted Shut

              I discussed choice relative to reopening in general… visiting the beach, etc. One can decide to go out, or not.

              Regarding the unemployment aspect, it’s really moreso a social contract of sorts… I stay home to save lives, and I am made whole financially for doing so.

              Remains to be seen whether the latter is fulfilled. I’m not holding my breath.

              1. HotFlash

                I stay home to save lives, and I am made whole financially for doing so.

                Yes, this is the deal and we owe you, and each other. This is why humans form a government, to enforce social contracts. “You stayed home for all of us, now starve. Thank you for you service,” is wrong and evil.

                A GoFundMe might help PaintedShut for a while, but you (*^&^SD$%^-ing USians, there are something like 47 million Americans out of, or soon to be out of, a job. Tut-tutting them isn’t gonna fill any bellies.

                Masks save lives, staying home saves lives, social distancing saves lives, hand washing saves lives — on best knowledge, so far as we know. Groceries save lives too, fo’ sho! NO ONE should have to make that choice. Trillions for big corps? Anything for humans? Ms Pelosi says, “I don’t think so…” Standing by is murder, accessory before the fact.

                1. Painted Shut

                  If in fact it turns out I am made whole at some point, I will come on here and provide an update to that effect. We shall see.

                  Also, my pronouns are he/him. And that is as “woke” as I will ever be.

                  1. HotFlash

                    Cool, I will remember. I personally have never been injured by a pronoun (have offended several meetings by saying so), but to each his/her pronoun : )

          3. YankeeFrank

            Don’t blame those who are staying inside for your situation. I’m sorry for you, but the blame lies with the sociopaths in Washington forcing us to choose between starving and getting infected when all they have to do is start giving people limitless abstract numerical values called money so we can pay for what we need to live. It would be so easy but then capitalism would be shown for the lie it is and they would lose their power and dominance over us. Can’t have that so instead we get to make Sophie’s Choice. God d them all to hell for the sick vultures they are.

        2. False Solace

          “Choice” is a privileged position at this point. You’re pretty lucky if you have a “choice” whether to work or not, whether you’re financially situated to stay home voluntarily, or whipped back to the workplace with everyone else, breathing the same stale indoor air and touching the same metal or plastic surfaces, antibodies or no.

          1. HotFlash

            I think you are agreeing with PaintedShut’s point. S/he is out of $$$, no prospect of any coming in any time soon, rent/mortgage due, groceries, car insurance, health insurance (hah!), phone, aaaaah! For this person and many millions more there is no longer any, any choice, unless you consider the capitalist employer’s terms “work or starve” an informed choice negotiated between equals.

      6. Will S.

        Go [family blog] yourself. Reopening doesn’t give people choices; did you even read the post? Furloughed workers will be required to return to work without the option to stay at home and continue collecting unemployment. And workers like me (grocery) will be forcibly exposed to countless additional, possibly infectious, people who take the reopening as a sign of safety. Already my wife’s employer (credit union) is considering reopening its doors to the public, “Because Kate Brown said it should be safe.” Of course, the governor said businesses should open if THEY feel it’s safe; so already the finger pointing begins.

        What you’re saying is, “Choice for me, and not for thee.” And that makes you an [family blog].

        1. Painted Shut

          Don’t go back to work then. You do have that choice.

          I don’t have a job, and it wasn’t my choice. If I get hired somewhere, I will choose to go in. But you don’t have to. Stay home if you want.

          1. YankeeFrank

            And who will your customers be? Blaming the people for something the govt is doing (on behalf of their corporate masters) is a fool’s game. “Our” govt, instead of doing what every other 1st world nation is doing, is refusing to provide us with the money we need to survive until this thing is controlled. They are madmen and need to be dealt with as such.

      7. Susan Butler

        Trouble is your choices can harm and kill others because your risky choices are likely to end up spreading the virus to other people. We’re not locked down for nothing! This is the meaning of we’re all in this together. What you do affects me and what I do affects you. An alternative is to go be a hermit and do whatever you want all alone. Then no one would complain.

    4. thoughtful person

      As they say in Mexico, “poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States”
      Sadly, Covi19 gives this a new meaning

  2. Amfortas the hippie

    getting somewhere near “subsistence farming” is what i’ve been after for decades…and that phrase sounds terrible compared to “autarky” or “food security”, let alone an Emersonian “Self Reliance”>

    the memes beginning to viralise here lately, quoting a quintessential billionaire, PTB, PMC, Boss Class:” Open it up, because the people who will thereby die are people we don’t like any way”…
    are telling.
    “They don’t give a shit about us” had already entered the local hive mind, even way out here in Red State Rural Land…”a pox on both parties”…and hatred of billionaires, and those who like billionaires.
    That was already there before this mess….but confined to parking lot fast exchanges and random twitters.

    and as for the meatpacking: FTA:”Yet these food plants have relied upon undocumented workers, whom they could doubly oppress, and the rock-bottom wages they were able to get away with paying. If those workers begin to refuse to work in those conditions, what would those plants have to do to convince other people to pick up the slack or for those workers to return to the production line? Actually provide hygienic conditions and decent pay, perhaps? “( )
    my little county had a consistent 10-13% poverty rate(the official, comic book version of that rate) before the current craziness.
    25% over 65, and on various means of public support…plus the top 3 employers, in order: public school, the one city and the county…all would collapse without various grants and subsidies.
    this has been the case out here for 20+ years(which i pointed out strongly in a letter to the local paper during the Teabilly Shutdown Mania….to widespread acclaim and support, and zero rebuttal from even the most hard core Righties)
    there’s grandmothers working for minwage at convenience stores, graveyard shifts…there’s kids quitting school their senior year to work….on and on…this is the “Normal” that unthinking people want to return to.
    That the Boss Class is so shamelessly and ruthlessly and openly calling for Human Sacrifice on the altar of their avarice tells me nothing i haven’t known for most of my life…but it’s news to a great many….some of whom may have thought about it, but ended up suppressing those thoughts…because it’s too Big, and would require they sacrifice for something else, if more noble: The Commonality and the Class Interests and their Fellow Man.
    Let us just as shamelessly Use this enormous crisis in TINA to frelling change things.
    The Moral High Ground has never been so easy to see, and so hard to deny.
    Eat the Rich.

    1. Susan the other

      I do agree, Amfortas. To try to patch up the old logic of free-market-free-choice-and-financialization-for-all requires an elaborate, politically-correct map pointing out a few places tourists might want to avoid. “There be dragons.” Thus to preserve the old supply-side logic of the free market; thus to entice everyone to go back to work so that consumers will flock once again to the stores. But clearly that is now a medieval remedy. We need a wider scope of “choices” – choices beyond pointless and frivolous and environmental destruction. Now is the time to look straight at what makes the human world turn: Demand. (not freedom of choice – that’s just a perverted twist). Demand is by and for necessity. And therefore nobody in their right mind will be flocking anywhere to buy more stuff. Supply side has met its end. And so logic follows (if you want to survive) that we need to analyze, plan and ration the necessities. Like food, first and foremost. Not everyone can be a successful subsistence farmer; but maybe eventually we can all have healthy gardens. So for now to do this critical organizing we most certainly do not need financialization; we don’t need the stock market. We need direct fiscal spending to accomplish well planned goals. It’s now as obvious as dropping dead in the street. But, as I read it, the big danger, the biggest dragon, is that everyone will realize what a scam unfettered supply side has been. So first thing on the docket might be laughing Mitch McConnell out the door and down the steps when he demands that (basically unnecessary) “corporations” be given legal immunity for forcing people back to work without proper guarantees of safety. Besides the obvious fact that it won’t work, is irresponsible and is a last grasp for straws, it would be far more efficient and definitely cheaper to simply pass M4A. sorry, just me raving. I wish Mitch would just bow out gracefully and retire.

