Covid Spikes in Europe, US Before Winter Is Here

We have said for some time that Covid-19 is in charge, that the state of the economy is much more of a function of perception of risks than of lockdowns. Studies of cellphone data show that on a widespread basis, people started curtailing their movements before lockdowns were imposed earlier this year. In places where restaurants are open for indoor dining, sitdown meals are still way down. Most people are still avoiding air travel despite mounting evidence that it’s not very risky.

But the flip side is that we are also seeing, dramatically, that there’s been enough chafing at restrictions to produce alarming rises in Covid infection rates. Those that contend “Not to worry, death rates are lower” need to get a grip:

It’s too early to speak with any confidence of death rates from this spike, since deaths usually occur three to four weeks after symptom onset. And if hospitals become overwhelmed (and they are already near capacity in some parts of the US), some will not get great or any care. Having said that, medical professionals do know more than they did six months ago about how to treat serious cases.

Evidence is mounting of all sorts of serious Covid impairment, from “long Covid” to heart, kidney, and lung damage, including in the young.

As we stressed in the first wave, a big reason for urgency in reducing infection rates is to protect medical professionals. As we saw then, when hospitals were overwhelmed, doctors of all sorts wound up getting impressed into Covid care. Doctors and nurses were more at risk of getting Covid due to encountering high levels of virus and working when exhausted.

Another reason for concern about high infection rates is that people avoid going to the ER, getting routine surgeries, and seeing their doctors. So missed or deferred care also has a health cost

It’s distressing to see infection rates spiking in many parts of Europe, including Italy, with its disastrously high Covid-19 toll of the spring, had gotten contagion rates way down. This chart is from the Wall Street Journal:

Europe Covid chart

The per capita infection rate in Europe is now higher than in the US, even with our own spike underway. In France, it’s more than three times higher than America’s, too much of a difference to attribute to our lousy testing regime.

Not that things are going well here. See for instance Alabama, which looked flatish until the last two days. Most here blame the rise on football games:

And worse, infection rates are rising before winter has set in. Winter means both more time inside with people in uncirculated/not well filtered air, and that indoor air is drier, which helps virus transmission.

Paris temps

And we’d warned that contract tracing breaks down when infection levels rise:

And the most afflicted countries are responding with new curbs. From the Financial Times:

Italy said it would introduce the harshest public health restrictions since the end of its first national lockdown in May as new coronavirus cases hit a fresh daily record. Spain announced a nationwide curfew and triggered emergency powers after the country’s infection rate jumped by almost a third over the past week.

Giuseppe Conte, Italian prime minister, said that starting from Monday all bars and restaurants across the country would have to close by 6pm. Under the proposed measures, to remain in place for a month, schools and workplaces will remain open.

Gyms, swimming pools, theatres and cinemas will close, and Italians are “strongly recommended” not to leave their immediate areas apart from for studying, work or health reasons…

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez said the nationwide curfew between 11pm and 6am would be imposed immediately, following requests by 10 of the country’s 17 regions.

He said the government would activate a so-called state of alert — which grants the state emergency powers — to permit the curfew, allow territorial restrictions and ban meetings of more than six people across the country. He added that he would seek parliamentary approval this week from all of Spain’s political parties to prolong the extraordinary legal order until May 9.

The infections in Italy this time are concentrated in the South, while the wave last spring was in the high-income North. Some locals are already up in arms. Again from the pink paper:

As Mr Conte held a government meeting on Saturday, a small group of protesters, some linked to neo-fascist groups, threw firecrackers at police in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo in the latest sign of public unrest triggered by the prospect of new restrictions.

The previous evening, violent protests had broken out in Naples after the governor of Campania, the region that contains the southern city, said a surge in cases there meant that his regional government would have to impose new lockdown measures….

On Saturday evening Mr De Luca appeared to roll back from his previous comments, saying there would be no full lockdown in Campania, but urged the national government to impose a “red zone” around Naples, stopping movement in and out of the city.

Politico’s morning European newsletter adds:

Over in Sweden, Uppsala has gone into a voluntary lockdown.

Belgian whiplash: Meanwhile, Brussels inhabitants went from a few extra restrictions issued by the federal government Friday morning, to an effective standstill, including a curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. (effective today), issued by Brussels region premier Rudi Vervoort Saturday afternoon.

And from NPR:

Last week, Ireland became the first country in Europe to reimpose a lockdown in the face of soaring cases.

Wales began a 17-day lockdown this weekend, shuttering all nonessential businesses and requiring people to remain home, with few exceptions. “If we do this now and if we then have a consistent set of national rules, to keep the transmission and the intensity of the virus at a lower level, then we can have a much more normal Christmas season for businesses,” Vaughan Gething, the Welsh health minister, told BBC Radio Wales.

