Covid-19 Economic Realities Sinking in as Denialism Wanes, Desperation Rises

Perhaps it was last week’s continuation of bad unemployment figures combined with the recognition that PPP employment-maintenance requires were rolling off and more layoffs are likely. Maybe it was Delta saying it was cancelling half the flights it had planned to add in August. Maybe it’s the severity of the coronavirus surges. Who knows what the trigger was, or whether it’s just the accumulation of evidence, but big businessmen, who are required to project optimism, are more and more sending downbeat messages about their prospects.

It’s becoming clear that understanding where the economy is going now depends on understanding where Covid-19 is going. The evidence from the lockdowns was that activity and spending fell before governments intervened. And the contraction was most pronounced in wealthy neighborhoods, even though the blow fell on the less-well-off who commuted in to work there. Those who have the luxury of being able to curtail their activities are largely doing so. Look at big cities. Large companies are overwhelmingly continuing work at home where they can. Business travel is dead; business hotels in NYC like the Four Seasons, the Grand Hyatt, and the Hilton on 6th Avenues are closed.

We though the initial recovery would peter out and turn into at best stagnation and more likely further decay, on the assumption of entire sectors not participating much if at all in a rebound (live entertainment, business travel, tourism, elective surgeries, restaurants) plus Covid-19 being likely to rebound in the fall. With Covid-19 infections rising in nearly all states, the situation is even worse than we’d anticipated.

Most of the issues we’ll discuss below are familiar to reader, but there’s value in putting them together and seeing where they lead. First to the disease, then to the economic implications.

Disease Progress

It’s not news that the infection is spiraling out of control over much of the US. From the Washington Post:

Sunday marked the 41st straight day that the seven-day average for new daily coronavirus infections in the United States trended upward….

Here are some significant developments:

  • Kentucky, Louisiana, Oregon and South Carolina all set new single-day records on Sunday, contributing to a nationwide tally of 64,650 new known cases. Idaho, Nebraska, Iowa and five other states have seen their seven-day average for daily new fatalities rise by more than 40 percent in the past week.
  • More than 100 Florida hospitals have run out of ICU beds for adults.

More color from Gavyn Davies at the Financial Times:

Fulcrum economists have developed a new model which tracks the epidemic on a state-by-state basis, based on the now-familiar SIRD model used by the Imperial College Covid-19 response team and other researchers.

It suggests that the virus’s effective reproduction number, known as R, is now above the critical level of 1 in all but five of the US’s 50 states. Weighted by gross domestic product, this means that 95 per cent of the US economy is affected by a viral reproduction rate high enough to cause an exponential rise in the number of cases — unless something intervenes to prevent this. Other researchers have found similar results.

This spread of R levels above 1 is the broadest it has been since the epidemic started. In March, absolute levels of R were higher in the north east, when the reproduction rate exceeded 3 for several weeks and infection numbers doubled every few days.

This is bad enough, but the situation is made much worse with the widespread inability to get Covid-19 test results on a timely basis. The US has a duopoly in medical labs. Quest has said Covid-19 tests will have a reporting delay of 7 days. Labcorp has not been as specific but has ‘fessed up to its turnaround time for Covid-19 tests now being 1-2 days longer.

This matters because delays this long neutralize what little disease containment the US had. Early studies found the median time from exposure to showing symptoms is a bit over 5 days. Peak viral shedding appears to occur shortly before or at symptom onset. From what I can tell, people who have tested positive do tell family members and co-workers and others close to them, and those people usually do self-quarantine as best they can. Too late test results means this informal contact tracing is useless.

Some are pointing to the much slower rise in death rates to argue that rising alarm is overdone. The worrywarts have the better case. First, as we saw in the initial surge, deaths are a lagging indicator. As infections continue to rise, the increase in deaths comes 2-4 weeks late. Second, it is true that the infections this time are hitting much younger people, and even though a higher proportion of hospitalizations now are of those under 50 than before, and they aren’t requiring ventilators as often, higher survival rates aren’t the full story. Covid-19 cases serious enough to require hospitalization regularly produce long-term damage to the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain.

Even young adults are becoming more vulnerable. From UCSF:

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), not included in the UCSF study, indicates that while patients over 65 are significantly more likely to be hospitalized than younger people, the gap is narrowing. For the week ending April 18, there were 8.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 of the population for the 18-to-29 age bracket, compared with 128.3 per 100,000 of the population for patients over 65. By the week ending June 27, the figures were 34.7 and 306.7 respectively, representing a 299 percent increase in hospitalizations for young adults, versus a 139 percent increase in hospitalizations for older adults.

Things are almost certain to get worse on the disease front before they get better. Atlanta’s and Houston’s mayors are fighting with their state governors to reimpose restrictions. More and more cities and states are implementing mask requirements but enforcement is toothless, plus defiance and poor compliance are high. Even among my mothers’ aides who are Certified Nursing Aide, about half wear their masks below their noses and pull them down when talking. If people with basic medical training who are around old people aren’t masking up properly, how many are? When I am out, I see 20% to 25% with their masks below their noses or chins.

Even with church attendance down, some have retreated from in-person services due to reports of churches generating infection clusters. But nearly half are still holding services in person. The row over whether to reopen public schools is underway. Given the institutional inability to impose enough safety measures like student mask-wearing, plexiglass barriers around desks and lunchroom seats, and regular cleaning, most teachers and some parents are opposed. But there’s enough ideological and business pressure to make it likely that schools will reopen in most jurisdictions, even if not in big cities. This is pretty sure to produce more infections in those ares.

University and college reopenings will provide another Covid-19 boost. Even with schools taking precautions, they have no control over what the kids do when outside class. Think they won’t go to bars and coffee houses? Go to gyms? Get laid? So the students will frequent pubs and eateries and their staff, who are separately at risk by working in close quarters, are on the front line.

And some of the ones who are back on campus have returned because they are work-study, which will can put them in different settings than they are as students, again offering another transmission route.

In other words, if we don’t see a strong change in sentiment by mid August towards aggressive clampdowns, the uptrend could start accelerating in September and October.

And there’s no magic solution in sight. Vaccine? At least a year before one would even start being distributed. Dr. Fauci has been dialing down expectations about vaccine efficacy, saying he’d accept 70% to 75% but a level like that in combination with 1/3 of Americans now saying they won’t get a Covid-19 vaccine even if it were cheap means the disease will still be with us for quite a while. And that’s before getting to the question of how long vaccine or disease-conferred immunity will last.

Economic Impact

The foundations are rotting despite the stimulus-induced appearance of normalcy.1 Evictions are rising in areas with no freezes, the level isn’t yet above the old normal. But more tenants are expected to come up short on payments for August than for July, so the level will continue to rise.

As we alluded to in our intro, the level of joblessness remains high, with hiring close to offset by new job losses. And this is before PPP-induced payroll retention rolls off in a big way. Many small businesses have been hanging on by their fingernails, and the longer Covid-19 is running at high enough levels for many people to curtail their activities, the more will go under.

Another contractionary force that is only staring to kick in are state and local government budget cuts. Absent a change of heart in DC leading to direct grants to states and cities, shortfalls in sales, income, hotel, and gas taxes are already biting. Real estate taxes on commercial properties will follow soon, since large property owners are experienced and aggressive at winning reappraisals when their rent rolls fall.

From the Wall Street Journal’s downbeat lead story, U.S. Companies Lose Hope for Quick Rebound From Covid-19. Mind you, this is the perspective from large businesses who are in theory best positioned to ride out a severe downturn:

The fierce resurgence of Covid-19 cases and related business shutdowns are dashing hopes of a quick recovery, prompting businesses from airlines to restaurant chains to again shift their strategies and staffing or ramp up previous plans to do so. They are turning furloughs into permanent layoffs, de-emphasizing their core businesses and downsizing production indefinitely….

Executives who were bracing for a monthslong disruption are now thinking in terms of years. Their job has changed from riding it out to reinventing. Roles once thought core are now an extravagance. Strategies set in the spring are obsolete.

“It’s going to be a different game,” said Bill George, former CEO of medical-device company Medtronic PLC and a senior fellow at Harvard Business School. Mr. George said many companies now need to explore strategies they might have once deemed unthinkable, from hospital chains embracing a long-term shift to telemedicine to apparel makers figuring out how to market and sell their wares in an environment where many stores don’t reopen.

The story described how Delta had cut way back on restoring some flights, along with distress at other carriers, with additional retrenchment anecdotes from Chipotle and Vox Media.

Gavyn Davies offered a supposed worst case scenario:

Fulcrum economists have modelled an alternative scenario where full lockdowns are eventually needed in states where the R is currently above 1.5, with partial lockdowns in states where R lies between 1.25 and 1.5, and no lockdowns elsewhere.

This would lead to a large drop in activity — in effect, a double dip — of about 7 percentage points through the whole economy while the lockdowns last. If the situation persisted for three months, it would knock almost 2 percentage points from this year’s growth rate, compared to the latest consensus forecasts.

Even if some areas do go back to lockdowns, our pattern has been to quit too soon. Starting from a higher baseline of infection than before implies a longer period of restriction would be needed. So I am not confident that even a second period of lockdowns would get infections low enough that mask-wearing and contact tracing could keep Covid-19 at a sufficiently low level so that most “old normal” activities would resume and the rest of the world would let Americans visit them again.

The other open question is how much will be approved in the second round of stimulus. I’m not following this one closely given the Democratic Party to ask for little and fold easily. However, the extra $600 a week of unemployment benefits ends on July 26. There is a lot of Republican opposition to extending it since 5 out of 6 were making more than when they were employed, which allegedly made it hard for those businesses who wanted to rehire to get people on board.2 And Democrats also seem to accept the idea there should be fewer checks to individuals, say only to lower income households. Thus despite economic prospects worsening before our eyes, Congress seems stuck with the view of a couple of weeks ago, that the damage will continue for perhaps another quarter, and therefore a smaller stimulus is what the doctor ordered.

The problem is stimulus or no stimulus, absent a miracle treatment for Covid-19 very soon, the US is going to lose more productive capacity: restaurants, salons, hotels, theaters, symphonies, businesses near office buildings and commuter hubs, suppliers to airports and airlines. This is not “job loss” in the normal recession sense, where the main source of position and hours cuts is lowering production and reducing shifts, not permanently closures or shuttering locations.

Even though giving individuals subsidies to enable them to pay rent and keep food on the table is a critically important stopgap, it will shortly be nowhere enough. If positions are permanently destroyed, the answer is direct employment by government, either through block grants to cities and states or Federal programs.3 The US has a tremendous amount of deferred infrastructure maintenance and upgrades as a place to start. But the odds of this Congress and Administration going down this path are about zero. And I don’t hold much hope for a Biden Administration having the gumption.