  3. jackiebass

    I think you are correct about things returning to normal immediately.When articles are published concerning a long shot treatment and a vaccine being tested it gives people a false hope of a quick solution. It doesn’t help when the president gets on TV every day and peddles misleading or false information. Then you have Fox News and the falsehoods they peddle. Too many people don’t understand to develop treatments and vaccines takes a long time.Since this disease is so new relatively little is known about it. At best I see a real threat for at least 2 years and perhaps longer. One of the most difficult problems to address is education. Under present circumstances, how do you educate children and also keep them safe? For any leader to even suggest this crises will end soon is shameful. The people need to be told the truth. We also need to rethink our economy and how it can function. Returning to the same old system isn’t an option. The days of huge returns to stock holders at the cost of everything else has to end. Bigger is better will no longer work.

  4. Ignacio

    For me it is very clear that a bounceback to “normal”, or what was considered normal in the past, is out of the menu. This implies that many of the assumptions that were taken from granted in the past no longer hold. “Financialisation” of the whole economy was one of the consequences of these assumptions and I think this is one of the first things to be resolved and probably the easiest because money is just money. We can no longer afford the financial outgrowth that very year was sucking a bigger chunk of the real economy. I cannot talk about the stratospheric world of financial derivatives but more simply, credit, will not be the same after this because we are collectively starting to see the ugly face of unanticipated risks.

    1. Bs

      +10. I wonder if globalism that put everyone living on the globe subject to getting Covid-19 and Dying was worth it? We knew this could happen and we knew it would and we did nothing. Jared Diamond has a 12 point criteria he uses to determine if a problem will get solved or if we will fail. The world failed all 12 points.

      1. Wukchumni

        Joseph Tainter’s 11 causes of collapse in previous societies:

        Resource depletion
        New resources
        Insufficient response to circumstances
        Other complex societies
        Social dysfunction
        Mystical factors
        Chance concatenation of events
        Economic explanations

        You can tell how valuable a book is by what they fetch 30 some years after being written, and a used paperback copy of Collapse of Complex Societies will set you back $37 on Amazon.

    2. Senator-Elect

      Thank you for your contributions, Ignacio. I was wondering whether you think other countries could do a New Zealand-style total elimination of the virus. Did China achieve this in Wuhan with their decision to maintain the lockdown until no cases had arisen for 14 straight days?
      Given the potential long-term costs of the disease, might it be cheaper to do such a comprehensive lockdown now so that we can emerge in the clear?

      1. mpalomar

        That is, I think, an important question, whether or not, “to maintain the lockdown until no cases had arisen for 14 straight days?” Extremely painful and difficult but it may be one way out of this crisis.

      2. Ignacio

        I am not quite sure about this. Doing this is tough, very tough, too tough… your commercial partners should do the same and by the end you are equally susceptible to a new outbreak and there is no easy way to ensure you have eliminated all the reservoirs I regret to say. For New Zealand doing so is far more easy than in, for instance, the US. Not all recipes apply equally to different countries. See Singapore as an example.

        1. Tom Bradford


          For New Zealand doing so is far more easy than in, for instance, the US.

          Why? Is this for geographical reasons or social ones? Sure NZ’s geographical location made closing its borders ‘easy’ but the US only has two land borders, one that’s already pretty well sealed – with a wall, no less – and the other with a neighbour that’s doing better at controlling the virus anyway, so people aren’t going to be trying to cross into the US for safety.

          Yes, New Zealand has a population that widely accepted the need for and complied with a pretty severe lock-down, a Government it trusted to do the right thing and a health-care and social support system that’s looking after them pretty well. If the US doesn’t have those things whose fault is that?

          1. kareninca

            Seriously, it would be just as easy to close the borders of the U.S. as of New Zealand??? Seriously??

            A country of 328 million, versus a country of 4.8 million?
            A country of 3.797 million square miles, versus a country of 103k square miles???
            A homogenous country (yes, I double checked: 70 percent white, 15 percent Maori; 15 percent Asian), versus an unimaginably diverse country?
            A rich country, that takes in the Peter Thiels of the world, versus a country that takes in the poor of the world??

            Come on, man. Don’t be so darned angry and self-righteous. Be a little bit empathetic.

            1. vlade

              NZ is actually not that rich. It’s just its wealth is more evenly spread (even though the inequality is growing there too, mostly due to overheated RE marked where rich Chinese were cash-buying stuff left and right)

  5. fresno dan

    For me, getting infected is a death sentence. I love going out to bars and restaurants, and I spent extravagantly and tipped generously, but I can’t be a customer if I’m dead. Now I’m focused on one trip and only one trip to a grocery store per week.
    Surprisingly, I’m not as bored as I thought I would be. I have a big yard, and all the talking I talked about fixing it up is slowly coming to pass.
    Being a microbiologist, I knew at some point there would be a microbe that would take us back to the pre antibiotic and vaccine age – I just thought after I was gone – now it may be the reason why I go…

    1. John Beech

      fresno dan, I feel you chum. I’ve twice been hospitalized for pneumonia (ICU) and am quite afraid of what COVID-19 will do to me so I refrain from visiting. And forget about going out to eat, or the like for a long time. Maybe forever. Sigh.

    2. Wyoming

      Best of luck.

      My wife and I are only grocery shopping once every 4 weeks and once a week to the post office. We have gassed the car up once in 2 months.

      On our grocery trip yesterday the store still had large amounts of empty sold out space. All the paper products, heavily sold out in canned goods, and limits on milk still. Egg limits were lifted.

  6. Phi Snead

    Wouldn’t we all feel better if we had an Administration capable of defining “opening up” as something more sophisticated than keeping stock prices inflated and getting its ugly self reelected.

    1. Samuel Conner

      OTOH, this is a bracing demonstration of what DJT primarily cares about. Perhaps the volatility voters who went for him in 2016 will reconsider whether he actually gives a d@mn about things that matter to them.

      Now, if there were just a credible alternative. Oh, right … he endorsed Biden.

  7. cornbread

    It appears that phrases commonly heard in the good old days (just a few months ago) such as “shop till you drop” and “we’re number one” will have new meanings.

    1. shtove

      “Nothing to sneeze at” – expression of contempt: couldn’t even be bothered to hazard his life.
      “Nudge nudge, wink wink” – when you see a random stranger being surrounded in the street by hazmats.
      “She’s headed for the cheating side of town” – what you howl in your double-locked isolation den as your wife leaves the house for some grocery shopping. You count and recount your little stack of gold sovereigns until her return. Then you start howling again.

  8. Wukchumni

    One of the issues facing our National Parks is the idea that it was common for 3 to 5 NPS employees to share park housing, but that was then and this is now.

    Glacier NP has closed down it’s backcountry for the summer and i’d expect other NP’s to do the same. We have many friends that work on trail crew in Sequoia NP, and they’re all wondering if they’ll have jobs.