Did you see the toad hop out of Gething’s mouth? Suffer now so we can pretend Covid isn’t on during runup to Christmas? Get the virus down now so that Yuletide festivities will be “normal” for business…as in parties? Shopping for family feasts?

Sadly, people need to wrap their mind around acting as if Santa has delivered them a lump of coal, even for those whose finances are OK. Plan on tucking in with some favorite holiday cheer, and some good books, movies, and/or music. If you can sit before a fire, even better.

Or as a Financial Times reader put it:

The Point
This is not that hard.

Many countries in Asia have shown what needs to be done. Lock down for a month, test and track people methodically, wear masks, and limit mass gatherings. This goes a long way to getting the virus under control….

The insistence of protecting personal freedoms at all costs and ignoring the reality is leading all to pay a far heavier price than is necessary…

Yet we have managed to make it hard. Mask-wearing was already routine in most Asian countries as the polite/proper thing to do if you had a cold and went out in public. How requesting or requiring them triggered “don’t tell me what to do” reflexes for such a nothingburger is beyond me.

And the elephant in the room, which the presumably well-off Financial Times commentor breezes past, is what do people do for income during that month of lockdown? In South Korea, which went the mandatory quarantine route instead, the government provided food and beverages, cleaning supplies, and even a place to stay if someone arriving from overseas couldn’t isolate.

In the West, we’ve created a lose-lose, where many believe more lockdowns will kill the economy, yet consumers, particularly high income older consumers, will hole up lockdowns or not if they see the contagion rate as dangerous. And they have company, in the form of office workers who reject coming in on commuter trains and riding on elevators, and teachers who resist coming into poorly-ventilated classrooms in front of students not require to wear masks. In other words, uncoordinated self-protective measures will also dampen economic activity, with less likelihood of tamping down the disease than broader-scale measures. So pick your poison.

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71 comments

  1. kemerd

    I am convinced that the elites of the west has already decided to write off some significant parts of the their populations. The formula is simple and clear as the FT reader points out, but they just don’t want to pay the bill as this will amount to imposing new taxes on the rich. Instead, they apparently collectively decided to appear like doing something while doing nothing of substance and hope for the best. Most probably they are betting vaccines will do the trick, getting rid of sick and elderly is probably the silver lining for them.

    Reply
    1. Sam Adams

      Or perhaps this virus is an opportunity to cut population numbers. It’s not like there hasn’t even a large number of articles describing the impact of population an it’s impact on climate. It’s a two-fer.

      Reply
      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Besides, the old and sick that die can be replaced with a new wave of eager young immigrants who can take up any slack and make sure there is plenty of slack to keep wages down.

        Reply
      2. vlade

        not population numbers, it’s unlikely to have as big an effect (even with mortality of say 1-2%). But it will work as a “pension system solution”, because even if it doesn’t eliminate all pensioners, it will reduce the life expectancy of those who survive.

        Reply
    2. rd

      A graph in the NY Times a couple of days ago showed rural areas in the US with twice the per capita rate. As somebody living in Upstate NY with a relatively low infection rate in the area (university students and some partiers have pushed it up locally but nursing homes are down significantly), I am just hunkering down trying to support local businesses as much as possible.

      I think in this area, we are just watching what is going on in the South, Mid-West and West with shock and awe that these people decided to learn nothing from Italy and NYC in February-April. I have seen almost nobody misbehaving about wearing a mask in this area. The urban counties are relatively low-density compared to the big coastal cities, so most people are outside walking around without masks, but stay away from each other. The instant that people start to gather outdoors or indoors, the masks go on. The restaurants, bars etc. are trying to figure out how to operate in the winter. The counties and municipalities have been working well with the small businesses, but the state and federal government are alternately rigid or absent.

      I have been very disappointed in the response of the US and much of the developed world. I think all the vaccine and antibiotic development over the past 70 years has left a society bereft of knowledge and culture about infectious disease as people are simply not used to it being a serious issue, unlike when smallpox, polio, measles, rubella, diptheria, tuberculosis etc. roamed the United States and Europe freely. HIV is serious, but transmission is slow as it is not transferred through the air or surfaces so it doesn’t count regarding knowledge of the old-style diseases. Heart disease and cancer are generally not communicable but are internal systems deteriorating. So people and governments are largely paralyzed about what to do about a highly transmissable disease as their mental models vanished two generations ago. I think this ins one key reason why the western developed countries are struggling with this more and being far less successful that the Asian and African countries that have only recently had options to having commonplace infectious diseases.