_____

1 Fortunately, I don’t have to have it, but I still have not gotten my $1200. I really hate having to spend time chasing it down.

2 A testament to how many employers are either nor or barely paying a living wage.

3 Here is where some will start champing for a UBI. Please don’t. Even in the old normal, a UBI high enough to provide enough to live on would be massively inflationary. With productive capacity shrinking, it would be even more so. A UBI at less than a living wage level winds up simply being a wage subsidy for big employers like Walmart and Amazon. Silicon Valley squillionaires who have been backing a UBI too often have let the toad hop out of their mouth: a UBI would allow people with jobs to quit them and work in their “incubators” for free, alleviating them of the need to pay a stipend.

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165 comments

  1. TiPs

    The quickest solution for the short term is something along the lines of Yang’s $1,000 per month per person, transitioning to a jobs program.

    It’s difficult to be optimistic given the lack of leadership from both sides. I hope we make to 2021….

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t mean to sound harsh, but I think you entirely missed the point of the last part of the discussion. A short term fix won’t save this economy. If Covid-19 remains in the picture, and it’s hard to come up with any scenario that doesn’t have it as a dominating force through 2021 and easily beyond, entire sectors will continue to collapse. That is a permanent loss of productive capacity. You seem to be in denial as to what that means.

      Reply
      1. Henry Moon Pie

        When we consider where that productive capacity is lost, we should, for the most part, rejoice. The travel, entertainment and hospitality industries are, to put it charitably, less than essential. They’re huge contributors to our environmental problems and provide no product that we can’t live without.

        And when considering ways out of this situation, we should remember that in these times, every job has two downsides:

        1) Every job contributes to environmental degradation; and

        2) Every job presents a risk of Coronavirus spread to the worker, the worker’s family and friends, and customers.

        These are times that require that we sever the connection between survival and a “job.” On top of the contributions of jobs to environmental collapse and Coronavirus spread, there is the problem of a horribly incompetent federal government ramping up a massive jobs program in these circumstances.

        It’s true that there’s plenty of work to do, but the dual necessities of rapidly reducing carbon footprints and limiting viral spread must be prioritized at the same time as we make sure that people have provision of shelter, food, health care and education for children. Some of these needs can be met by federal programs like M4A, and we’ll be lucky if the feds can pull that much off. The rest can be most easily and quickly handled by a UBI that lasts at least as long as viral spread is an issue. Once that issue is successfully addressed, and our entire society has some time and discussion to consider where to go from here, then a JG might be more effective and conflict less with other priorities.

        Reply
        1. STEPHEN

          By this logic, the only truly essential economic activity is agriculture.

          I think it’s high time we publicly recognized what has long been obvious in the United States: covid is or will become endemic to our existence. We have lost our fight to contain it. We must learn to live with it as part of our daily lives. This means implementing a massive increase of our treatment capacity.

          But the idea that we can or will contain or limit its spread is…I think that’s water under the bridge. Covid is part of us now. Until the vaccine.

          Reply
          1. juno mas

            Well, generating electricity is an essential economic activity, too.

            Keeping the lights on, powering the pumps at the sewer plant, providing clean water, and transmitting information over the Interwebs are essential. No?

            Reply
            1. Henry Moon Pie

              Exactly. And we need to be having serious discussions about just what services and goods are truly essential to the welfare of our population as a whole and how we can make sure they’re available even in the face of the virus. We’ll probably have to reach a collapse point before anyone will listen, but that may not be far off, and if it arrives, somebody will need to have some definite ideas about what to do to avoid having people freeze or starve.

              Reply
              1. Darthbobber

                Since the “market” can’t address those issues, the “conversation” can’t be held.

                I think we probably need a word other than conversation in any case, since obviously contrived conversations are put out there for every intractable problem. They exist to provide an illusion of participation without the actual thing.

                Conversations stroke me as an element of what Samir Amin liked to refer to as our “low intensity democracy”.

                Reply
        2. Bob Hertz

          Thanks for a thoughtful response. The great challenge to your pro-ecology point of view is that hospitality jobs sop up a huge amount of unskilled labor.

          In theory, we could give every hospitality worker about $20,000 a year in Universal Basic Income. However, the track record of communities that have no jobs but do have benefits is not stellar.

          Minority areas in numerous northern US cities have had major unemployment for years, and despite food stamps and Medicaid and welfare that keeps people from starving, the black families have been destroyed by unemployment. Not an easy one to solve….here is a quote from David Autor….

          “Is it possible that the pandemic-related reallocation of work out of low-wage, economically insecure personal service occupations is actually good news in disguise? The answer, unfortunately, is no. Reducing demand for non-college-educated workers in low-paid jobs will not ultimately raise demand for these same workers in middle-paid jobs. Workers who remain in these jobs may face even lower wages. Those displaced may suffer significant hardship as they seek new work, potentially in occupations where they have no experience or training. Paradoxically, having too few low-wage, economically insecure jobs is actually worse than having too many. “

          Reply
          1. Grumpy Engineer

            @Bob Hertz: Aye.

            I’ll also mention that there is less opportunity for complaints of unfairness and “the politics of resentment” if everybody somehow contributes to the economy.

            I know a couple of grocery store workers who deeply resented being categorized as “essential”. They did get a small raise for working during the pandemic, but they still earned less money than their non-essential peers who were laid off and received an extra $600 per week on top of normal unemployment benefits. They have less free time, endure more COVID-19 risk, and if they quit they don’t get anything at all.

            It’s pretty to easy to see the unfairness in pointing at one group of people and declaring “you have to work”, while pointing at another group of people and declaring “you don’t have to work”. It can be endured as a short-term tactic to deal with a crisis, but it’ll never fly as a long-term strategy.

            If we have more people than useful work requires, perhaps it’s time to shorten the work week.

            Reply
        3. GC54

          The only “expert” groups that Federal politicos on either side of the Congressional aisle (with mirror in the middle) interact with in “troubled times” are the Military and Wall St. Both very narrowly competent entities have “actions” ready to go in appropriate legalese for cursory show “debate” before an oral enabling vote, none of which benefit anything other than their own organization/mission but cause horrible damage to everything/one else. I don’t expect any fundamental redirection of our disintegration path under President Harris except that “progressives” will revert to sleep as they did under Obama.

          Just wait until the new admin’s nightmarish advisors and cabinet are revealed …

          Reply
          1. lordkoos

            I don’t think progressives will go to sleep this time. Having watched the Democratic party destroy Sanders, killing M4A, student loan forgiveness, green new deal etc people are pretty riled up and not in a mood to compromise. Speaking of compromising, it is not a given that Biden will win.

            Reply
            1. Tyronius

              From the front lines of these struggles, all I can say is that I wish I shared your optimism. It seems these movements die far too easily without a central figure to either rally around or hate- and Biden is too milquetoast for either. This is a feature, not a bug.

              Reply
              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                Maybe a SanderMovement too dead to do anything without its Sanders will also be too dead to inspire its weary ex-members to get out there and vote for Biden.

                Maybe those young College debt slaves who even have sub-minimum-wage work at all by election time will be so busy trying to earn some pennies to pay their undischargeable-in-bankruptcy student loan debt that they will not even have time to get out there and vote for the Senator from Big Bankistan who created their problems to begin with.

                Reply
      2. Rolf

        The changes that loom are what I always feared. Earlier this year, I thought there had to be a top-down call for 1) uniform suppression via well-known, effective methods (simple masking, well established in many Asian cultures), and 2) plowing huge resources into development of free testing with rapid turnaround, providing easy identification of carriers, a prerequisite for any path forward. Data, data, data. Without data from testing, one is always, always behind the curve. This is simple logic. The fact that magical thinking is now the norm in DC means the cascade of irreversible changes you describe above is now happening before our nation’s eyes, and will require many decades to recover. In some cases, the damage may be permanent. And the fact that these relationships are well-known, in a nation with such wealth and resources, makes this a crime. It is a crying, criminal shame. I don’t know what else to say.

        Reply
      3. jcmcdonal

        I think you are exactly right Yves on sector collapse, and it’s interesting as to the varied effects of the destruction. State and local jobs are… Well, we’re getting layoffs at that level here in Canada so I can only imagine what will happen over the next few months in the US.

        These sectors “can’t” collapse… in quotes because of course they can but because we don’t want to really think about what it means when cities that were already struggling (eg Detroit) have even less money.

        I guess a key thing here is “essential” sectors vs “non-essential”. Restaurants closing is bad, but not the same as hospitals closing, ambulatory services shutting down, already failing infrastructure collapsing further… There’s stuff here that has to be maintained for everything else to build on, when it fails…

        Reply
        1. carl

          I remember a piece linked here by Jamie Galbraith which described 70% of the US economy as based on “frills.” That resonated with me. No one needs to go out to eat, have their nails done, drink in a bar, coffee shop or attend a concert. An as pointed out, we have huge infrastructure needs which could be addressed in the service of fuller employment. Unfortunately, our sclerotic leadership remains firmly rooted in the past.

          Reply
          1. Billy

            And probably half of that frill spending come from the top 10% who are sheltering in place.

            I think what is collapsing the Frillconomy is the wealthy not being able to spend, not the lack of poor or middle class customers, who are buying essentials only, and are saving whatever they can.

            Reply
            1. Sue in SoCal

              Replying to Carl and Billy re the Frill Economy: It is, in my opinion, truly non-essential. However, it was massively supported by the “middle class” if you will, even if it involved debt via credit card. Example: Lattes and mani-pedis add up to a huge expense of discretionary income that, frankly, most people didn’t have. But it “supported” slave wages. (Same with over priced excruciating American plane travel since there is no other option. Debt…) No matter, the collapse we’re in for will be devastating for decades. There are no temporary fixes. In my opinion, we’re so beyond that. The DNC will try bandaids as usual even if the sadist in the WH is unseated. I think I said, just my opinion.

              Reply
          2. WS

            Just for clarification, what are we really talking about when we say “infrastructure needs?” Like, what kinds of jobs are we proposing to give to the unemployed American people? Planting trees? Fixing roads and bridges? Repairing and updating the power grid? Building dams? Or nuclear power plants? I guess my real question is, can we realistically send half the country to work digging ditches and pouring concrete, no matter how great the need?

            Reply
            1. GC54

              This is the real problem. What practical skills do most Americans have? Most can operate an automobile, make a phone call, surf the Web. The idea that with minimal retraining they can and will be willing to pour concrete, crawl into attics to install insulation effectively, climb around on roofs to install and wire solar panels, etc. is absolutely absurd. But in 9 weeks most Americans can be trained to effectively but thoughtlessly discharge a weapon at whoever some authority figure designates. Mission accomplished.