    An unexpected victim of the coronavirus pandemic has been backcountry permits for Glacier National Park in Montana this year, as the park has canceled all previous reservations for the coming summer months and is not taking any more reservations for the summer due to reduced numbers of seasonal rangers.

    1. Carolinian

      So Trump has said he is reopening the National Parks. What’s happening at Sequoia?

      As to the above, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s pointless to argue about all this as the noise to signal ratio is too great. We will know in a few months who was right and who wasn’t. But it is interesting that the world once routinely lived with diseases far worse than this one including, not that long ago, polio and tuberculosis. Perhaps we’ve become more psychologically fragile even as we’ve become more technologically sophisticated. For people my age and older the world has indeed changed and we will have to act accordingly. But as for the young, I don’t condemn them a bit or expect them to change for the likes of me. Given the prospect of AGW, my generation and the ones that preceded have taken away enough already.

      1. Wukchumni

        Sequoia NP is supposed to open in 3 weeks in stage 1, which would essentially be, a please keep moving gig in your car-with no campgrounds open and only the Wuksachi Lodge run by Delaware North offering accommodations, very limited services and popular congested places such as the Sherman Tree & Moro Rock being off-limits, or very strictly monitored. The walk up to Moro Rock has no way to not come into close contact with others, it used to be part of the charm, I felt.

        One plea from the Superintendent that seems perfect in this day and age, is the longer term renting of AirBnB & VRBO in town here to seasonal NPS employees in a May to October scheme, as Sequoia NP has the same shared housing issues in park, as Glacier NP.

        The issue being that if Sequoia NP does open, and you’ve got a vacation rental bringing in $5k to $7k a month, what would behoove you to rent it to NPS employees for say $2k instead?

      2. Trent

        Ah the daily voice of sanity in this increasing insane world. Carolinian, one thing i’ve been struggling with, what do people here and elsewhere think is going to come of this? If we continue to follow the trends of the last 40, 20 , or heck even how this “crisis” was handled, i’m not optimistic. Do people here truly believe because you now have signs on the floor telling you to stand further back, that grocery isles are now one way and we all wear masks in public, anything is going to change? I feel like most people here think that something like medicare for all is going to springforth from the loins of coronavirus. It’s not going to happen. Do they think this virus will finally do away with crony capitalism? Do they think because of this virus the people who previously didn’t care about them suddenly will? Because if you aren’t in agreement with the majority here, you don’t have a voice. We are giving away alot of our power to the exact people we’ve railed against for the past 12 years on this website, and most seem to be doing it with glee.

        1. False Solace

          My entire lifetime has been a story of things getting worse for everyone but the top 10%. I don’t know anyone who thinks things are going to get better. The crushing of the Sanders campaign deflated the optimism of pretty much everyone I knew with positive vibes, the virus is a mere second stab wound in the balloon.

      3. Wukchumni


        My mom was relating to me the horror that was polio. She told me they never knew where it would come from, if a student got it, they’d close the school for a week or 2 as a preventative measure. (imagines present day re-openers with sign aloft in front of school: ‘We Want Iron Lungs!’)

        ‘March of Dimes’ was all about funding polio research eradication, and sadly it seems as if our current horns of a dilemma are also funded @ 10 Cents on the $.

        1. Carolinian

          I have a rather distinct childhood memory of standing in a long line at the high school gym to get a sugar cube with the Sabin vaccine on it. One could also point out that a couple of hundred years ago most of those now over 70 wouldn’t be alive at all. Technology giveth and now, with jet travel and globalization, it taketh away. Somehow we’ll get by if only by the skin of our teeth.

          1. Wukchumni

            A much simpler way of life going forward is a given, if we’re lucky to pull that off.

  9. Big River Bandido

    I suspect all this happened too close to the election to actually register. Structural change like this will take awhile to absorb into the culture before it can come out affecting politics on the other side. The real shift in politics we’ll not start to see for another two years as voters begin to process the new reality.

    A Ventura candidacy, if it materializes, has the chance to shake up that dynamic a bit, but I think that’s still a long shot.

      1. FluffytheObeseCat

        A great reduction in leisure travel as a segment of our economy is more likely than not. Even Disney can’t make money if their parks are more than half empty for ~5 years due to a major recession + prolonged changes in how families choose to spend their free time. Large numbers of people work in leisure/entertainment industries and they will need to find other sources of income and employment over the next few years. Similarly, most currently ‘required’ business travel will likely morph into teleconferencing. Based on both of these structural changes we can reasonably expect the airline industry to consolidate down to ~1-2 major US carriers. A few rental car brands may disappear as well. Uber and Lyft may not survive as companies. Likewise some of the large lodging companies.

        Eventually our equities markets should reflect the large losses, which might then (finally) reduce the size and value of the US financial sector.

        When 3-8 very large industries collapse, it’s called major “structural changes”. And they are baked in at this point. Except possibly in the rising cultures of the east Pacific littoral.

  10. Bob Hertz

    Thanks for a very articulate article.

    Here is a rather deft summary of predictions from Mike Shedlock…..

    Don’t Expect “Normal” for Years

    Those struggling to make rent or payments will have had the scare of their lives. Attitudes about the need to save will change. More savings means less spending and lower profits for businesses.
    Car buying, travel, dining out, etc. will not return to normal this year or next after this kind of economic hit. The wealth impact alone will take years if ever, given boomer retirement needs.
    On the corporate side, kiss goodbye just-in-time production strategies with dependencies on China and no inventories. This will lower corporate earnings.
    To reduce expenses, frequent business travel will give way to more teleconferencing. This mean lower hotel bills and less air travel.
    More people will work at home permanently. This will lower gasoline usage and dining out.
    Even boomers who did not do much online shopping had to learn new tricks. Many will now be hooked on the convenience of Amazon and will not go back to their old ways. This is another kick in the teeth to struggling malls.

      1. Susan the other

        Mish is pretty smart. The thing that I don’t get about him is his aversion to fiscal direct spending. And too much faith in mystical things like free choice, etc.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      On the corporate side, kiss goodbye just-in-time production strategies with dependencies on China and no inventories. This will lower corporate earnings.

      LOL… if you think that this is going to happen, I have a bridge I want to sell you in China too.

      Companies will make their chain less subject to shock by spreading things around.. like is happening now. China will not be relied on as much, but the manufacturing will still go to low cost countries and JiT is still going to be a thing. Corporate is not giving up their profits.

      As for the rests of it, the Boomers will become a more retired population that is even more reliant on others for services, like was going to happen anyway.

      Restaurants and retail are not coming back, neither is travel if people have no incomes to spend.

      Saving can only happen if people are paid more, which ain’t happening with 30 million unemployed. So people’s livelihoods will be even more precarious. I predict a lot of extended family living arrangements.

      We will become an even more complacent, docile, and easily managed population.. who has less economic power and more corporate and government surveillance in our lives. Yay.

  11. Mr. Magoo

    So now the US has the potential to be the “Great Melting Pot” of covid-19 strains…. yep.

  12. Big River Bandido

    Yves, I have met you and I wouldn’t describe your personality as “dour”. Woodrow Wilson was dour.

    “No-nonsense” or the midwestern “takes no guff” (or a different four letter word) might be better descriptions for you, or perhaps even “prickly” sometimes (such as when tapping your walking stick on the glass window of a TD Bank teller while they kept you waiting 30 minutes — a delightful image — or berating a poster who said something out of line.) But as these situations suggest…context is everything. Even “prickly” might not be fair when the reaction is warranted.