      Reply
  2. PlutoniumKun

    From the very beginning Nicholas Nassim Taleb was right when he identified the only correct response to a high tail risk like Covid – throw everything – absolutely everything – at it to stop it getting a grip. The alternative would cost far, far more money, let along human life.

    I think that in Europe the ‘flattening the curve’ policy has backfired badly. Flattening the curve became the end point, not a necessary first step to end lives. I think the key error in Europe was giving into to the notion that somehow everyone could have a ‘normal’ summer. It was already apparent by early summer that the Chinese showed that the virus could on a continental scale be suppressed, but that lesson was ignored.

    There is no excuse for not knowing – the medics in my family were saying as far back as July that they were being warned in private briefings that a November surge back was inevitable. It was of course only inevitable because the government lost its nerve at the last moment and released the surge and allowed more travel just at the point where the virus was close to being eliminated in Ireland. Now its back to its full power again and we are in lockdown in all but name. And yes, politicians are talking about a ‘normal’ Christmas rather than doing everything they can to eliminate the virus from the island as Taiwan and NZ have demonstrated.

    I think that in the longer term Europe might be ‘comparatively’ lucky in that this surge has hit before winter – it would be much harder to deal with when the cold weather really hits. My suspicion is that climate and culture plays a far bigger role in the spread of the disease than is acknowledged. I think many parts of the US may be headed for a very bad time in December/January and later. In China, they are already preparing for what they suspect will be a resurgence in winter – similarly in South Korea where the cold, dry winters are well known as favourable for coronaviruses (they study them a lot in Korea as the common cold is a major problem in the military in winter). Japan too – they’ve been remarkably successful considering the mess they made of the early stages, but again, winter may be just the opportunity for the virus to surge again.

    Reply
    1. carl

      It’s a little funny to read the comments about the oncoming winter, because where I live in the US (Texas) the winters are mild and humid. Windows are much more likely to be open in winter, spring or fall than in the summer, when everybody uses air conditioning to deal with the heat. It really would be interesting to see if there’s a correlation between geography and infection rates this winter in the US.

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, I suppose I should clarify that I mean winter in the climatic sense. Obviously, for the antipodes they’ve gone through a Covid winter already.

        My suspicion is that the virus finds cool or cold dry air best for aerosol and fomite transmission, especially in the indoors (and maybe with less sunlight). Its the only clear explanation I can think of for some of the divergences in experience between different countries and regions. If you look at South America, the high altitude countries like Ecuador seem to have been particularly hard hit, while after the first wave, it cleared up relatively rapidly even in Brazil, and seems not to have had a firm foothold in many of the hot and humid countries, despite other conditions appearing to be ideal.

        Reply
        1. Biologist

          Absolutely agree with your great comments, just bit of nitpick on the climate link in South America, which I don’t think is that clear-cut.

          Yes, Ecuador has high altitude population centres but the worst hit city during the first wave in May was the coastal city of Guayaquil, which has a hot and humid climate. So does Manaus in Brazil, which was also hit hard.

          Generally, Peru and Colombia are not doing great, though I don’t know which cities (climates) are worst hit. Cusco, at 3300 m.a.s.l. and a dry, cold climate, was initially reported to have almost no cases and this was thought to be related to altitude but there might be other confounders such as lower pop density than Lima, or lower proportion of obesity.

          Though cases (and deaths) in Brazil (and Colombia, Peru) are decreasing, they are still at a high level, only recently been surpassed by the new spikes in Europe. I suppose Brazil given its size has more of a continental dynamic, like China and USA, with many separate epidemics ‘peaking’ at different times.

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          1. Ahimsa

            Yes, it makes more sense to talk about covid on a city or regional basis than to quote countrywide statistics. The outbreaks are always localised. Italy and Lombardy was a perfect example of this early on.

            Reply
            1. Ahimsa

              My own take is that there is a poor appreciation of the catch-22 nature of response measures.

              Light touch to protect the economy leads to outbreaks getting out of hand.
              Heavy handed measures quash outbreaks but hammer the economy.

              It is not a simple linear problem with a perfectly measured response available.
              There is no sweet spot in such a complex non-linear (non intuitive) scenario.

              Reply
              1. Skip Intro

                Talk of a trade-off between protecting ‘the economy’ or stopping the deadly virus are a TINA neoliberal erasure of the simple power of the government to provide financial support to replace business reduced by health measures. Ignoring this option is malpractice, even if many ideologically captured governments can’t conceive of it.

                Reply
                1. polecat

                  Yeah. Sucks being that hot, stressed, and malleable medium stuck between hammer and tongs …

                  It’s the extreme opposite of what one would term ‘the ‘Goldilocks Zone’. Avarice vs DEATH! ..