              Reply
              1. tegnost

                Actually, with minimal youtube instruction any person can do all of those listed chores, climbing around on a roof wiring solar panels, well you could do that too, but keep your non electrician hands out of the main panel, unless you are turning it off. I’ll add that if one spent 9 weeks studying youtube videos on home building processes you could do it all but for a few things. Thinking that you can’t is absurd. I know plenty of americans with tons of practical skills, the problem is that silicon valley thinks everything, and I mean everything, can be done better with a computer, or cheaper with an h1-b, or ridiculously cheaper with undocumented immigrant. Or maybe you think immigrants get here with all those skills? No, they got trained here. Also nice job of implying that all the grunts are too stupid to know better and just shoot whatever the lieutenant tells them to. Sometimes they shoot the lieutenant because he’s an… um,…what’s the word for it…

                Reply
                1. Prairie Bear

                  In the early oughts, I lived in Santa Fe, NM for a few years. One year I went to the State Fair in Albuquerque. I was wandering around the large building that had 4H exhibits, various crafts and suchlike. There were many amazing skills on display: sewing, quilting, canning, etc. One large section was of Lego projects by kids, preteens & early teens I thought. Some of them were huge and intricate and quite ingenious.

                  I kept wondering, “Lego sculptures and layouts? Don’t these kids really have anything better to do?” At this time, I had been reading James Howard Kunstler’s “Cluster[family blog] Nation” as well as his books The Geography of Nowhere and Home From Nowhere. I suddenly made a connection, in one of those flashes of insight, or what felt like one. “There really is all of this creativity out there; when The Long Emergency comes, a lot of this talent and ingenuity can be put to good use.”

                  Not to sound overly optimistic about it or too inspirational. Kunstler also has said that a lot of people will probably just choose to sit there and die in front of their televisions. But there probably will be a lot of people who make the effort to do something else.

                  Reply
            2. Phil in KC

              Somehow it was done during the Depression. My uncle graduated from high school in 1934, a city boy with an interest in mechanics. He joined the CCC and learned how to fell trees, build a log cabin, build wet masonry walls, and so on. It can be done with proper supervision. Or are we just inferior to previous generations? I hope not!

              Reply
              1. Janie

                In a word, yes. Children don’t run around the neighborhood or bike to the corner store; they may grow up in apartments with no chance to learn how to replace a washer or electrical outlet. With all available adults working if possible, there’s no one to instruct. You can’t repair you car the way you could in the fifties. Kids don’t have paper routes or mow lawns. No put-down of youth or their parents intended; l see it in my family members whom I love dearly. Times are just different.

                Reply
              2. Aumua

                Or are we just inferior to previous generations? I hope not!

                I’m not sure how far we really want to delve into that, but for one example: we are all heavily addicted to computers, and that is clearly having significant effects on our minds. Remember that NC is probably not a very accurate representation of the general population’s mental state, either. It’s getting bad out there.

                Reply
            3. Yves Smith Post author

              Even though a fair bit of the work is manual or quasi manual, there’s also a ton of supervisory/logistics work. And a lot of construction these days involves using machinery, so people who aren’t robust but are game could be trained to do that too.

              Reply
              1. bob

                Most equipment today is also very much like a video game. Excavators have 2 joysticks and 2 foot pedals.

                People who you would never guess can step into one and get the hang of it very quickly. It’s much more easy for people who are used to video games, but others get it pretty quickly too.

                The hard part is the constant bouncing and jarring of the operator. It’s very difficult for some people to get used to it, or to get used to doing it for any length of time.

                Reply
          3. bulfinch

            Very well put, carl; however, I might suggest that some of the frills illustrated in your example are not entirely discretionary. Commerce is about more than boredom relief or retail therapy, it provides a forum for connection and exchange, and maybe most importantly, is pretty enjoyable. I would rate joy as essential.

            Reply
      4. TiPs

        Actually, I was in complete agreement with what you are saying. All I was adding is that the short term fix is necessary to prevent a social meltdown until we get there.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Thanks for the clarification. As you can see from the post, I am not optimistic that we can build short-term bridges that will keep many small businesses going long enough until we get to a treatment or vaccine. It would really be best if I were wrong.

          Reply
      5. Dean

        Even the US bounced back from the Great Depression although it took a world war to do that.

        Permanent could be half a generation but that horizon is too long to help people now.

        Reply
    2. rattlemullet

      The both sides argument is what got us here, the both sides arguments has been and is wrong and a cheap way out of assigning true responsibility. All republicans in the house and senate 97% of the time support the cornered rat of a president. Ff a few blue dogs go along this hardly could qualify as both sides. To be perfectly clear since Bush II, republicans and conservatives have driven this country into the fractured mess it is today. They speak with one voice through FOX otherwise know as the Putin channel sporting the party line.

      Reply
      1. sierra7

        Rattlemullet;
        You had me until you insulted Putin by comparing him to Fox News……Wow! You are really out of touch!!

        Otherwise this situation is going to prove to be one of humongous negative consequences on our society in all phases. There are no simple solutions. And, there are no really “positive” outcomes even when taking into consideration that some parts of the environment will have the luxury of some relief.

        Reply
  2. PlutoniumKun

    Just a point on the death rate – two doctors in my family in a recent conversation said that the reason death rates are so low is quite simple – very ill people are surviving in ICU’s 2-3 weeks longer than they did previously before dying. Add to this that people are often diagnosed earlier now as people are more aware of the symptoms and you have a wider lag time between the two indicators. It could be significantly longer than a month, so if you assume that the surge in Fl and Texas started in late June, then the rise in death rate may not be so clear until the beginning of August. Time will tell.

    The situation really does look completely out of control now in the US. And this is summer, when everyone thought there would be a respite. The only real hope now for the economy is that those modellers (a minority) who think that the virus will blow itself out once it gets to close to 20% of the population are correct.

    The prospect of political paralysis before and after the November election, combined with repeated large scale Covid outbreaks into 2021 is terrifying. There really are no good outcomes. Even if the rest of the world gets its act together, a US in economic freefall will pull everyone else down with it.

    Reply
    1. Redlife2017

      Add in Brexit (more specifically no-deal/ lite deal TransEnd) to the regional woes in the UK/ Europe and this is such a [family-blog]show in action. And the likely 2nd wave in the UK this autumn because we have an optimistic idiot in charge. My firm has finally admitted that there will likely be a second wave and lots of rolling closures. I don’t see how an economy can pick up if that is happening.

      My family in the States is very worried. I have one member who is full-on 2nd Amendment but not hot on Trump, so almost reasonable to speak with. He is getting the family to start provisioning stuff for a year in the freezers and cupboards. He was (rightfully) freaked out by what has happened in Portland. It would not suprise me if the US breaks-up in the next few years…

      Reply
      1. Massinissa

        So he’s a prepper, basically? Or a recently converted one.

        Its beginning to look more and more like the preppers might be getting the last laugh after being dismissed as crackpots for years. I’m not quite sure I like living in interesting times but I guess we are all going to have to get used to it from now on…

        Reply
        1. Redlife2017

          I would say previously he was in the “pre-prepper” bucket until his recent conversion. He and my family made sure to get supplies before Covid-19 blew-up (to be fair so did we here in the UK) as they certainly didn’t believe Trump.

          I certainly hear ya on the getting used to interesting times. I was telling a friend yesterday that we are at the point where all the choices have been made. That now is the time when we live with the consequences. At the very maximum, we may have limited choices, but the options are now very narrowly constrained. I noted that I was in a very “retire to my homelife” vibe (hunker-down!) and not looking to get involved in politics or even much outside of my own community as I feel like I have at least some limited impact in my own community.

          Reply
          1. The Rev Kev

            To steal and twist a quote from Irving Kristol-

            “A Prepper is a Conservative who’s been mugged by Coronavirus.”

            Reply
          2. STEPHEN

            we are at the point where all the choices have been made. That now is the time when we live with the consequences.

            I think you are correct. Especially when i see how narrow the scope for acceptable action has become. As the old joke goes, if aliens landed, the first thing we’d do is lower interest rates. Our leadership is obviously sclerotic and hidebound.

            I learned a long time ago to stop worrying about the weather. Don’t try to stop the rain, just bring the hay in.

            Reply
        2. polecat

          But but those HOARDERS! .. OMG!!!
          /s

          I can only but dream of the banks of Pelosi freezer space* …
          /sss

          *… × 538ish

          Reply
          1. lordkoos

            “Investing is good, saving is better, hoarding is best.”

            — attributed to some Chinese wise guy

            Reply
        3. cocomaan

          My wife and I were in Occupy Wall Street back in the day. Pretty active, got our face on some newspapers.

          We realized in the wake of Occupy that the system would not listen. Because, as someone said recently, “The system isn’t what it says it is, it’s what it does”. Our system is built to reward greedy idiots and is working perfectly fine, thank you.

          Since then, we’ve bugged out to the country and have done a decent job of creating a permaculture food forest. Seven years in and we’re only now seeing real results. It’s a more fulfilling life, to boot, than living in a duplex on a busy road.

          Occupy was the warning.

          Reply
              1. anand shah

                this is wonderful… actually looking forward to nakedcapitalism hosting an article on it… :-)

                We have just started a minute part of that journey :-)

                Reply
                1. cocomaan

                  Time is the secret ingredient! It took a good five years to get the results to line up with the vision, keep working on it.

                  Reply
          1. bulfinch

            In the wake of these demon days, I have read that more and more people are trending toward wanting to bug out to the big country. Who wants to tuck into a nervous breakdown when they can hear their neighbors loading their dishwasher?

            Outside of major metros, I never understood why the concept of a condo had any traction with buyers.

            Reply
          2. Janie

            Cocomaan: Please share favorite sites and books that have been the most helpful. We are a few years behind you.

            Reply
            1. cocomaan

              Hey Janie, I took a stroll to my bookshelf.

              Joel Salatin is obviously a huge inspiration. There’s a couple of documentaries on his methods and he has several books. He was just on Joe Rogan talking about how he drinks out of the cow’s watering trough to strengthen his immune system. Great guy.

              If you want easy reading, subscribe to Mother Earth News, which I think comes to your mailbox 6x a year and is full of advice from other loonies like you and me.

              Other books:
              The Vegetable Growers Guide to Permaculture, a good basic book

              Let it Rot, about compost

              Paradise Lot, which is a great book to get you into the permaculture planning mode for a parcel.

              Bringing Nature Home and anything else by Doug Tallamy

              That should get you started!