    1. Watt4Bob

      I agree, “dour” is far from correct.

      Add “clear-eyed” to “No-nonsense” and “takes no guff”, with a dash of “does not suffer fools gladly”.

      1. Big River Bandido

        Oh, I think more than a *dash* of the last. Another trait I appreciate.

      2. fresno dan

        May 5, 2020 at 8:51 am

        People who aren’t cockeyed optimists are often painted as dour, glum, pessimistic, etcetera. I just find people who won’t deal with reality, which many times is sad or difficult, just about the most annoying thing imaginable. I think it really is Trump’s salesman’s hype for every single thing that is so off putting – he seems incapable of understanding that minimizing people dying is not how to proceed.

  13. msmolly

    I would like to read the WSJ article “Safety Advice for Reopening: How to Reduce Your Risks as Coronavirus Lockdowns Ease” but apparently the WSJ hasn’t seen fit to make their coronavirus articles free to read, as many other publications have done during this crisis. Phooey.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Oh that is a shame but they have unlocked some.

      FWIW, none of it was earthshaking. This one on being in the office might have been the most interesting:

      Some businesses are planning to bring back only a portion of workers to the office or are instituting shifts to allow for social distancing. Those moves are important, doctors say.

      Elevators can be a problem, says George Rutherford, professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco, since it is nearly impossible to keep an appropriate distance from other people in such a small space. Everyone should be wearing masks. And “face the wall so you’re not breathing in someone else’s breath,” he says.

      Surfaces like elevator buttons, doorknobs and printer buttons should be disinfected regularly. Even so, employees should use a tissue or paper towel to handle them and immediately use sanitizer or wash their hands, says Dr. Poland. “Every hard surface should be considered potentially contaminated,” he says.

      But it is the office bathroom that is the real hot zone, says Dr. Poland. Some research has found that the novel coronavirus is present in stool and can remain in the digestive tract long after it has been cleared from the respiratory system. Many company bathrooms have removed the lids from toilets so “when they flush, it causes a plume cloud and any virus that was in that stool is now on every surface you can culture, the air ducts, the ceilings, the floors and you,” he says. Dr. Poland suggests waiting until no one else is in the bathroom to use it. Avoid the hand dryers, too, since the forced air “very effectively disseminates virus everywhere,” he says.

      Use a paper towel on doorknobs and to turn faucets on and off, too. And, it goes without saying: Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.

      1. polecat

        Speaking of ‘knobs’, I’m in the process of replacing all our domicile ones with the L-shaped kind – oriented horizontally, which need not be grasped to open. You just press down on the handle if need be, with the back of a hand .. or even better an elbow, and it’s open seseme! Before Covid-19 made it’s debut, I’d already replace those doorknobs that had finally reached the end of their use life. If one is has wet, soiled, or hands full, these door handles are a Gaiasend !
        I am awaiting the reopening of our local Habitat/Restore business .. should they do so, so I can procure more of what I previously purchased, as they were pretty cheaply priced. Even if acquired new, they’re still worth from my pov!

        Just a fyi, you’all …. and may the viral odds be ever in your favor …

        1. John Wright

          Per recent postings, it will be good to get un-coated copper or brass handles as copper kills corona virus and also bacteria.

          The metal needs to be exposed, so conceivably one could remove the protective finish over a brass knob..

          Maybe there will be surge in people removing their door handles and having them plated with copper or brass (copper +zinc)?

        2. mary jensen

          re door handles vs doorknobs: I agree that handles are much more practical BUT if you have a cat(s) beware, cats are very good at jumping up and pulling down the handles with their two front paws to open the doors which, of course, they don’t bother to close behind themselves.

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        “aerosolised fecal plume” was the biggest selling point initially for the composting toilet idea.
        especially with wife.
        I had already removed toothbrushes from the bathroom at the old house in town after i learned of this horror.
        all the toilets i’ve seen, in the various hospitals and assorted medical places, for the last ten years since learning of the plume, have no lids.
        Now that i think about it, this is the case for every public restroom i can remember.
        not sure what could be done about this…or even how effective those lids really are at containing said plume.
        perhaps a “sucker”(as opposed to a “blower”) mounted near enough to the thing…lots of opportunities for Rube Goldberg engineering.

        I’ve had a near pathology about public toilets since the boys were little, and we’d go to houston or somewhere and they’d want to do their bidness unaided…and touch everything and even roll around on the wet floor.
        I got sick of the constant gut bugs and whatnot they’d contract in this manner(prior to entering public school, which was worse,lol)
        I guess the upside is their now robust immune systems,lol
        ended up reluctantly making mcdonald’s our regular pit-stops on those trips because, for all their downsides, they do keep the bano pretty clean, and pretty consistently so.

        1. Susan the other

          “lost opportunity for rube goldberg engineering” – that’s a keeper

      3. Susan the other

        “Safety and advice” from the Wall Street Journal? Are you kidding me? Perhaps use the WSJ on doorknobs and other things.

      4. rtah100

        Dear God, why would you take the lid off a toilet seat? What kind of deranged corporate efficiency drive was behind that?

        Then again, I just received an office reopening e-mail from our corporate parent (our tentacle plans to remain working from home, thank you) which proudly announced they would be implementing social distancing in the toilets. Which only makes me wonder what I was missing out on before!

  14. Edward

    If we had a competent government it would be undertaking a crash, organized effort to re-engineer critical industries to incorporate social distancing or other measures to co-exist with Covid-19. PPE manufacturing needs to be increased more aggressively.

  15. PlutoniumKun

    There are really so many unknowns so far in the virus’s behaviour. We still don’t know why it isn’t taking hold in many countries – if we could work this out (existing vaccinations?), this could lead to the disease being managed more efficiently in the medium term. A big unknown I think in countries behaviour is what happens if a treatment, or combination of treatments, could get mortality down to relatively low numbers. Then we might see a movement to let it rip through, just treat it like a nasty flu. It could well be the only option.

    I’ve a feeling the economic impacts will be much greater than certainly the stock market is pricing in. I don’t think we’ll see the sort of flood of cash into the system that is really needed, and many in the business world seem to assume is on its way to rescue them. The reasons:

    1. US political chaos – I think further deadlock will stop the US becoming a buyer of last resort and a source of endless dollars.
    2. The Eurozone seems destined to stay in deadlock, with a constant drip of inadequate monetary measures failing to address the depression until its too late.
    3. As Michael Pettis has been writing about on Twitter, it seems the Chinese are more constrained than many are assuming – they will do another concrete pour to create local jobs, but the internal build up of debt is a far bigger constraint than many as assuming. So don’t assume the Chinese consumer can somehow awaken, and commodity purchases from China for further infrastructure investment may be less than many expect.
    4. The damage of low oil prices will cause major economic havoc in the Middle East and elsewhere.

  16. Tom Stone

    I’m also someone for whom catching the virus would be a death sentence, my odds of living another year are not quantifiable, but not good.
    As to the three outcomes posited, #3 is unduly positive and
    the first two are delusional.
    Am I ashamed to be an American?
    Am I ashamed of my Government?
    Yes, and I have been since the late 1960’s when I became aware of how things worked here in the USA.

  17. dbk

    I actually found this a fair and not-overly-pessimistic assessment of where we are now.