                  Reply
          2. PlutoniumKun

            Thanks, yes, I confess to just knowing the basics about the relationships between climate and outbreaks in South America, I just thought it was striking that the high altitude countries seemed to get hit so bad relative to the tropical ones – but I appreciate that of course when you look at the stats in a more granular way it often becomes even more confounding.

            Reply
      2. rd

        Winter is holiday, school, and sporting event time. Unless very carefully orchestrated, those are going to be an issue everywhere.

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    2. rusti

      From the very beginning Nicholas Nassim Taleb was right when he identified the only correct response to a high tail risk like Covid – throw everything – absolutely everything – at it to stop it getting a grip. The alternative would cost far, far more money, let along human life.

      It was already apparent by early summer that the Chinese showed that the virus could on a continental scale be suppressed, but that lesson was ignored.

      I find Taleb to be insightful, but what sort of response do you think was practical on a European or even national level? Is there a single European country doing well at this stage? Hungary has clamped down entry and managed to be a disaster regardless. I have a good friend who has been sitting in a hotel in Auckland for almost two weeks now, getting his temperature checked three times per day and with a 30-minute window to stretch his legs outside the room, but I can’t imagine any European country managing something like that by virtue of geography.

      Here in Sweden the argument has always been, “We value our freedoms too much to do this authoritarian stuff” but I think the truth was always much closer to, “We can’t be bothered to go out of our way to make significant lifestyle changes when we think it’s just the elderly who are in danger“.

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        The first response – the very first response (as Taleb called for at the time), should have been to shut down all air travel to China and any other country affected. Once it got to Europe, all internal travel should have been severely restricted. It may not have worked, but it would have been an appropriate response entirely consistent with how we know past pandemics have spread.

        Reply
      2. Clem

        Plutonium, How about a TOTAL national Air Travel Cessation, like after 9-11?
        That would have done more to stop the spread of Covid than anything.

        Trump tried to block Chinese travelers but was labled xenophobic by genius Joe. He also caved to allowing Europeans in from the other side.

        Reply
    3. Ignacio

      Climate is very important on both 1) disease spread and 2) disease severity. The second point is very important and it can be expected that the severity will increase during winter because the susceptibility to infection increases (our upper respiratory mucosae in worse shape in the dry indoor less ventilated atmospheres). Contagions at home will increase in share and severity: less ventilation + higher susceptibility + not at home mask usage. Another factor reducing spread and severity was faster virus inactivation under warm weather and sun irradiation, plus better state of our immune system, vitamins…

      Besides in the ‘west world’ we are still learning –slowly, it seems that some never learn– being particularly difficult the social side of learning. You may not be much worried about the disease but by putting yourself at risk and then others in your circles you are harming economic/social activities. Many seem incapable to internalise the social side.

      Trying to eradicate the disease only makes sense while you are waiting for a vaccine or an efficient treatment (bet on the vaccine as more probable). At least, those millions that have been already infected, and passed the virus shedding period, will, for some time no longer be virus vectors. The rest, including the many that try to behave responsibly, will have to keep protective measures during the winter, even better than they did during summer as now the personal risk increases.

      Reply
  3. vlade

    I’m dissapointed that the AFP graph doesn’t include the Czech Republic, because, we’re now, as the PM said in August “best in covid”. Of course, he didn’t mean it that way, so just shows you’d be careful what you wish for.

    To put it into perspective, the CZ does about the same testing on per-population basis as the US does. But if the US had to have the same number of +ve on per population basis (the US being > 20 times more populous than the CZ) , the US would have >300k positive cases daily. On deaths, it would be about 2k/daily, but the CZ number is expected to increase about 5-10 fold before mid November (we’ll see, the deaths so far were growing somewhat slower than expected, but recently the number of >60s in the positive sample spiked a lot, so unfortunately it’s unlikely to stay there). I believe the CZ is now the leader in both +ve cases and deaths on per-capita basis (ignoring sub 1m population minnow like Andorra).

    Pretty much the only measure left to the CZ now is the Israel-like hard lockdown. The question is, how much it would be accepted, as the current measures (with the exception of masks inside) are ignored by a non-trivial part of the population.

    TBH, I can’t blame them, as the communication and acions by the govt are horrendous. When the former (it’s hard to track, we are now likely to have third one in two months) Minister of Health wanted to reinstitute masks in mid August, he overruled by the PM. in September, the PM’s response to opposition (part of which has its own egg on the face, calling for faster relaxation from May to August) ask for a second-wave plan was “stop bothering me with covid, why can’t you focus on the allotment bill we need to pass”. The complacency after the CZ very sucessfully managed the first wave was unbelievable.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      Yes, its unfortunate that a few countries bought into their own propaganda when they got away with the first wave quite lightly. I don’t think Cz is alone in eastern European countries (Russia too) in getting a little too overconfident over the summer based on what may have been just good luck.