              Reply
              1. Kengferno

                The Biggest Little Farm is a great documentary about starting up a small self-sufficient farm from scratch

                Reply
              2. Janie

                Cocomaan, thank you for your detailed reply. The bible out here is Veg Gardening West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon, founder if Territorial Seed. It’s not permaculture though. Being west coast, we get info from Oz and New Zealand. I’m looking forward to checking out your recommendations.

                Reply
                1. cocomaan

                  We absolutely love Territorial Seed Co!

                  I also listen to the Kiwimana Buzz podcast, about beekeeping, it’s a lot of fun.

                  Reply
        4. Leroy R

          “Its beginning to look more and more like the preppers might be getting the last laugh after being dismissed as crackpots for years.”

          Preppers, and maybe add doomers…

          Reply
      2. PlutoniumKun

        I’m actually a little surprised that the UK is doing relatively ok so far – no sign yet of the big surge I expected after June. But it may be just a matter of time. It’s already noticeable that even Loyalists in Belfast are whispering about it being better off managing things as an island, not as part of the UK. The new Irish (Republic) contact app actually has a big take-up in Northern Ireland.

        I’ve a few friends in business in England (cafes/bars/event venues/holiday cottages) who were reasonably ok during the lockdown, but they were anticipating (hoping for) business getting back to normal from September onwards. I don’t think this is going to happen now.

        Reply
        1. templar555510

          No it probably isn’t . I am a Brit and have a business in the hospitality sector ( wedding venue ) that is surviving because we have ample forward orders and have acted with kindness, first and foremost, towards our clients . Our government so far as I am personally concerned has provided pretty good financial support up to now . But now everyone I employ and know as friends and relations are done with Covid . We are not and will not wear masks , an absolute abomination and no health advantage whatsoever to the wearer or anyone else. Boris Johnson ( I have connections through family members ) does not support masks, will never again impose a lockdown. The epidemiologists are attention seekers who have made themselves a laughing stock here. In short we accept that there is a virus no more deadly than the flu ( just look at the numbers however accurate or inaccurate they are . They are minute – 600,000 deaths globally in six months – 150,000 people die every day from every cause known and unknown. The governments of the west ( where five countries account for the majority of the deaths ) panicked in the beginning because all previous potential pandemics never got as far as Europe and the US ) but this one did . But its impact in terms of deaths is tiny. But its damage in every other respect is immense due to government action. We in the west are simply not able to deal with risk anymore. Bombs fall elsewhere and disease afflicts poor unfortunates a long way off. We need to grow up, open everything up and get on with our lives . If you are old ( like I am ) and fell vulnerable, lay low until the madness evaporates as surely it will, unless we enter the full dystopian nightmare – Australia,of all places leads the way .

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith Post author

            You really do not get it. Covid is a threat to the health system, for starters. Full ICUs means dead nurses and doctors, and they can’t be replaced quickly. It also means that other MDs and patients are either not allowed to or are unwilling to do elective procedures. People with cancer and autoimmune diseases avoid getting treatment due to Covid risk, so they are hidden casualties.

            Oh, and masks do protect others, so stop selling that garbage. The reality is you are too selfish to give a damn about anyone but you. I wear a mask in my house, in the humid South, because I have a 92 year old mother, and as well as in my sparsely-populated-due-to-Covid-precaustions gym when exercising. People in Bangkok, way hotter and more humid and vastly less air conditioned, are all masked up save for men outside doing manual labor and I am told even some of them are partly masked up (over their mouths to reduce spread when they speak).

            In other words, your whining is really precious. I have zero sympathy for people who state they are willing to kill other people because a trivial inconvenience is too much for them.

            Medical officials are afraid of this disease because they’ve seen how horrible the deaths are and how serious the damage is to survivors of hospitalization, yet you blow it off out of sheer selfishness and refuse to wear a mask, which has been shown to work. That’s one of the big reasons, if not the reason, that Asian countries, particularly China, got Covid-19 under control, despite some getting off to bad starts. Countries around the world have walled off the US, or did you miss that too? You know better than countries that have good health care systems, have contained the disease, and don’t want to incur those costs again as a result of the lack of self discipline of people like you?

            Reply
            1. Paul O

              I was talking in passing to the duty manager at my large local supermarket yesterday. I told him – only partly in jest – that I was trying out my mask wearing for the big day Friday (we have been experimenting with mask design for a few week – had not expected the sewing machine bought at Christmas to be quite so useful).

              To my question he answered that they would indeed be refusing entry from Friday . It seemed it was not yet clear how this would be enforced. It could get ugly at times I suspect and would not be surprised to see a police presence – the local nick being only 200 yards away.

              Masks are still not so easy to come by. I worry for those of good intent but limited means.

              Reply
              1. Bulfinch

                I gently intervened at my local caffe medici last weekend when some doofus addicted to contradiction (with supporting statutes at the ready on his smartphone) started hollering at the clearly rattled barista about her denying him service without a mask. He was apparently outside such considerations because of an alleged medical condition which precluded him from wearing one. I asked him whether his medical condition trumped any that the rest of the (mask-wearing) patrons around him might have, not to mention the barista. He wasn’t having it. Bad scene…

                Reply
                1. lordkoos

                  Judging by what I’m seeing on social media there seems to be some right wing website (or maybe it’s Fox news?) giving people these talking points about having talked to a lawyer, claiming a medical condition where they are unable to wear a mask etc. Dangerous behavior is the result of course.

                  Reply
              2. Yves Smith Post author

                I agree that is a real problem. In NYC, the city was distributing masks at major subway stops, one a person, so they could rise the trains or the nearby busses (crosstown and local bus stops are near the big subway stops). Cities should be making them available to people of limited means.

                Having said that, we showed a vid early on from Venezuela that demonstrated how to turn a baby wipe into a mask. If someone has an old knit or flannel shirt, all it would take is a pair of sharp scissors.

                Reply
                1. RMO

                  Thank you Yves for replying to that comment above… I’ve noticed here in the Vancouver area a decline in mask wearing. Since masks are readily available here now this would seem to be the result of “precaution fatigue” or simply not taking things as seriously as before even though we’re clearly not out of the woods yet – BC just exceeded thirty new cases in 24 hours for the first time in ages. For a quite a while we were hovering between zero to ten. Hopefully it won’t continue to increase. Interestingly it seems to be the interior region that’s leading the way with new cases where they had previously largely escaped the pandemic.

                  Reply
          2. bulfinch

            Masks are a drag — sure. And I understand that compelling people to wear them in concert with social distancing has likely contributed to a creeping, schizoid atmosphere; but you don’t need to be a virologist or have a degree in molecular biology to understand the simple concept of how airborne transmissions work and how to impede them. Do you not cover your mouth when you sneeze? Of course you do. Masks are a no-brainer and a very small sacrifice to make in one’s personal comfort.

            Also — I can’t recall a time when mobile refrigeration units were dispatched to major Texas hospitals to help offset the dearth of slabs in their morgues because of the flu.

            Sober up.

            Reply
          3. c_heale

            I am from the UK but live in Korea, and personally I think you are dangerous. When some gets infected at one of your hospitality events that will be the end of your business. And if you get infected that may be the end of your life. It is inconsiderate not to wear a mask since the mask is to protect other people like me. I am in the high risk category and am currently having an essential operation on my lungs for another disease. If I was still living in the UK, I am am almost certain I would not be treated. I had to have a covid test before I entered hospital. The turn around time was 4 hours. But the main problem in the UK is there is no effective contact tracing and testing. If you have been in contact with an effected person here you have to stay at home isolated for 14 days. Food is supplied to you and you are liable for a for at least a thousand pound fine if you leave home during this time. Any building where the contact occurred is closed down and everyone in the building is isolated (This recently happened in my small town). Somebody has recently been jailed for leaving home and intentionally visiting many different places while outside. And if come here on a tourist visa for a holiday. If you enter the country you are automatically quarantined for 14 days in an airport hotel room, which you are not allowed to leave. And you have to pay about £1,000 for the privilege (a friend has just completed this). Masks are compulsory on public transport, although there are not enough checking since some people wear them with their nostrils showing. There are bottles of alcohol hand disenfectant everywhere. And we are still have small outbreaks. But in Korea there has never been a complete lockdown. Only large buildings like department stores/sports centres/churches/sporting events were compulsory closed at the beginning of the Covid crisis. The internal economy has continued to function. Even if you are an illegal immigrant you can still tested and treated. The UK’s response is a joke. Teachers and students in some schools aren’t wearing masks (for example in my niece’s school). Running a hospitality business without making masks compulsory is irresponsible and dangerous.

            Reply
      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        The next step for currently-freezered food might be learning to can, jar, dry, pickle, smoke all that food so that it can be preserved for long-term eating after the power has gone out and the freezer dies.
        Is that the next step your prepper-relative is thinking of taking? Learning how to live without freezer food for when the freezers die?

        Reply
    2. voislav

      From the graph that Lambert posts in the water cooler, increase in deaths trails increase in infections by ~24 days. This is consistent with published literature I’ve seen. US had a minimum in deaths ~13 days ago and has been rising since then.

      Reply
    3. Braden

      Not to quibble, but the difference in age cohort currently being infected is likely why CFR is falling, and I doubt it will rise in a few weeks. As the number of Americans being infected rises, the CFR would naturally tend to fall toward the IFR, which is probably somewhere around 0.4%. This is still a catastrophe, obviously, but the 5% CFR we were seeing at the start was probably the highest we’ll ever see that rate.

      And, the risk of dying in younger cohorts is really quite small. So small that the CFR does, in fact, approach the level of the flu. In children under 10, the flu is far more deadly. There’s only been 23 deaths under 10 years old from COVID, and my understanding is that all of them were the consequence of serious pre-existing conditions.

      We’ve obviously failed miserably at containment, which in retrospect isn’t surprising because we have a horrendous public health system with zero capacity to treat COVID patients early in symptom onset. So now we should probably try Option 2, which is protection rather than eradication. Find a way to support and protect the vulnerable as they continue to self-isolate, while opening the economy to the low-risk as much as possible.

      We won’t be traveling abroad anytime soon, and we’ll all continue to have those frustrating Zoom calls with our parents and grandparents, but sheltering in place for another 2-3 months is a non-starter. Job losses will lead to greater anger, larger amounts of noncompliance, and finally, widespread failure in governance in all aspects of American life (not just the already failed federal level). My wife works in a R1 university, and it’s pretty inevitable that if they continue online coursework they will need to start dismantling the institution department by department. I think that’s the reality in almost every part of our economy. Eventually, people start asking what it’s worth to them. It’s easy for the rich to tell the poor that they can’t work, it’s much harder for the rich(er) to accept that reality, and if history is our guide, they will not.