    It’s depressing, yes, but isn’t it better for us all that we, well, understand what lies ahead, and what needs to be done? I get it that this Administration won’t act of its own accord – in fact, it will do the opposite of what needs to be done for as long as possible – but in the end, the facts on the ground may compel them to actions we’d never imagined would take place in our lifetime. Maybe not with the first wave, but by the second …

    I wanted to add that I watched/listened to the antidote video, which was lovely, and then read the entire thread on Em and her devotion to the USPS. Caught myself crying halfway through it, took a break to compose myself, returned and started crying all over again.

    I love the USPS, and it is in danger.

  18. jj johnson

    I have a few friends who are barbers. NY State hair cutting and barbershop laws are strict. It is against the law to barber or cut hair legally out of doors or at clients homes. Sanitation rules are also strict. Unless they are eased or done illeagally can not see how cut outside or at home will work.

    1. Big River Bandido

      I live in NYC and have been paying my barber to come to my home for years. This is the first knowledge I’ve had that I am breaking the law. I shall continue to do so. After all, how will they catch me? This whole thing just seems like a way to favor established players anyway.

      Health regulations, nonsense. My home is my castle.

      1. Antagonist Muscles

        I encourage everybody to cut your own hair. All I did was watch some tutorials on Youtube and read some tutorials on Wikihow. And Bob’s y our uncle, you save some money (but not time). If you do a terrible job the first time, you can take solace that your hair will grow back and nobody is looking at your hair during this lockdown.

        Nevertheless, I definitely don’t save any time because I have a giant mess to clean up afterwards. I also require lots of set up time because I need to set up multiple mirrors in my bathroom – in addition to the mirror already in there.

        A good hairstylist is still valuable. She likely has experience with matching the right kind of haircut for different faces and scalps. But you only need to figure out the right kind of haircut for your own face.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          for going on 31 years(since i got free from high school), I only cut the knots out…with whatever is to hand when said knot bothers me, be it scissors, a knife or wire cutters.
          Wife calls me Radagast ( ) “cuz there’s birds in there!”
          hair settled on it’s own to between shoulderblades length.

          one thing i will definitely miss about globalisation is argan oil…which comes almost exclusively from North West Africa…Morocco, etc.
          best long tangled mop product ever.

  19. chuck roast

    Yes, this is not a death sentence for public transit, but it certainly is a mortal blow. One of my regular trips involves local bus, commuter rail and regional bus…about 100 miles. It was always a pleasure. Now, not so much. I’m going to have to think about buying a car…I hate cars. But really, what’s the alternative.

    1. Big River Bandido

      I don’t think this is the final blow. Public transit will be hard hit by the virus in the short run. But cars are only going to get more expensive, harder to maintain, and harder to fill with gas. Before long the personal auto (and the fuel to run it) will be luxury items that few can afford. Eventually even the wealthy won’t be able to afford them, once the oil supply chain gets disrupted and governments run out of resources to maintain the roads. Even luxury items cannot exist without a strong society capable of producing and supporting them. Long term, I think you made the right choice.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        governments run out of resources to maintain the roads.

        I think public transit is dead long before this happens.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      While it may not be safe to take public transit for a while, it shouldn’t be a mortal blow. I say shouldn’t because public transport is not a for-profit industry and the public can fund whatever it wants to fund. Now if revenues dry up and the federal government refuses to help, forcing privatization on states and municipalities, that’s a different story. But I’d like to think that we might learn something from all this, as in the video posted above. That learning probably will not happen first in the US, but hopefully the US will follow some other more enlightened nations’ examples eventually.

      And at some point, which may still be many months away, nature will take its course and the outbreak will die down on its own. Every other one has eventually or we wouldn’t be here to talk about it.

    3. cnchal

      . > . . . Now, not so much. I’m going to have to think about buying a car…I hate cars. But really, what’s the alternative.

      For what it’s worth, my advice is to look for something made about fifteen to twenty years ago. preferably a Honda Accord or Civic with a manual transmission. I am scrapping an 01 Accord with over 300,000 miles and replaced it with an identical 01 Accord with 120,000 miles on it. The one I’m scrapping has the original engine, transmission, clultch, alternator, starter, rad, rad hoses and it still ran great when I took it off the road a short while ago. These are fantastic cars, easy on tires, handle well, comfortable, that do not break and get 500 highway miles to a tank of gas. I love cars, and driving.

      I hate the new cars. Absurd electronic crapola that will cost thousand to keep going when the chinesium wiring harnesses and the sensors attached to them go on the fritz, and besides they are ugly as hell. Just look at the snout of any late model Toyota or Lexus for an example. Whenever a BMW is following me, I expect it to bite my ass. All that’s missing is the teeth outline on their kidney grills.

      Stay away from anything with a whiff of used luxury. A check engine ligh coming on can cost moar than the car is worth, and no one but the dealer can fix it.

      And, don’t get sucked in to a late model Honda Civic or HRV with the 1.5 liter turbo. Honda used to make great cars with great engines. Not any more.

      Peak car design was a quarter century ago.

      1. orlbucfan

        I have a 20-year-old Toyota Celica HB with a stick shift. It has around 70K miles on it. It’s been well cared for and worth every penny of maintenance. What I hate about the new cars is all the tech surveillance junk. You can’t buy a new one without it. My life-long dream has been having access to safe, efficient public transit, but don’t see that happening. Sigh.

      2. polecat

        I’m the second owner of a mid-90s pickup. No bells. No whistles. Just a working buckboard – dents, scratches, and all !

        Tis a ‘luxury’ for moi to be able to procure .. and haul bulky, and/or heavy, messy stuff when the occasion arises – furniture, bark, dump loads, whatever. Kinda hard to do that well with a compact. Just sayin …
        But a Big wholehearted yes to your suggestion of acquiring a ‘pre-neostasi’ ride !

  20. Gordon

    Richard North has an interesting take. “However, I am beginning to suspect that – as a generality – the organism is not particularly virulent.

    ‘Virulence’, as he explains, is the ability of a pathogen to cause disease once the subject is infected and shouldn’t be confused with infectiveness.

    It could be that what we’re seeing is a dose-reponse effect with those exposed to large or repeated doses – medical staff ffor instance.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Thank you for that. Based on dire predictions from a month or two ago which have failed to materialize, that hypothesis may turn out to be correct with more research.

      There was a study posted here a week or so ago that argued that almost all of the outbreaks they were able to trace were found to have started indoors. And people are still going to grocery stores, etc which generally require a fairly quick contact with others, and we haven’t seen massive outbreaks resulting from that even though it’s been going on for a few months.

      So it may not be nearly as dangerous to just go for a walk outside, or make a trip to the post office, as it is to go to a restaurant, concert, or take a plane ride where you risk being next to an infected person for a long period of time.

    2. Bsoder

      For Richard’s sake I hope his son Pete stays healthy. I think also Richard has the Covid-19 confused with his absolute hatred of Borris. Borris is not lethal but give Covid-19 some time, how long do people that were infected Stay healthy? Those that got sick – how imparted are they? Re-infections? Mutations? Immunity is there any? Why in some places do we have a death rate of .02in others 15%. I fear what I don’t know. That way I stay alive.