      On the point of good luck, I think its quite clear that this is a major component. Here in Ireland, for all their faults the reaction of the government and health authorities has been far better than in the UK. The government put in place far stricter lockdown rules and mask wearing is more widespread, and our track and trace system is much better. And yet our levels now are not very far behind the UK – maybe comparable to the lighter affected parts of the south of England. Although having said that, there are strong suspicions in Ireland based on border outbreaks that the UK is significantly under reporting confirmed infections. And maybe not just the UK – the number of outbreaks in Ireland that can be directly attributed to people travelling from the UK and Europe seems very disproportionate.

      Reply
      1. vlade

        There’s definitely an element of luck, but at the same time, CZ in the spring acted extremely quickly and hard – basically, the lockdown in spring went into effect two weeks after the first case identified, and a week before the first death.

        And it was also very much heeded, you’d be hard pressed to run into anyone on the street or even in the few shops left open, the roads were empty.

        But the most important political issue from mid May was how fast to “go back to normal”, and it was always faster than originally promised by the government (and pushed for by a substantial part of opposition). Even then epidemiologists warned it was too fast, and some parts should have stayed, but they were Cassandraed.

        That said, even countries which had restrictions over the summer in the EU are now catching up – which does lead me to agree with the cross-country infections theory, as the opening the tourism was about the only thing the EU leaders agreed on around covid pretty quickly.

        Reply
        1. PlutoniumKun

          Its very frustrating to think that if the politicians had only held their nerve for another 2-3 weeks, we could have been in a far better position. This isn’t hindsight, I remember at the time in Ireland quite a few people were saying ‘too soon’, when the government was urging everyone to relax a little. I think people instinctively felt that it would have been better to go for full (or as close as possible to full) eradication).

          Reply
          1. Zamfir

            I don’t think that a longer wait was the solution. At least, not the sole solution. A few more weeks on the down slope would just have bought us a few weeks more on the upslope.

            The challenge was to prevent positive growth at all, once the level was low. Not for a few weeks, but indefinitely.

            My impression is that there was too much focus on temporary measures during the downslope. Keep it up people, there is light at the end of the tunnel. So once case number were low, people decided that this was the end of the tunnel

            Reply
          2. ChiGal in Carolina

            Definitely not hindsight: when daily task force briefings were a thing back in April it was very clear from the WH guidance (following IMHE) that easing restrictions was to follow 2 weeks of declining new cases and test positivity below 5%.

            Then weirdly, for those of us following it, as April progressed state after state lifted restrictions without achieving those clear markers.

            Then boom! comes Memorial Day. Who’da thunk?

            Reply
  4. Amfortas the hippie

    it’s ridiculous.
    hardly anyone in my little town is wearing masks….they’re required at the school, but wife’s video window into 6 classes a day reveals that few of the students are wearing them properly.
    maga, and all.
    the white flag meadows waved this weekend isn’t even mentioned on fox news’ front page.
    my boys are definitely feeling the strain.
    told them both that we’ll likely be doing this for another year.
    eldest wants to finally run off to college in the spring, but i can tell he’s torn between what he recognises is magical thinking and the reality of the situation.
    youngest…after last week’s mad scurry to find him an online alternative to the sudden mandate to return to class…is obviously depressed.
    we had a cold front blow in friday(and a worse one, today. sleet about 70 miles to the north), and…as usual with this november phenomenon…we all have terrible allergies…so everyone’s on edge from that, too…”will i be the one to infect Momma?”.
    we’re wearing masks everywhere off farm, and hand sanitisers in the vehicles, and constant reinforcement from me…but it’s hard.
    it’s made so much harder by the MAGAites’ alternate reality…talking to the school superintendent last week, i felt like a christian in 2nd century rome.
    Believe Real Hard, and reality can be kept at bay.
    these people have been trained for just this moment for almost 50 years.
    so yes, I’m with Kemerd…the PTB gave up at the beginning…allow the Useless Eaters to perish, and rule over the ruins.
    righty social media…from comments on fox news stories, to the comments sections of more rabid righty outlets…indicate that a substantial portion of the run of the mill right winger has accepted this culling, believing that they will come out the other end unscathed…”Chosen Ones”, and all.

    I really wish we had better testing out here….and everywhere.
    I suggested random sampling to the superintendent, but he hmmed and hawed and glossed over the idea.
    boys and wife all randomly say things like “we only have 2 cases”….which at least shows that they are keeping an eye on the stats…but i grow weary of explaining that lack of tests, and serious issues with official reporting, make those numbers meaningless….and the asymptomatic spread means we must assume everyone we see has it.