      Reply
      1. marym

        As far as “opening the economy while protecting [whatever cohort you deem sufficiently vulnerable and worthy of protection]” it’s a false choice between protecting the economy and protecting the people. We barely had an economy that marginally provided for the people before the pandemic. We’re not going to have a functioning economy with an unmitigated pandemic.

        We still don’t know a lot about transmission among children, death or long-term debilitating outcomes at any age, what proportion of the population the “open-up” advocates expect to victim-blame for pre-existing conditions, and whether recovery includes any lasting immunity. So no solution can be considered rational if it’s based on writing all that off, even among those who don’t care how many people get sick or die.

        What was needed was a stay-at-home process that included economic and social support, and a public health process that included masks, social distancing, and prompt, widespread testing and follow-up. We need the people pushing to send people back to work to demand that government and business protect the workers, financially and with workplace protections; and to wear a mask and and practice social distancing and indoor crowd avoidance themselves.

        If we can approach anything like sufficiency in these respects, it would mean we cared enough about each other to cope humanely and productively with the difficulties of living in a changed world.

        Reply
      2. cocomaan

        Braden, this is my conclusion as well. Unfortunately the hardest hit are people older than 50 years old. There could be long term effects from covid, God only knows what that could be, but it’s not something we can fear so much that we block the under 50 crowd from doing productive work. The younger you are, the worse an economic catastrophe hits you.

        So far, the number of people I’ve lost to covid equals the number of people who died from overdoses.

        My most cynical take, and perhaps it’s unfair, is that if this disease hit young people the way it hit the older crowd, none of society would be shut down. The disease hits the people with the most accumulated capital, the most political power, and the most say in how society runs itself.

        Reply
          1. cocomaan

            I’ve read that the hit to low income and minority workers comes primarily from the use of public transit. Do you think that’s the case? seems likely to me, since this disease hits urban areas the worst.

            Reply
            1. Massinissa

              Nah, that was early on. Its been spreading into rural areas. Look at Texas right now. A few rural counties in my home state of Georgia were hit hard fairly early on, with some counties having experienced a higher death rates than in Atlanta, at least at the time, a few weeks back.

              Reply
            2. Yves Smith Post author

              The county with the highest infection rate in Alabama by far, nearly an order of magnitude worse than the rest of the state, is Lowndes County, with 11,000 people. And no, it does not have a prison (that’s Lowndes County in Georgia).

              Reply
            3. Angie Neer

              The rural Eastern side of Washington, whose identity is dominated by “we’re not Seattle, and therefore we don’t need to worry about big-city problems like Covid” has been hard hit because of all the “essential” but low-paid agricultural workers who have had to keep working in their strenuous jobs.

              Reply
        1. Braden

          I have thankfully not lost anyone close to Covid, but my family was personally exposed by a close family friend that tested positive. We probably had a good two weeks of exposure. They were asymptomatic, never ended up having symptoms, and tested negative with antibodies after their two-week quarantine. My family all tested negative, but I tested positive for antibodies. Never had symptoms. I have no idea why my wife doesn’t have antibodies. I think this is a common story from my age cohort. The disease passes you over with little to no effect, and you’re left wondering why…

          Reply
    4. Cuibono

      good points. the only one i take issue with is the fatality rate. there is some evidence from around the globe that it has been falling and not just due to delaying theinevitable

      Reply
  3. timbers

    “In an interview on Fox News that aired Sunday, Mr. Trump said many recent cases involve young people. “They have the sniffles and we put it down as a test,” he said.”

    Reply
    1. Lou Mannheim

      I think he followed that up with reminding Wallace/registered voters/his father’s ghost that “we are the envy of the world when it comes to testing.”

      Reply
      1. juno mas

        Umm, I think you may have mis-transcribed that quote. My transcription looks like this: “we are the NV of the world when comes to testing.” Meaning his administration has implemented the gambling prowess of Nevada into the testing process.

        Reply
  4. carl

    Yes, things are bad here in Texas. If we were a country, we’d rank between Chile and the UK in total number of cases. We had a streak of five days in a row of 10k new cases last week. My county, which comprises San Antonio and surroundings, is third in the state for numbers of cases. Meanwhile, the governor said last week he wasn’t thinking of imposing a lockdown; wants to wait a couple more weeks and see if reclosing the bars did any good. Feels like an uncontrolled experiment on the population.

    Reply
    1. carl

      And yesterday we shot out the lights, with 2200+ new cases in my county. We’re now seeing the results of July 4 weekend.

      Reply
    2. XXYY

      wants to wait a couple more weeks and see if reclosing the bars did any good.

      In other words, let’s do nothing while 150,000 more people get sick and a couple of thousand die. Then maybe we’ll take another look if we’re not too busy.

      The level of calculated indifference and cruelty by US politicians to their own voters is one of the most horrifying features of the present moment. The media figures who regularly decry the sociopathic viciousness of foreign tyrants seem strangely missing when the slaughter is here at home.

      Reply
  5. Ignacio

    RE: Too late test results means this informal contact tracing is useless.

    I would add both, formal and informal, and this is exactly the reason why Covid is, again and again, spiralling out of control in the US and in other countries. Learnt nothing, forgot nothing! Contact tracing and early noticing of disease is essential to contain this as it is so well explained in the article: there is limited time to control transmission early during disease development and whatever you do later it doesn’t help: Quarantining for two weeks once you diagnostic has come late does nearly nothing.

    This is now happening in Spain where we are in the way for a second wave for these very same reasons: tests are done, but late and with delayed reporting (still bureaucracy while we are in an emergency!) and the number of people hired for contact tracing are overwhelmed, particularly in cities like Madrid and Barcelona where there is 1 tracer for 30.000 inhabitants (for comparison in Germany there is 1 tracer for 4.000 inhabitants). Public HC in Spain has been divided in regional “reinos de Taifas” which is an expression that reflects the division of the Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula by 1000 AD in small kingdoms that could easily fall prey to the less civilized Christians. Such de-centralization is showing to be an enormous drag when confronting a virus that knows nothing about administrative subdivisions. In a bigger scale this problem seems to occur in the US.

    Reply
    1. Medbh

      I wonder how much of the problem is driven by the asymptomatic carriers, and more specifically by asymptomatic kids. I keep reading that kids don’t catch corona as easily as adults, but unless we’re testing them at the same rate as adults (and from what I had read previously, we’re not), how would we know if they’re just more likely to be asymptomatic?

      In “normal” life, my kids interact with far more people, in many more environments, that either my husband or I do in work or our social lives. From what I’ve seen, most adults have substantially changed their behavior, but the kids are still moving around. Kid camps and soccer practice are still taking place, and neighborhood kids are still playing together.

      Reply
      1. Expat2Uruguay

        Here in Uruguay the K-12 schools resumed about a month ago. We’re not seeing new cases coming from that Avenue yet, even though it’s tense of tests are conducted among the teaching staff. The two most recent outbreaks have been at Medical institutions, and involve people who crossed the border from Brazil. I bring up Uruguay, because I think there’s so many cases in the United States that it would be hard to figure out how much of a vector children are, whereas in Uruguay there’s less overall cases so the effect is more visible

        Reply
      2. Ignacio

        This is well explained by Yves: you can spread the virus before you notice you are ill. And yes, younger people might have symptoms mild enough to avoid noticing they have got something and won’t realise they are, as Lambert says, ‘living fomites’ (I laughed for some time about this description though he applied it to children). A recent event in Spain in a Disco bar where lot of students met to celebrate college ending reported 70 cases (there are more examples but this has been so far the more explosive). One of the messages being now released by HC authorities is specific for the younger: enjoy yourselves, but do it in ways that reduce disease spread. As a consequence many regions are closing those spaces or reducing capacity. I would shut down all those that are enclosed and typically badly ventilated.

        I personally have an issue with this at home with two young creatures of which one has lately come to a ‘new normal’ consisting on getting out every night. I talked to him seriously: Please, never again a meeting inside a house, avoid bars and discos unless you can stay in outdoors environment, please, talk to your friends, think twice, i don’t want a new lockdown, what about you?

        Reply
    2. Steven

      @Ignacio – Does the U.S. or Spain even have access to the physical capacity – e.g. chemicals, diagnostic equipment, trained personnel – to conduct testing on the required scale? I can’t help wondering if the dirty little secret explaining the raging pandemic in the US and the at least relative success of containing it in China has more to do with access to the physical infrastructure for adequate testing than the authoritarian nature of the governments in question.

      (Any updates on the accuracy of China’s published statistic?)

      Reply
      1. Ignacio

        My answer would be yes, they have, and there is probably a lot of underutilized capacity regarding materials and equipment. Probably the most limiting factor is trained personnel because we are reluctant to train and contract enough to do the task (misguided self-imposed austerity?).

        Regarding China, who knows. China is reporting a slowly increasing number of positives. My opinion, but this is only an opinion without any knowledge on the ground, is that they have been and continue to be under reporting because one of the most important selling points of the leadership is that the wise and strong man on the top can control this. I don’t think there is much community transmission in China that now reports a few clusters, but I think there might be some though there are incentives for regional authorities to keep them hidden. Even extended lockdowns like that in Wuhan are not enough to completely eliminate the disease.

        Reply
      2. L

        Getting accuracy out of the PRC is always a dubious game and Wolf Richter’s recent analysis of trade data shows: here.

        But there does seem to be evidence that they are taking this very seriously.

        This is understandable because historically in China epidemics have always signaled the end of a dynasty and the rise of a new government. That is part of why Xi has decided to seize the moment and push out on all fronts. In the past two months they have upended 1 country two systems, removed the Taiwanese representatives from Hong Kong, seized territory from India (embarrassing Modi in the process), moved in on Vietnam, and claimed parts of the Philippines. Faced with an existential crisis at home in the form of a pandemic and the loss of trade he has gone all out on aggression.

        Reply
        1. Ignacio

          But this can be solved in a short time. We had the same problem in Spain and had to resort to local companies to produce more reagents instead of importing those. The problem could be if validation of the new reagent is needed. That could take some time depending on how bureaucracy works.

          Reply
          1. bob

            “That could take some time depending on how bureaucracy works.”

            The bureaucracy doesn’t work in the US. That’s becoming very, very obvious. It ‘works’ for those at the top to make money. Everything else is an unintended side effect.

            Reply
        2. steven

          Actually, Quest has claimed it can’t get enough reagent to scale up much.