      1. Clive

        The Guardian’s scurrilous and incorrigible bete noir Off Guardian attempts a slightly longer-form take-down of the just these sorts of perils of COVID-19 reporting:


        This is just a nice display of how modern journalism requires an editorial line that totally disregards internal logic.

        In [his] article, Simon Tisdall documents all the ways in which the lockdown-generated economic crash could destroy the lives of people in the third world. And in [her] one Polly Toynbee goes into great detail about all the unemployed young people we’re about to create…because of the lockdown. Neither of them argues the lockdown should be ended.

        Whilst […], Robert Reich says that Trump ending the lockdown would be terrible and dangerous and kill people, and Lloyd Green blames Trump for surging unemployment in the US, without mentioning the lockdown at all.

        You see, ending the Lockdown is bad, because Trump wants to do it. But also, the lockdown is causing massive unemployment – both here and abroad – which could kill millions of people thanks to poverty, famine, and non-Covid diseases.

        Keeping the meat-packing plants open is dangerous and irresponsible, but there are fears of panic buying or food shortages if they’re closed. There’s no word on the potential deaths caused by starvation and food shortages, which are discussed at length in other articles.

        In summary, we’re told he lockdown’s effect will kill literally 10x more people than the disease has done so far, but if you want to end it you’re a pro-Trump anti-science virus-denier.


        1. TroyMcClure

          Unless there suddenly appears mountains of bodies in Sweden in the next few weeks this whole lockdown fiasco is going to look pretty bad.

          1. Monty

            I’m not sure you’d get the same results elsewhere, especially if nobody else had locked down and they had to deal with incoming infections from other hot spots.

            It could be that Sweden has a highly educated, civic minded society that, generally speaking will act sensibly, when there is a new and potentially deadly virus in town.

            When the virus was peaking in other countries, many Swedes were voluntarily locking themselves down according to Googles Mobility tracking data.

            Sweden 2020-04-10,
            retail_and_recreation_percent_change_from_baseline -45%
            grocery_and_pharmacy_percent_change_from_baseline -20%
            transit_stations_percent_change_from_baseline -54%
            workplaces_percent_change_from_baseline -80%
            residential_percent_change_from_baseline +21%

            Could the same be said for US? Without official rules, I predict we would have been expected to suck it up and get sick, or starve. Making the lock down official really gave it some oomph.

            Even so, a lot more people have died there than in the neighboring nations which did do a lock down.


            Maybe those extra lives that were lost in Sweden are just a statistic to you. Any one of those individuals could have been my mum, or any number of people who I regard as still in their prime.

            If the people with decision making power had known beforehand the exact number of casualties involved, they might well have acted differently. Crystal balls were in short supply at the time, and, not that long ago, deaths were doubling every 3 days.

            First Aid 101 = Stop the bleeding.

            1. lyman alpha blob

              That a lot of speculation there, but people have been fear mongering about Sweden for weeks now, saying they’d be sorry for not taking stronger measures. Well that magic two weeks has passed, a few times now actually, and the death toll has simply not been that much higher there. Yes , it’s somewhat higher than neighboring countries however were talking about hundreds or low thousands more fatalities in countries of millions, and given the different and inaccurate methods of counting both infected and deaths, I’d say any differences are within the margin of error of counting methods.

              There are any number of huge cities around the world with people living in close quarters who didn’t take any great preventative measures, and yet not all of them are reporting death tolls like NYC. There was an article on India recently posted at NC showing not that many COVID deaths, but a noticeable spike in tuberculosis deaths. The fact is nobody knows the why of any of this at this point.

              And yes there are some wingnuts who want to open everything up, but the US has wingnuts for every possible scenario. The vast majority are not idiots however. I know for a fact that people willingly cancelled group activities voluntarily before any official government shutdowns, not wanting to get infected, because I have been personally dealing with this at my company.

              People like to make comparisons to Spanish Flu from a hundred years ago. That killed 50 million or so people on a planet of 2 billion and it lasted for a year and a half or so before burning out on its own. In order for things to be worse than that, on today’s planet of 7 billion we’d need to see almost 200 million deaths over the next year to equal 1918. Judging by what we’ve seen so far, that is simply not going to happen, not even close.

              We knew well before the pandemic that in the media, “if it bleeds, it leads” so of course many media outlets are going to play up the bad stories.

              There is definitely a problem, so yes, let’s err on the side of caution. No need to rush back to opening up anything until there’s a better idea of how to handle all this. But it’s also necessary to stay calm and not buy into all the fearmongering going on.

              1. Monty

                Sweden 2769 almost double what it was 2 weeks ago vs. next worst Denmark 493.

                If I had a 450% increase on my 401k in a month, I would not say it was “somewhat higher” than a month earlier. It’s a huge margin.

                1. lyman alpha blob

                  If I had a dollar this week and five dollars next week, the 500% increase still wouldn’t pay the rent.

                  Perspective is useful.

                  1. Monty

                    If, in your perspective, 2750 human lives is in any way equivalent to $5. I don’t know what to say to you. No wonder this country is so effed up!

          2. CarlH

            Swedes have very different cultural norms than we do. They, by nature, social distance to a much greater degree than almost anywhere else. In fact, it is a meme. Look up pictures of Swedes waiting at bus stops, train stations, etc. and you will find people more than six feet apart because that is the cultural norm. They are not as outgoing and casually social as a society as we, or almost anyone else is, so using Sweden as a model has problems right off the bat.

        2. Susan the other

          The nice thing about the viability of propaganda – perhaps unlike a virus – is that when it gets this intricate it also gets ignored. Enter the pandemic.

      2. lyman alpha blob

        You must not be a Dune fan –

        “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

        And whatever happened to “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”?

        There are a lot of unknowns right now with this pandemic, but there are on any given day. At some point, we will either get the virus figured out, or we won’t and it will go away naturally, and we’ll all go on living (and dying) again.

    3. shinola

      FWIW, local tv news reported over the weekend that the employees of a food processor in St. Joseph, Mo. were tested last week; over 380 tested positive and, as of the time of the report, all were asymptomatic.


    We are not only mourning loss of our previous way of living, we are grieving the foreseeable future.

    1. MLTPB

      Thank you for pointing that particular mental aspect of this out.

      (There are other, non mental, aspects, of course).

      I think

      1. If we don’t know how long we have to wait, psychologically that is hard. It feels like ‘no exit.’

      2. Even if we do know , for example, if we have to wait 24 months, even if so, that is still hard.

      I think some of the less rational ideas we hear have to do with the mind, which is both rational and irrational.

  22. fresno dan

    This is why it’s a bad idea for Trump to keep tossing projections into his public statements. The numbers are getting worse. The more he has to move the goalposts to keep up with them, the more he inadvertently highlights how much worse they’ve gotten
    If Biden has any chance of winning, I believe it will be do to Trump trying to put a real estate salesman’s gloss on ever rising deaths. More openings and more aggressive openings now guarantee more deaths later – its gonna be a tough sell.
    I read a book by William Manchester about his time in WWII, and how when he went to combat he just thought he had to be careful, but as his time in the field increased, he understood that he had no power over his fate, and mortality became real for the first time in his life. For a lot of people who want to open up, death to themselves or someone they know due to corona virus is distant. As it becomes closer, it will become realer and more important in assessing the president.

    1. John Wright

      One can suggest that Trump might want to push the economy back up for a while and then divest as much of his portfolio as possible, assuming the market is decent.

      Then Trump can run an entertaining, but designed to lose, campaign.