    I allowed an outdoor, social distanced get together for eldest’s best buddy’s birthday.(15 19-21 year olds, all of whom have been taking it seriously, and more than half of whom have elderly/sick folks at home)
    but i’ll allow no more.(and i’ll worry for 2 weeks about that one, where i observed them mostly following protocol)
    too frelling risky, and i can’t stay up that late to be the mask police.
    This will be extremely unpopular.
    I’m angry that my country has so purposefully screwed this up, and put me in this position.
    it’s not even a comfort knowing that i never voted for any of the people currently in charge.

    Reply
    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      My sympathies, Amfortas. But your kids, family, community, are all damn lucky to have you! You are going a long way toward filling the gap in leadership. Ever think, back in your salad days, that you would grow to be a pillar of society?

      Reply
    2. Oso_in_Oakland

      Amfortas feel you on all you wrote. we’re prioritizing ppe/hand sanitizers and paper products along with food/supplies to our people working the fields here in central California, feminine products too because basic living expenses prioritized. basically moms helping moms. all we can all do is protect ourselves and help those less fortunate if we can.

      Reply
    3. Janie

      Amfortas, it’s tough to hang on when there’s no end in sight, and you’re juggling lots of plates. Appreciate your taking time to comment. Best of luck in frustrating times.

      Reply
  5. AnonyMouse

    Reporting from the UK.

    Starting to hear anecdotally of people in my wider circle getting sick again as the numbers skyrocket. Yet there is a general perception of being resigned to eventually getting COVID even amongst those who take it seriously. Frustration and anger at the government for being unable to use the time that was bought with the first lockdown to prevent a second wave.

    We are headed for the worst of both worlds: many deaths and a great deal of economic damage. Not that there was ever a direct tradeoff between deaths and damage to the economy – you could have saved both with sufficient action to stamp on the virus when it first arrived, and you could have salvaged something from both if you insisted on making sure that you were tracking something close to 100% of contacts and isolating them prior to lifting the lockdown.

    Instead, we lifted restrictions on 4th July, probably on a whim because the date has some bizarre significance to Boris, who wishes we were the 51st State. This in spite of the fact that at the time we were just tracing 70% of contacts, and there were still thousands of infected people running around. Honestly, what did people expect to happen?

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      Of all countries, I think the UK has made the biggest mess of things, especially considering that theoretically the UK has one of the best infectious disease control infrastructures in the world. Quite a few UK cities, especially those with a big immigrant population, already had a strong system in place to identify and track novel diseases (it happens far more commonly that most people think, as a lot of very sick people in some Asian countries will fly to Europe precisely because they hope to get better treatment). A nurse friend worked in infectious disease wards in the UK and Dublin and she told me some hair raising stories, long before Covid.

      But due to the awful UK media, I’m not sure the public in the UK is really all that aware of just how badly the government messed things up. It defies belief that they still don’t have a workable track and trace system.

      Reply
      1. AnonyMouse

        Truly this pandemic has been a wake-up call for me in terms of whether we can expect the media to hold the government to account. The BBC, which many people still rely on as a sole source of “unbiased” news, is utterly cowed by threats to its licence fee and constant complaining from the right-wing about some perceived “liberal bias” at the corporation.

        It’s not even so much that key figures in the BBC are sympathetic to the present government, although this clearly helps, but instead that the organisation as a whole is cowed reluctant to rock the boat in any way – even when it comes to reporting the truth. Consequently, the stark facts that Britain is handling this vastly worse than many comparable countries are simply not reported.

        That said, per YouGov at least, we are essentially alongside France and the US, with just 32% believing that we have handled COVID-19 “very” or “somewhat” well. I would love to speak to someone who would tick “very well” on that survey.

        https://yougov.co.uk/topics/international/articles-reports/2020/03/17/perception-government-handling-covid-19

        Reply
          1. AnonyMouse

            This article is a classic example

            https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-52628283

            Here they acknowledge that Vietnam did a vastly better job at containing COVID-19 than we did, and has barely any cases and deaths to show for it, as well as being able to open up much earlier than Britain.

            But they do so out of both sides of their teeth in a way that seems to me to be subtly obsequious to our government’s failures

            Reply
            1. Clive

              There are c. 120 million passenger journeys to the U.K. every year https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-year-ending-june-2019/how-many-people-come-to-the-uk-each-year-including-visitors

              From what the internet tells me, Vietnam is 20 million.

              It’s just this kind of glib comparison, lacking sensitivity analysis, which has rendered discussions difficult.