          If that was the only problem it would be good news. There are a couple of Water Cooler posts on this subject, e.g. https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2020/07/200pm-water-cooler-7-1-2020.html . I think I remember something from Naked Capitalism about there being only one company left in the US that can manufacture cotton swabs. Even Foreign Affairs admits there is a problem. See Chronicle Of A Pandemic Foretold in the July / August issue (though its editor claims the solution to this globalization-induced problem is MORE globalization – “And the cure is not isolation but deeper connection.”)
          There is apparently (?) no substitute for the current gold-standard PCR test but what about this as a way to break the testing logjam:
          Science fiction or real life? Arizona company wants to use lasers to detect coronavirus
          I heard but can’t document that some professional sports teams are already using it or something like it.

          Reply
    3. Henriux Miller

      On the importance of contact tracing in controlling the spread of the virus, the USA could learn something from Cuba -I know, what are the chances ;)
      From an article in The Guardian:

      “[In Cuba] The state has commanded tens of thousands of family doctors, nurses and medical students to “actively screen” all homes on the island for cases Covid-19 – every single day. That means that from Monday to Sunday, Dr Caballero and her medical students must walk for miles, monitoring the 328 families on her beat.

      “There’s no other country in the hemisphere that does anything approaching this,” said William Leogrande, professor of government at American University in Washington DC. “The whole organization of their healthcare system is to be in close touch with the population, identify health problems as they emerge, and deal with them immediately.”

      Link:
      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/07/cuba-coronavirus-success-contact-tracing-isolation

      Reply
    4. Olivier

      @Ignacio “Such de-centralization is showing to be an enormous drag” Funny you should say that because elsewhere, e.g., in France, the talk is all of how centralization has failed and we need a local or even hyper-local approach. And indeed outbreaks are local and pandemic is a collection of outbreaks. So, which is it?

      Reply
  6. Keith in Modesto

    COVID-19 (seems to me) to be a serious but manageable disease, but not in the United States. Why? Because our leadership and managerial classes (and mainstream intellectuals) are dominated by the belief in neoliberalism (basically, laissez-faire capitalism with better PR). They do not believe in collective action to benefit ordinary people or the common good. Not by businesses. Not by the government. They only believe in individual actors maximizing personal value and that the only legitimate common good will arise by market forces as a side effect (with some exceptions for the armed forces and police, because law-and-order). So any collective action coordinated by the government is too hobbled to be effective. I don’t see this situation changing much until this belief is thoroughly discredited. Which I suppose will happen after enough people have died.

    Reply
    1. DJG

      Keith in Modesto: Yes. I think that you have summarized the cultural and political factors well. It turns out, though, that “individual actors maximizing personal value” is a kind of death wish. It is as if Margaret Thatcher were raising her bony finger from the grave with that “there is no society” delusion. And here we are: Forty years since Saint Ronald Reagan, and the empty suits that followed him into the presidency, with a population that is malnourished, underemployed, regimented at school and at work, fearful, and not provident.

      But Orlando Disney reopened!

      Reply
  7. jackiebass

    To see the effect, people need to understand how many very small businesses there are.Collectively these small businesses are our biggest employer. When I put my Zip into a loan tracker , I was amaze at the number of small businesses that applied for a loan. I don’t live in a big city but in a small city on the PA border in upstate NY. It was an economically depressed area before the virus. Many of these businesses will fold because the recession isn’t going to get better quickly. That means our area will have many permanently unemployed workers. It, if it happens, will take decades for a recovery. Especially since a lot of the present jobs are in retail , a sector hard hit with unemployment. I fear we may end up in a depression. I’m pessimistic because of the lack of leadership at all levels. The only hope is with young people who aren’t satisfied with the status quo..

    Reply
  8. The Rev Kev

    I guess that right now that you could say that the US has a Schrödinger’s economy and depends on if you really look at it or not. If you look at the stock market, then America is going gangbusters and the elite have increased their wealth by hundreds of billions of dollars (No, I won’t mention where all that money came from). But in the real economy, most people are hurting and insecurity is the order of the day. And therein lies the rub. So much of the American economy depends on consumerism and even George Bush knew this when he told people to “go shopping” after 9/11.

    Well that won’t work this time as so many people are wary of getting sick or crippled or even dead. People are skipping movie theaters, football games, restaurants, etc in large enough numbers to slam the consumer economy. Sure, rich people account for a big chunk of the consumer economy too but they may be as just as spooked as Joe & Jill Sixpack of putting their neck on the line. Until State & Federal governments take this seriously and start to really drop the hammer on this virus in a coordinated campaign, then the US and the US economy will just sit their like a stalled car with nothing but the whirring sound to be heard. In writing all this, I was also thinking about how America coped a century ago during the last pandemic, according to Kunstler. which was easier as it was a more diversified economy. Here is what he wrote-

    ‘In 1918, the country was lashed by a far deadlier pandemic disease at the same time it was fighting a world war, and daily life barely missed a step. The economy then was emphatically one of production, not the mere consumption of things made elsewhere in the world (exchanged for US IOUs), nor of tanning parlors, nail salons, streaming services, and Pilates studios. The economy was a mix of large, medium, and small enterprises, not just floundering giants, especially in the retail commerce of goods. We lived distributed in towns, cities not-yet-overgrown, and a distinctly rural landscape devoted to rural activities — not the vast demolition derby of entropic suburbia that has no future as a human habitat. Banking was only five percent of the economy, not the bloated matrix of rackets now swollen to more than forty percent of so-called GDP. Government at the federal and state levels was miniscule compared to the suffocating, parasitic leviathan it is now.’

    Reply
    1. William Hunter Duncan

      The trillion dollar question is, how do a people conditioned to imperial consumerism build a productive, resilient, local economy again?

      Reply
      1. polecat

        From the ground up, after societies have been wittingly and for cynically selfish reasons, ground down.

        Plant a garden if it is within your capacity to do so. If not, help others put in their’s ..

        Reply
    2. L

      To add to that it also depends on where you look in the stock market. If you look at the whole it is riding high. But as shown here if you separate the big 5 from it, the market as a whole is where is was in 2017 and only they have grown.

      Reply
  9. Bob Hertz

    Excellent article, thanks.

    Two tiny questions arose for me:

    1. If Idaho, Iowa, and Nebraska have their Covid death rates double, that means going from 1-2 deaths per million to 3-4 deaths per million. Still pretty puny, thank goodness. Even with exponential growth this takes a long time to be serious.

    2. I visit my mother in a nursing home. I do pull my mask down when talking sometimes, and so does she — due to her hearing loss. Actually I did not know this was a problem.

    Reply
    1. XXYY

      Even with exponential growth this takes a long time to be serious.

      Note that ten doublings is a factor of 1000.

      We saw this dramatically in NY/NJ earlier in the year, when cases were doubling every 3 days, i. e., 1000x per month. Exponential growth is extremely dangerous.

      Plus, hospitalization rates and especially death rates are lagging indicators, trailing infections by perhaps two and four weeks respectively. By the time these numbers start to rise, you are already in big trouble.

      Reply
    2. L

      It has to go from chin to bridge to be effective and preferably it should be form fitting so the air doesn’t just blow out up or to the sides meaning that the droplets are still spreading.

      Reply
    3. Massinissa

      The death rate isnt the only thing though. You’re missing a few things. Firstly, isn’t Iowa and Nebraska running out of ICU beds? If things get bad enough they may have to triage the beds, which would mean more dire cases wouldn’t get proper treatment.

      Secondly, we don’t know what the long term effects of surviving Covid are. The death rate isn’t the only factor is people end up having permanently impaired breathing or something else.

      There may be more things to note but those are the first that came to mind. Perhaps others could expand on this.

      Reply
    4. Old Jake

      Speaking vibrates vocal cords, aerosolizing whatever is in there. That appears to be precisely how the SARS-2 coronavirus is spread. The mask to at least some extent prevents this aerosol from exiting and certainly keeps the aerosol cloud closer to the speaker.

      Use the mask at all times when indoors and when close to people.

      Reply
  10. Polar Donkey

    There is a realization setting in among the staff at the restaurant I work at that is not going end and we probably aren’t going to make it. Maybe we can go 2 more months. Everyone on edge about getting sick. This weekend the son of a famous preacher who is president of a “university” came in with a large party. He didn’t like wearing a mask. He begrudgingly wore it to his table. When party left, he didn’t put his mask on nor did all but 2 of his party. This guy really took Jesus’ golden rule of being a selfish dick to heart. What hope is there when there are people like this are in high places.

    Reply
      1. polar donkey

        In another terrible update. Teacher training program for online teaching in a Mississippi county next to Memphis had teachers ranging for kindergarten to seniors. Almost no one wore a mask for the training. Maybe the teachers will get the kids sick rather than the other way around.

        Reply
  11. William Hunter Duncan

    I assume with neoliberal economic theory owning Republicans and Democrats, they are assuming as long as the Fed can print money to keep TBTF afloat, those trillions will sufficiently trickle down to keep the proles from revolt? And of course spending 3trillion or whatever a year on War/Security/Surveillance, they assume keeping a lid on revolt will be easy enough? And should it come to it, they can always entice half the proles to [family-blog] the other half of the proles? Or are they secretly planning a put-America-to-work plan (for less than a living wage likely) or maybe WWIII, to keep us occupied? Or are they just so disconnected from reality in DC and Wall Street that their meritocratic omnipotence means things will just sort themselves out and we will go on being the global hegemon forever and a day?

    I wish I could pick up my house and garden with our 20 fruit trees and 200 species of plants, and plant it about 150 miles from city center in time for the election.

    Reply
  12. polar donkey

    Saturday I got a call from health department about an employee who got covid. Another employee had gotten sick on July 4th. Closed restaurant and got everyone tested. Remained closed till we had enough negative results to reopen. People with delayed results stayed home till they got results. One worker got positive result back the 8th. So he hadn’t worked since the 4th, tested positive the 8th and it was the 18th when health department called about contact tracing. What’s the point calling 10 days later? In early April, my friend’s step father was the first person in Shelby county Tennessee to die of Covid. The health department never contacted him nor his mother. In fact, she had to lie about symptoms to get tested. She was positive and asymptomatic. Covid response is an unmitigated disaster that will continue for the foreseeable future and the country is falling apart.

    Reply
  13. john

    Could someone explain how with all these lockdowns, whole industries withering away, massive unemployment, and so on, economists can say this with a straight face: “If the situation persisted for three months, it would knock almost 2 percentage points from this year’s growth rate, compared to the latest consensus forecasts.”

    They’re talking the growth rate not being as high as predicted, meaning there would still be more economic activity this year than last (excluding all the fudges in GDP calculation). Can this possibly true? It seems so patently false – an honest GDP calculation seems likely to be deeply negative right now, yes?

    Reply
    1. juno mas

      You need to recognize that spending on healthcare (by you or the government) ADDS to GDP. Sure air travel is down, but massive spending on treating Covid-19 is up.