      And then he can happily the keys to the White House to Joe Biden (and Biden’s replacement VP (Michelle Obama/Klobuchar/Abrams?)).

      While the Repubs may want Trump to win, perhaps he (and Melania) are not so keen on another 4 years.

  23. The Rev Kev

    Are present times bad? Yes. Will they get better eventually? I am sure that they will but we will have a very long hard slog until then. But I remain optimistic. We have been here before remember. Our grandparents lived through a similar episode in 1918-19 and in America they lost about 675,000 people out of a population of some 100,000,000 people. At least back then before they had to go through the great depression they got to experience the roaring 20s first. We may end up going straight from a pandemic to a new world depression so I wouldn’t rundown those stockpiles of food & supplies just yet.

    Previous generations have faced far worse and there is no way that I would have wanted to be alive in 1342 – just before the Black Death hit. Back then you had a one in three chance of dying to it. But getting back to now, we have no idea how things will shake out going down the track. Certainly a massive portion of the population have had their noses rubbed into the fact that their own governments regard them as little more than disposable assets. They will not forget that. But people being at home have had all sorts of time for things they had no time for before. They even have time to think and evaluate. Who knows what will come of this.

    If only we could have gone back into the past to January to educate ourselves about all this-

  24. MLTPB

    Masks as commonplace as cell phones…

    Will ‘mask phones’ be here soon enough? Already we have fashion masks.

    1. Wukchumni

      One thing I always found fascinating in regards to WW2, was how every country had huge stockpiles of gas masks before festivities started, as the thought was there’d be a repeat of WW1 in the air, but it never transpired.

      Wonder what happened to em’ all?

    2. polecat

      I have an urge to dress as if I were marooned on Alpha Ceti V … Stylishly appointed, in a late 20th Century Princely kind of way …

      Great threads in any case, whether for protection from say, some nasty contagion, certain ‘pets’ .. or even an impending sandstorm.
      Perfect for the one in your group who carries their superior intellect on their sleeve!

  25. Code Name D

    As good as this article is, I still think it suffers from a false dichotomy; to shut down the economy or not. The lockdown was ALWAS a short-term solution to what was obviously going to be a long and protracted crisis. While the general public is guilty of magical thinking, the same thing can also be said of those insisting that lock down must not be lifted.

    Just how long do you expect lock down to persist? Three months? A Year? More than a Year? Just how long do you expect people to not eat, to not have housing, to not have an income of any kind, or even to socialize with their families and friends.

    The wealthy can do it because they have huge homes with lots of rooms. Room that contain privet gyms, entertainment centers, outdoor patios, fully stocked kitchens, even in-house movie studios with which they can pass the time making you-tube and facebook videos. They have access to lots of technology that allows them to maintain their social networks. They can zoon with their peers in Paris, Tokyo, New York, LA, and other places with ease. For them, the lockdown is more like a stay-cation.

    For the rest of us, lockdown is not only just a real burden – but may even be practically impossible. I know families that have ten members living in 2-bedroom 1-bath houses. Their “kitchen” is a hot plate on a TV tray. Little to no AC. Some are considered “essential labor” and must work – often without minimal protection. Friends and family that live within walking distance. Elderly parents that must be attended to on a daily basis. How the hell are they supposed to “socially isolate.”

    No, the missing part of the conversation here is called “biosecurity.” This isn’t just protection from virus or other comuni9cal diseases for humans, but for life stock, crops, and even wild-life. Controlling for invasive species such as zebra mussels in our waterways.

    This has long been a neglected topic. I remember it being ignored as far back as the Obamacare debates. Testing, contract racing, mandatory quarantines, even temperature screenings are major components of biosecurity.

    But the problem then as now is that biosecurity – which is heavily dependent on central networks and public services simply has no place in a neo-liberal free-market world. What we are seeing now are not bugs, but features within a Neoliberal free-market dystopia.

    The lockdown was to buy time to install more realistic solutions to Covid. None of which has been implemented. Ding- times up. Gee, just what did you think was going to happen?

    1. Wukchumni

      Las Vegas is being hit with a 1-2-3 triple whammy…

      The Colorado River is barely bringing enough H20 to keep the lights on in glitter gulch, as Zebra mussels breeding like underwater rabbits have gummed up the delivery system after some relocated to the west since the turn of the century, while Coronavirus closed down everything that wasn’t essential, which as it turns out almost all of Pavlovegas isn’t very essential in the scheme of things.

      The place was a goner anyway, just needed another shove from Mother Nature.

      I guess as long as people practiced proper social distancing, they could hold implosion parties after carefully located explosives have been detonated in former houses of chance, as a going away partake.

      1. Monty

        They should be fine, you’d have to be a moron to take a vacation in Vegas anyway, and morons aren’t worried. The Vegas bigwigs worry more about their stiff competition from the Moron Go Casino out on the I-10.

    2. Tom Bradford

      Code Name D:

      The lockdown was ALWAS a short-term solution to what was obviously going to be a long and protracted crisis.

      No. The graphs Yves included above comparing the infection trajectories of countries that went harder than those that didn’t suggest that done properly a lockdown could have eliminated the virus. As Lambert said at the beginning of this comment section it’s only going to be a long and protracted crisis because a few countries that should have done better – indeed should have led the way – failed utterly, and have become reservoirs of the virus threatening to regularly reinfect the rest of us.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      You apparently did not read carefully. The point of the article was that “reopening” would fail to do much to relieve economic pain because many if not most people would continue to restrict activities, and spending would also be down due to so many losing their jobs, and the ones who hadn’t being in “save money because times are bad” mode.

      It is clear that this Administration, and even the supposedly more with-it states like NY and CA are doing squat on the biosecurity front. Getting medical professionals better PPE and ventilators was as far as their efforts went. So there was no point in discussing it.

  26. Wukchumni

    Since the shut-down people have gotten pretty used to ordering from GUM (whoops, I mean Amazon) and why would they want to risk getting infected by going to a brick & mortar, when they can have it delivered @ home instead?

  27. tongorad

    A small reason to be hopeful? Surprised to see this article in the middlebrow press:

    Slate: There Is Only One Way Out of the COVID-19 Economic Crisis
    It’s time for a new New Deal.–>>

    … like President Franklin Roosevelt did in the 1940s, we call for a federal job guarantee that would create millions of jobs, end involuntary unemployment, and build out necessary and resilient public infrastructure. Unlike the stimulus ideas that have dominated Washington to date, a direct government hiring initiative would address inequality; build robust capacity in public health, conservation, education, and infrastructure; and provide not just stable jobs, but government capacity to meet the current pandemic and economic crisis as well as the next one.

    1. Linden S.

      It seems like everything the states are doing properly won’t matter at some point, the U.S. will just be a big floating reservoir of COVID. I am curious/terrified to see what the leading states do to at state lines to prevent new influxes of disease.

  28. Tinfoil Hatland

    One thing that a bit concerns me and sort of allures me to go into tinfoil hat-land, is that nobody “important” or from the “people that count” has died from the pandemic, only ordinary people.

    Boris Johnson*s “coronavirus” could just as well have been a PR-stunt to calm down that people showing that “we are in the same boat. look even I got coronavirus so whatever I do affects me too so trust me when I mislead this country”..