              And I can remember way, way back to, oh, at least as long ago as February, when closing borders was — at least initially — seen as abhorrent https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/25/europe-refuses-to-close-borders-as-italian-coronavirus-cases-jump/?gb=true and something un-contemplate because it was far to close to resembling something the Bad Orange Man might do. A lot of the same Liberal Goodthinkers were telling me that as are now trying to sell me some sort of Zero COVID magical thinking and Lockdowns Forever handwaves.

              Reply
  6. Krystyn Podjaski

    El Paso is shutting “down hard” right now, “urging people” to stay home for two weeks.

    It is not hard to see that we have trained a majority of people in this country to behave like sociopaths. This was evident to me before the pandemic when I was struggling with homelessness while dealing with a mood disorder. All the outcome of choosing money over [Dao, God, Community]. This is the cost of what it takes to have a “thriving economy”. And that is the truth of why the “first world” countries are not doing what needs to be done, because it creates friction with our myths of greatness and financial dominace.

    Didn’t someone one say “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”?

    Reply
    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      Thriving economy? The stock market is going up is all.

      Still don’t fully understand how there can be such a disconnect.

      Reply
      1. rd

        The stock market is not the economy. There are a few companies that are doing very, very well and their stocks have shot up. Much of the economy is represented by stocks that are struggling to maintain revenues and profits and their stocks are way down as a result. A significant percentage of the economy is privately held businesses and small businesses. Many of them are really suffering and even closing their doors.They are irrelvant to the stock markets except as they use the services provided by the public companies.

        Reply
    2. Michael Fiorillo

      Not to trivialize your struggles, but in a Fallen world and the immortal words of oilman J. Paul Getty, the meek may inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights…

      Reply
  7. Mark

    Melbourne Australia might be a closer analogy to compare. (Or maybe I’m just biased because that is where I live.) Cultural and climate similarities between Europe and US are closer.

    We have had over 3 months of ‘lockdown’. Restrictions on personal freedoms beyond basic exercise has been harsh. Restrictions on non hospitality/retail business have been strong but manageable. We are all exhausted from it and there has certainly been plenty of vocal opposition. But we a currently exiting lock down and almost entering summer. (Its been a cold spring.)

    It has been a brutal grind. But we seem to have achieved almost complete suppression, summer should give us some reprieve. Beyond that who knows. The world is ultimately relying on a vaccine or a slow and destructive herd immunity.

    Reply
  8. Carla

    Great post, Yves. Thank you. Wonderful to have everyone chiming in from around the world to report their local or national circumstances, too.

    Reply
  9. eg

    COVID-19 reveals many things about societies and cultures, not least the degree of interpersonal and public trust, which I take to be among the most important social resources during a public health crisis.

    What it reveals about the USA is disturbing, though hardly surprising to those of us familiar with the work of Pickett and Wilson at the Equality Trust

    https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/resources/the-spirit-level

    Reply
    1. Clive

      I’m willing to go along with the low-trust explanation/excuse — but only up to a point. It takes two to tango. By which I mean, you can have a problem with a low trust society, but why did people become distrustful? And having become distrustful, how do you go about winning back trust?

      For public health policy, one thing which will simply not, ever, work — and conversely, fosters mistrust — is that tendency which our societies are so overburdened with at the moment, namely a self-appointed thought-leadership class which is intent on trying to harangue the people into going along with its pet initiatives. We don’t need to look very far to see it. Everyone I know and pretty much everything I read is comprised of someone telling (not asking and not consulting) me what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s “proven”, what’s “needed” and what’s “obvious”. All-too-often, it’s nothing of the sort — merely varying degrees of assertion based on a thin evidence base (or even no evidence base at all worthy of the name).

      Public health policy requires consensus. Consensus is achieved through compromise, understanding and empathy. In the absence of that, you have factionalism which degenerates into mutual denigration and, yes, eventually, mistrust. We can rightly criticise governments, tainted so-called experts, inequality and much else which frequently gets the blame. But that’s too easy and denies our own roles in it. To quote, ““The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves” — certainly to at least some extent.

      You are I think absolutely correct in what we’re ending up with is herd immunity with no real mitigations by default. Which is the worst of all outcomes. But moving away from that will require everyone to put away their certainties and their absolutes. I see zero chance of that happening for the foreseeable future.

      Reply
      1. vlade

        Depends.

        In a crisis, you do not have time to build a consensus, and the experience shows that in the crisis people prefer to have a clear (even if wrong) lead to “what should we or shouldn’t we do”.

        That said, once the first crisis was dealt with, you usually get time and that’s where you’d engage in trying to build some consensus. But again, I’d be careful here. In our society it’s not easy to build a concensus anymore, because (to borrow from another post) we have too many “factual truths”, and sometimes it’s not even possible – there’s no consensus you can achieve with flat earthers, the Earth either is, or is not flat, no compromise possible.