      Reply
      1. Massinissa

        Im not sure. I’ve heard alot of hospitals are struggling to stay afloat financially because they make most of their money from voluntary and non-critical procedures which have gone down during the pandemic, with Corona being both more taxing on resources and more difficult to monetize.

        On the other hand, tons of money is going into R&D for vaccines which will probably never see the light of day, but I don’t think that is enough to be economically meaningful on a large scale.

        Reply
  14. duffolonious

    In Minneapolis we’re seeing tents popping up in even the nice parks (by million dollar plus homes). I’ve never seen it before like this and it’s not yet August when more benefits run out. Also, seeing more people living out of cars (church parking lot).

    Reply
  15. HH

    The US is effectively taking a national intelligence test, with severe penalties for those who do poorly. There is nothing magical about how the Northeastern states and NY brought the outbreak under control, and the same measures could be applied elsewhere. But if you are too stupid to avoid bars, parties, and crowded indoor spaces during a raging epidemic, you are much more likely to suffer the COVID infection consequences and inflict them on others.

    The economic impact of this episode will be significant, but large economies are resilient. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were rebuilt in 10 years after being largely destroyed by atomic bombs. People need to rethink the significance of junk food, gambling, leisure travel, and intoxicants as pillars of prosperity. If the pandemic causes a beneficial revision of priorities, then the sacrifices will not have been in vain.

    Reply
  16. David

    It really is bizarre that economists and financial commentators persist in treating the emergency as a kind of temporary demand problem which can be cured with a shot of stimulus, and the only argument is about the numbers. I can only assume it’s because they are wearing neoliberal blinkers and they assume that the economy and its workforce will simply and automatically adapt. Unemployed hotel managers will quickly retrain as emergency nurses, bankrupt universities will quickly turn into organic farms.
    In fact, as has been pointed out here many times, it’s entire sectors of the economy that are going away, and are not coming back. Ever. There’s no point in baling out airlines if long distance business travel fails to take off again, as seems to be the case , because you’ll just have to bail them out next year, and the year after, and the year after that …
    What worries me are the second and third order effects. It’s easy to gloat over the end of the tourism industry , but consider that in most countries the tourist economy is not separate from the main economy, and in many areas we could be in for the equivalent of deindustrialization. Consider a small country town with a famous church and a historic quarter. The only factory shut down long ago. Tourists pass through, stay a night perhaps, have lunch or dinner and move on. It’s on the tourist circuit and most of its visitors come in groups. This year, tourism is down by two-thirds. One of the local restaurants has shut already, and the café near the Church can’t afford to stay open. There are a lot fewer summer jobs for young people. As time passes, and more people lose their jobs or move out, one of the local supermarkets closes. Little by little the High Street starts to go: hairdresser, butcher’s shop, baker’s, grocer’s. One of the banks closes. Those with cars go the local hypermarket instead. It’s no longer profitable to run local transport services, so they are cut back, which mean fewer tourists come …. this is the way communities die, and no amount of bail-outs can save them.

    Reply
    1. Tinky

      The tourist issue is a major problem in Portugal, but I wouldn’t say that it is entirely bleak. The type of small town that you mention can be accessed by car from Spain and France, as well as Portugal (of course). So, while there will certainly be near-term pain, attractive European destinations will still be supported, albeit not to the same degree.

      Reply
      1. Ignacio

        I haven’t yet gone to the beach (I might go in about 10 days IF there is still the possibility and things don’t look again out of control) but my son went and told me there were many French tourists. In other kind of news It has been said that rural tourism is having a hot summer in all senses: some people prefer to go rural this summer as a way for social distancing. Yet, much of what David says is true and some places are seeing a very sharp drop in visits. Precisely the sites that fit best with the Club Med definition are being hurt the worst.

        Reply
      2. Billy

        What this means is that the most critical infrastructure in such places in the installation of fiber optic high speed internet capacity.
        This would allow wealthy people who could support small businesses to move to and work out of the remote town. Without high speed internet, that will never happen.

        Reply
        1. GC54

          SpaceX Starlink will start limited operation next yr. It may bypass dailup along rural routes and even ancient DSL in many cities, e.g.Tucson where disposable income is too low in usual conditions (let alone now) for telecos or Google to run fiber down most alleys for limited pickup.

          Reply
          1. tegnost

            The government could do it, no need to include all the blood funnels from musk, schmidt bezos etal.. Disposable income may be down in tuscon, in DC it’s unlimited and the tech grifters know that the path to trillions of dollars goes through the appropriations process. Just wait for bidens plan to give it all away to silicon vsalley’s pie in the sky ho hum ideas. But I know, I know, “All’s for the best in the best of all possible worlds” . Frankly, I don’t want to look up into the night sky and see a bunch of……starlinks…

            Reply
        2. Old Jake

          When the wealthy move to the small towns, the locals will no longer be able to afford housing. Ask the locals within a 100 mile radius of Seattle how that’s working. Or San Fran. Or LA.

          Reply
    2. XXYY

      The horrible sequence you describe has of course been happening to small US towns for the last several decades, since US industrialists found it was practical to move their operations to lower-wage locales. There was a brief burst of analysis on this after Trump’s win in 2016, widely (and perhaps properly) blamed on left-behind voters in these left-behind places who were willing to kick over the table in the hope it would cause a change for the better.

      As you say, the coronavirus is only going to greatly accelerate and exacerbate this trend, but the overall dynamic goes back to perhaps the 80s or 90s.

      Reply
      1. L

        Sadly yes. The PMC would like to blame in on Trump but our vulnerability to this started with Regan and was enthusiastically backed by both “sides.”

        @David, as to your question yes they are. The economics profession has long since been dominated by a love of numbers and neoliberal assumptions about the “flexibility” of “human capital.” Those same assumptions powered the belief that small towns like Bethlehem PA would just “retrain” themselves to fit the new order. They are not going to drop it now. So far as I can tell most “respectable economists” still think that the Stock Market it some indicator of actual health and that economic prosperity is reflected in the GDP. Despite some public self flagellation even Saint Krugman is still running with that basic ethos even as he admits that they did kinda miss that teensy problem of joblessness.

        Short version: Economists are useless when it comes to reality.

        Reply
    3. David

      Yes, I didn’t mean to imply that tourism has stopped, and indeed there are signs that internal and intra-European tourism has stayed stable and may be increasing. The problem is that a lot of towns and cities in Europe have reconfigured themselves for large-scale, short term tourism from outside Europe, and have developed an infrastructure to suit. And many of these places are not doing well economically in the first place. If tourism is 20% of your economy, and half of it goes away and never comes back, then with the knock-on effect, it can be enough to tip the economy over the edge. And if you add to that conference centres, universities with foreign students, museums, concert halls, sports events and exhibition centres as examples of things that won’t be back soon, if ever, then the economy takes a serious hit.
      Real life example that I have some knowledge of. Reims is a city in Eastern France, an easy day-trip from Paris and very popular with Asian tour parties and USians on European trips. You can do the cathedral and the Basilique in the morning, lunch, a champagne tour and be back in Paris for dinner. I’m told that the trade has essentially collapsed. There are European tourists, but not many. The Conference centre is empty, the University will have no students on site next year, the football team will be playing in front of a maximum of 5000 spectators, and theatres and concert halls are mostly closed. Many bars and restaurants that closed in March have not re-opened, and many never will, because the aggregate demand is not there. Orléans would be a similar case.
      A very different example. LVMH, the luxury goods company, has just finished ripping apart and rebuilding all of the Parisian department stores it owns, specifically to cater for high-spending foreign tourists on organised trips , instead of the Parisians who used to shop there. This is complete with English and Chinese-speaking sales assistants and international signs everywhere. But those tourists aren’t coming any more, and Parisians have largely been priced out of their own shops. Oh, and much of the area around St Germain, where there used to be bookshops, student cafés and small everyday shops, has been turned into streets of high-priced designer boutiques catering for the same clientèle. I wonder how many of them will be open in a year’s time.

      Reply
      1. Mikel

        That people still think vacations are a priority, not even a year into this, is part of the denial.
        More and more travel is going to be relegated to “how do I safely get to faraway family/friends” in a time of crisis.

        Reply
  17. John Wright

    I posted the below Foreign Policy link a few days ago, but believe it is still relevant,

    as Yves mentioned:

    “The US has a tremendous amount of deferred infrastructure maintenance and upgrades as a place to start. But the odds of this Congress and Administration going down this path are about zero. And I don’t hold much hope for a Biden Administration having the gumption.”

    From https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/09/18/the-west-has-a-resentment-epidemic-populism/

    “In the United States, then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made the rescue of the banking system the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s economic legacy, while both Treasury and Congress conspired to starve states of the funds required for necessary public investment. From 2008 to 2016, government investment as a percentage of GDP in the United States sunk to its lowest level since records began in 1947, as infrastructure budgets that had once connected the country with highways, airports, and bridges were slashed.”

    So the last Democratic administration starved infrastructure and rescued the banking system as a higher priority.

    The title of the article may illustrate the isolation of the USA political elites.

    “The West Has a Resentment Epidemic” could suggest the citizens’ resentment is unjustified or petty.

    But the article itself gives evidence that a great many US/UK/French citizens had good reasons (in Sept 2019) to be resentful.

    I believe one would have a difficult time arguing that Covid-19 has done anything but make the “Resentment Epidemic” worse.

    Reply
  18. DJG

    This morning, an incident in China flashed through my mind, which is unusual, in that I don’t know Chinese history well. (I am more attentive to Japan.)

    People are speculating on the fate of the U S of A–and contemplating a breakup. What is more likely is the turmoil of China of the last 150 years or so. China, like the U S of A, shares a language (written), has some religious ideas in common, and has a long history of attempts at unification. The provinces, like U.S. states, are more alike than different. But China was late at modernization, just as the U.S. is. Corruption was tolerated, and the upper classes operated with impunity.

    There are many, many aspects of U.S. life that are like the Marble Boat–flashy stuff built with wrongly allocated funds–whether Trump Tower, the various disastrous jet fighters, Department of “Homeland Security,” the so-called intelligence agencies, Nancy Pelosi’s gelato collection, the various “book advances” to the many various grifters, much of Harvard’s endowment–need I go on?

    So: groundlings. A metaphor:

    Taking from Wikipedia:
    The Marble Boat is often seen as an ironic commentary on the fact that the money used to restore the Summer Palace largely came from funds originally earmarked for building up a new imperial navy.[3] The controller of the Admiralty, Prince Chun, owed much of his social standing as well as his appointment to Empress Dowager Cixi, who had adopted his eldest son, Zaitian, who was enthroned as the Guangxu Emperor. Because of this, he probably saw no other choice than to condone the embezzlement.