    Our great friends in the misleadership usually never negatively affect corporations. In the beginning I was more than convinced about the seriousness of Covid-19, since they took decisions that impacted corporations negatively. However, after the bailouts it is clear that nobody from the ruling classes are going to get hurt at all. The few productive companies still out there will be bought for a song by financial institutions. The pandemic has been exceptionally good to the parasitic institutions.

    Anybody else having the same nagging thoughts? How do you deal with it? What is wrong with this take on the state of things?

    1. Clive

      Conspiracy theories are dopey no matter what the conspiracy and no matter how much you want it to be true.

      Apart from muddying already cloudy mainstream media waters and allowing news cycle theft by nefarious actors, showing symptoms of Trump Derangement Syndrome or its variant (as here) Johnson Derangement Syndrome and promoting this particular conspiracy theory allows the creation, encouragement and amplification of all the other batshit conspiracy theories which are out there.

      Johnson would have had to rope in two NHS nurses (one of whom was interviewed on the record), the entire medical staff of one of London’s largest NHS hospitals, staff at Downing St. and civil servants plus a media looking in every dustbin for evidence had to be kept at bay. With the risk that, if it was a ruse and Johnson had been unmasked, it would have been curtains for him and his political career. Plus, anyone who saw him when he was ill knew that he looked rubbish.

      The left, as a whole, has a reputation for being a little unhinged. If you ask the typical man on the Clapham Omnibus to think of the left as their friend and describe what sort of person they were, you’d probably get a reply of “nice, well-meaning, has a heart of gold but comes out with the most awful twaddle at times and they are also a bit odd”. Comments like this only perpetuate this perception. The left needs to police itself far better and we have to say, on occasions, I know you’re trying to help but you’re not; you’re looking like a crank. The general public doesn’t want to be associated with cranks — unless they, too, are a crank. So by acting like a crank and saying crank-ish things, you’re attracting more cranks to the left and generating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Please don’t.

    2. Massinissa

      Richer people are better able to social distance, and get better healthcare. They also usually come into less close contact with other people, compared to say, bus drivers and store clerks.

  29. ChrisFromGeorgia

    For some reason this vignette from the BP Oil spill back in ’10 comes to mind. As tarballs were washing up on Florida beaches, there were some stubborn tourists who insisted on trying to go on as if everything was normal, even to the point of taking their kids on vacation into the oil stained waters.

    Denial can be a very powerful thing and false hope even more so. We’ve made an idol out of a fraud-based economy, and destroying idols takes time.

  30. Sam GM

    There’s another way, beyond fear of liability, to push companies to take virus safety seriously. Workers can organize for their own safety and the safety of customers. I am a union organizer and that is exactly what I am doing. The workers may be courageous enough to tell customers that their workplaces are too dangerous to shop at, because the workers value their lives over their jobs.

  31. Jeremy Grimm

    So far, the US response to the Corona virus is far worse than anything I could have imagined — and I was already imagining the ways Society might collapse before the middle of this century, what kind of world would remain, and what potentials it might have for the future. I thought the zombie movies were wacky but the US government is mindlessly creating debt zombies out of our young, those needing medical treatment, our small and medium businesses, and Corporate zombies with inflated values while feeding financial predators ready to consume the economically dead and dying. Our Government has shown just how much it cares for the Populace and what the Populace thinks, or needs.

    I knew the US economy had been gutted but I had not guessed how little remained. We had to start manufacturing simple facemasks from the ground up because there were no domestic producers of facemasks or the plastic fabric critical to their manufacture. We put footsteps of Humankind on the Moon but we can’t make medical face masks?

    The US public health systems at all levels of government have responded to Corona with hesitant clumsy pronouncements, fractally broken and disconnected policy, and varying levels of incompetence competing to reach new lows. Our Medical Industrial Complex — composed of Big Hospital, Big Pharma, Big Medical Supply, and the ancient guild of Physicians, all hosting various portions of parasitic Big Insurance — has shown how well it was prepared to deal with Corona or its like.

    As we suffer through one ‘difficulty’ — which promises no end in sight — the West soon enters its fire season and the East coast soon enters its hurricane season. And these are only the known threats for the future. I cannot imagine what new and unusual events could ensue to keep life interesting.

    1. ChrisFromGeorgia

      Good comment. I took a drive around town here in the Atlanta burbs, and the term “gutted” is appropriate.

      A wasteland of car dealerships overflowing with cars nobody wants to buy, empty restaurants (except for the fast food joints) and buildings that looked like they hadn’t seen maintenance since the 2000’s. The local zombie mall had only a Costco that looked lively. Cars were lined up to buy the cheap gas. Get it while you can.

  32. ian

    This is being portrayed as a fight between saving lives and dollars. If it were only that simple.
    I would love to see a tradeoff between lives saved from the coronavirus by the shutdown, and lives lost due to unemployment, stress, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and people foregoing medical procedures. These things will only get worse as lockdowns continue.
    People may be engaging in magical thinking, but they’re scared. It’s not at all clear to me that we can wait for an effective vaccine to be widely available – what if that’s a year and half away? And what if it confers no long lasting immunity? I mind the authorities and stay home – not only out of respect for science, but because I can afford to.

  33. michael99

    “New internal projections from the Trump administration suggest U.S. deaths will grow on a daily basis to 3,000 by the beginning of June, weeks after states have begun reopening their economies.”

    Right now the U.S. has about 71,000 deaths, with deaths per day around 1,300. If deaths per day continue around 1,300 for the rest of May that would put the total deaths above 100,000. But with the reopening steps under way in many places it’s plausible that deaths per day will increase. If it goes to 3,000 per day in June, by the end of June total deaths would be close to 200,000.

    False Dawn indeed. As bleak as the economic picture is, if the epidemic unfolds as outlined above it’s hard to imagine political leaders not backtracking on reopening.

    The Imperial College of London study described a scenario of on-again, off-again social distancing orders in a repeating pattern: about two months of social distancing, followed by one month of loosening, then back to strict social distancing when case numbers take off, and so forth. That may be the path we are on.

  34. Graham Shevlin

    There is a sensible, rational debate to be held about the way forward. Post-industrial societies relying on services to power the economy cannot sustain themselves with the current economic models in a lockdown regime.
    However, the debate requires honest discussion about trade-offs, which the anti-lockdown people are averse to. Hence the diversionary BS being thrown about about “freedoms” and lockdown orders being unconstitutional. In a society which lives by the myth of individual freedom, it is a good fall-back position, but it allows proponents of ending lockdown to avoid the tough question: If you accept that ending lockdown will increase contagion, and lead to more deaths, what is the math? What value are you ascribing to human lives?
    A lot of the people who are demanding an end to lockdown are probably hurting economically from the shutdown. I understand that. However, if ending lockdown leads to a burst of activity, followed by a horrified rush back indoors when cases and deaths take a massive leap a few weeks later, that will crash the economy even further. You cannot force scared people to go out and visit restaurants, stores etc. and buy stuff and interact with other humans.
    Nobody seems to want to discuss this. Instead we have the No Lockdown people on one side dismissing folks on the other side as scared pussies or gullible pawns of Big Gubmint, and the Pro-Lockdown people dismissing the No Lockdown folks as dangerously anti-social. Based on my local NextDoor, both groups are frantically cherry-picking information to support their positions, and tuning out contrary information. I can tell that people are getting dug-in, because I am now being told to change my tone (which is always a Tell that people have no real argument).

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