    Diagnosis:
    If the U.S. of A. is more like China, than, say, the U.S.S.R., where national differences are real, the U.S. of A. is in for fifty or so years of turmoil, indeed.

    Reply
  19. Shiloh1

    I never understood the rationale for ‘by state’ comparisons.

    A nice all day tour of Illinois would be starting on Halsted Street near Wrigley Field / Lincoln Park in Chicago. Halsted is Illinois state Route 1, which should be cool with the self-driving Teslas. Just take that straight south for about 7 hours / about 350 miles until you get to the town of Cave-In-Rock just before the Ohio River. The typical North Side Hipster would not know what state they were in after 45 minutes into the trip. I’d bet that the doctors offices, hospitals and ICUs from there and parts south bear no resemblance to those in Chicago, especially on the weekends.

    Reply
    1. Rod

      True that–that 100 mile strip along the River in Ill. and Ind. sure is different from the rest of those two states to the north.
      Similar starkness along the River–I have taken to driving through East St Louis before going to St Louis just for the shock value of economic disparity.
      On Yves commentary and the comments: now would be a good time to roll out Visions of the New Economy en mass –everyone should be aware that ‘Normal’ has positive competition now.

      Reply
  20. polecat

    What tourism remains, at least for the time being – possibly for the very long term, will be a local/regional affair for most .. any ‘interstate’ activity will be, how shall I put it .. rather ‘choppy’!

    Reply
  21. Robin Kash

    The switch under neoliberal tutelage to a service/consumerist economy that saw productive work exported to other countries will be impossible to reverse under conditions of COVID-19. Our economy is reaping what what our economic leaders have sown.
    Large infusions of stimulus without corresponding increases in production will leave the US consumed by inflation. The lion’s share of stimulus so far has supported the continued financialization of what’s left of a once productive economy.
    I agree with those who believe that a massive, sustained infrastructure program is our best hope for moderating the worst effects of the economic implosion.
    The next big economic blow seems likely to be the fall of the dollar as the world reserve currency.

    Reply
  22. Lee

    Everything Is Broken
    Bob Dylan

    Broken lines, broken strings,
    Broken threads, broken springs,
    Broken idols, broken heads,
    People sleeping in broken beds
    Ain’t no use jiving
    Ain’t no use joking
    Everything is broken
    Broken bottles, broken plates,
    Broken switches, broken gates,
    Broken dishes, broken parts,
    Streets are filled with broken hearts
    Broken words never meant to be spoken,
    Everything is broken
    Seem like every time you stop and turn around
    Something else just hit the ground
    Broken cutters, broken saws,
    Broken buckles, broken laws,
    Broken bodies, broken bones,
    Broken voices on broken phones
    Take a deep breath, feel like you’re chokin’,…

    R.L. Burnside covered Dylan’s song and sang it better. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhKqqYuV9MU

    Reply
  23. Red

    If you can’t hope for much from Biden, why the hell did you Americans vote for him so enthusiastically?

    Reply
    1. Prairie Bear

      What Synoia said. We could go on forever about USA election fraud and corruption. Barely half those eligible vote in general elections. I don’t even know what it is in the primaries, but much lower. Biden was barely a dead man walking through the first three or four state contests, then all the remaining not-Bernie candidates decided to drop out practically overnight and the voters miraculously all rallied around Biden.

      Regardless of what so many say, both parties are NOT the same. In terms of elections tactics, strategy and procedures, anyway. Republican election fraud and theft is aimed primarily at general-election turnout. They have extensive vote-suppression tactics and other ways to keep the people they don’t want voting from having their votes counted. OTOH, Democrats tend to focus their cheating on their own voting base and election processes during the primaries, then do what they can to boost the candidate chosen by the party leadership in the general. If a renegade slips through and wins the primary somehow, they’re fine with sacrificing that seat.

      I’m sure Greg Palast isn’t perfect, and plenty of people will have various problems with him, but he can tell you more than you would ever want to know about all this.

      Reply
  24. kareninca

    I drive down El Camino Real in the Palo Alto/Mountain View part of Silicon Valley every day with my 95 year old father in law and my dog. Yesterday I did a running point-out of empty store fronts. My FIL is an oblivious cheerful person, but this got through to him and he was briefly shocked. However, he still thinks we will have a V shaped recovery and a vaccine within months. The dog didn’t care since the window was open a couple of inches and she was busy smelling the air. I was the only one in the car who was feeling really worried.

    Reply
  25. Anthony G Stegman

    COVID-19 may do what needs to be done anyway. To wit; permanently downsize the economy – both production and consumption. If we are to have any hope of combating global heating, mass extinctions, and ecocide we all need to shrink our footprints on our planet. How to get there is what we collectively need to discuss. Trying to maintain our current “way of life” via subsidies, money creation, massive borrowing, etc…s foolish.

    Reply
  26. Prairie Bear

    When I am out, I see 20% to 25% with their masks below their noses or chins.

    At the pharmacy major-chain branch I usually use, one of the full-time pharmacists is wearing his mask below his nose every time I’ve seen him. Not one of the pharmacy techs, or even just a store employee, but the pharmacist.

    Reply
  27. PeasantParty

    Our situation is remarkably sad. Your article is filled with all sorts of things to think about correcting, going forward. Prof. Richard Wolff, and Prof. Michael Hudson have both been sounding the alarm on the economy. One would think that the Labs that have the equipment like Lab Corp, and Quest would switch to only Covid testing at this time, and allow the smaller Labs to do the routine work. With the test results being so time sensitive, it makes no sense to burden them with all the other routine, and emergency testing. It would appear that using the smaller labs would cut down on mistakes as well.

    On the economy, the failure of both houses of Congress, Red and Blue have blundered their foolish greed into destroying this country. A true Quarantine should have required all but the essential workers out, and allowed everyone else to shelter at home with a UBI. I mean EVERYONE! So what if the UBI is more than their usual income, it costs more to cook all meals at home, and the increase in electric and gas. At least people would have been able to pay rents/mortgages.

    Personally, I don’t see one member of Congress that deserves another term in office!

    Reply
  28. Phil in KC

    I agree with your final paragraph: why not a new version of the WPA/CCC? We have infrastructure needs aplenty, and I think a good percentage of those at home who’ve been receiving unemployment insurance benefits would prefer to get out of the house and do something productive. People can be trained to operate tractors and shovels, to build forms and pour concrete, to insulate homes and install solar panels. What is needed is the vigor to make this a reality. I see instead a tired, confused, angry, and self-defeating government that prefers to wish things in and out of existence.

    You would think for all the trillions we’re spending that we might want to have a little something to show for it!

    Reply
    1. Andrew

      We needed this in 2008; I believe the Obama infrastructure stimulus was 250 billion (please correct me im wrong). In the rural area I live in the money was spent improving the road bed and installing culverts on a federal forest road ; as the work was being done there were these 5’x3′ high dollar commercial signs announcing their largesse ” Obama administration Infrastructure Improvement Project”, way out in the sticks (i think we were supposed to stop and bow). Meanwhile I knew quite a few people caught in the mortgage trap and as a builder saw all stupid valuations put on old housing.

      Reply
  29. Glen

    First place to start to fix the US economy is HEALTHCARE. Timely too.

    We need a Medicare For All system. We need all of the required industry to support it distributed within the US. We need free education for doctors and nurses. We need health care facilities with too many beds sitting around waiting to be used,and all of these people need excellent pay and retirement.

    Obviously, we need to drop the whole JIT management and profit basis for healthcare, and we need it strongly integrated into a revitalized public health effort.

    Do I think any of this will happen? No. Not until things get worse, MUCH WORSE. BUT IT WILL.

    Reply
  30. Tom Bradford

    Yves – “The US has a tremendous amount of deferred infrastructure maintenance and upgrades as a place to start.”

    Not so easy. Our local authority recently widened vehicle access to a public park. This involved creating a wooden walkway for foot traffic over a pond. Sounds simple, but I watched it go up and appreciated the technical and carpentry skills required from the foundations up to get the thing built correctly and for safety.

    Here in New Zealand we’ve not forgotten the Cave Creek disaster, where a badly designed and built viewing platform over a cliff collapsed and killed 14.

    Throwing money and unskilled labour at “infrastructure maintenance and upgrades” can be a recipe for disaster.

    Reply
  31. Tom Stone

    I live in an area with a lot of vacation rentals, the house next door is one.
    Here in Sonoma County you are required to have the place cleaned to CDC standards and leave the property free of guests for 3 days between rentals.
    It isn’t happening and there’s no way to enforce the rule.
    The previous guests left early last Friday morning, the owner’s daughter came by about 10 AM and left a little after 1 PM and new guests arrived at 4 PM.
    It’s 1800 Sq Ft, there is no way (Even given the right cleaning materials) that place was cleaned to CDC standards in 3 hours and change.
    It’s understandable, having the place cleaned by professionals to CDC standards would be prohibitively expensive.
    Two people who were efficient could likely get it done in 5-6 hours, 10-12 man hours.
    $300 or a bit more.
    I’d be real wary about staying in any vacation rental unless it was seriously high end ( And even then..)

    Reply
  32. HippoDave

    Here is where some will start champing for a UBI. Please don’t. Even in the old normal, a UBI high enough to provide enough to live on would be massively inflationary. With productive capacity shrinking, it would be even more so. A UBI at less than a living wage winds up simply being a wage subsidy for big employers like Walmart and Amazon.

    This country should have long ago enacted “Universal Basic Shelter, Water, Food”. The absolute basic resources. As several other non-third-world countries did long ago, and so are more capable now at dealing with this crisis. A strong, crisis-ready welfare/social system.

    You might have problems with UBI as an attempt to achieve that, but it’s the only possible route, considering this country’s obsession with profit margins and the almighty dollar and it’s psychotic “no free rides” pathology. Pay to drink, pay to shelter, pay to eat. If oxygen were captured it would also be pay to breathe.

    And considering tens of millions are about to be homeless, abandoned by their gov’t, I think this article is wildly over-optimistic. UBI, money itself may not matter soon. Only resources and strength of arms. Seeking that shelter, water, and food that an enormous amount of Americans are soon to be without. “The economy” in such a situation is irrelevant. “Inflation” is meaningless. Saying those words isn’t going to stop starving homeless people from busting down doors and surviving.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Please point to an economy where the government provides shelter and food. The USSR did provide housing but it is no more. The US cannot seize housing on behalf of citizens. We have eminent domain in the Federal constitution and in state constitutions or statutes. Any property owner has to be paid fair value, and some states like California are generous in how that’s interpreted in practice.

      And what about “massively inflationary” don’t you understand? The payments will rapidly become inadequate due to bidding up scarce goods and services.

      Reply

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