        Reply
        1. Clive

          We’re well past the initial crucial phase (crisis) where “the tyranny of the now” will work.

          Rather, further attempts at invoking “something must be done” are inevitably ineffective. It’s always potentially manipulative and — if the stakes are high and the case for whatever action is proposed debatable — is going to generate a counter-putsch.

          In the absence of consensus in public health, you have a default consensus anyway — which is “do nothing” (or do various not especially effective, lowest common denominator, things).

          Reply
          1. vlade

            I’d agree with that, but I’d also repeat that we, as a society have moved away (if we ever were, and it’s not just “good old times” thinking) from consensual to “let’s fight!” mode.

            Reply
  10. David

    In France we are tip-toeing towards the possibility of a second complete lockdown, which is something the government is desperate to avoid by any means. As it is, bars and cafés are closed in large parts of the country, which are also subject to a 21H00 curfew. For the moment, schools and universities are still open, and people are going to work, but whether we will stagger to the end of the year with that arrangement remains to be seen; The most likely scenario is differential lockdowns, with some areas being treated more harshly than others, but a return to a complete lockdown isn’t impossible.
    As elsewhere, the government got the timing wrong. The French are creatures of habit, and they go on holiday in the last two weeks of July and the first two weeks of August. So the government relaxed controls too early, in order to avoid a potentially explosive situation with cancelled holidays and disappointed families. And they compounded the problem this month by letting people leave the big cities on the same day the curfew came into force: everyone with a second home rushed off there taking the virus with them.

    Reply
  11. Winston Smith

    Back when COVID became a real concern in the US (April?), we heard a lot of references to 1918 pandemic and the devastating second wave. That analogy no longer seems to be uttered so frequently now when it would be most apt.

    I watched “Totally Under Control” the other night and it is a timely reminder of what actually happened, how the White House completely mismanaged and sabotaged any attempt to check the progress of the pandemic . A telling passage is the audio of Nancy Messonier’s message to the press on February 25th. It foretold everything that we are going through now. What if she had been listened to at that moment instead of muzzled and demoted? Mark my words a significant number of healthcare workers may quit at some point

    Reply
    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      Public health experts in the US say this is still the first wave building because we never got cases down to a reasonable baseline from which a second wave would rise. In Europe they are now experiencing a second wave.

      Reply
      1. rd

        The 1918 pandemic (actually petered out in early 1920) seemed to have several distinct mutations of the flu virus. The second wave in the fall of 1918 was very lethal, especially to people 20-50 years old. In the end, it seems to mutate into a milder version that still circulates periodically today.

        Coronaviruses are more stable with less mutation than flu viruses, so this one may have similar characteristics at the end as at the beginning.

        Reply
  12. Roquentin

    I get that Asia serves as an example of how things could be done better, but these constant comparisons to other places wear thin after a while. You’ll no more make the US into Europe than you will turn it into Asia. So many political blunders are based on wishing a place, a culture, a people were something other than it actually is. The US will never, ever be Asia or Europe. The culture is different, the political system is different, the things people will accept from those who govern is different, etc. I’m not saying anyone has to like it, but we are what we are. At some point you have to just accept a people and a place as they actually are.

    Also, I’ve believed for a long time that there are only three long-term options for COVID:

    1) A vaccine which is distributed among enough of the population to prevent COVID
    2) Perpetual, permanent lockdown. What we have now is the indefinite new normal.
    3) Herd Immunity sans vaccine

    There’s a question as to whether or not #3 even actually exists, which leaves us with just the first two.
    There’s a separate argument as to whether “herd immunity” exists, but comes at an unacceptable loss of human life. A good argument, but distinctly different than whether there even is such a thing. Any way you slice it, the options are grim.

    There’s also the hybrid of #1 & #2, lockdown until a vaccine arrives and is distributed widely enough for something akin to life as it was previously understood to resume. Then there are questions about how long a lockdown is politically and economically sustainable, at which point (if you think such a thing exists) become to great to continue.

    None of these options are good, but that’s the way I see it.

    Reply
    1. expr

      4. It turns out that the vaccine is only effective for say a year and it takes more than a year to vaccinate a sufficient fraction of the population
      5. The vaccine does not keep some people from getting COVID, it just suppresses it enough that they do not have symptoms so they give it to everyone else

      Reply
    2. rd

      There is a fourth option, which is what was happening with infectious diseases through much of the 20th century. People were generally fairly careful about respiratory infection once they started to understand them. By the 1920s, many buildings were designed to maximize natural ventilation to address tuberculosis, among other diseases. Sealed windows and reliance on HVAC systems only became common with the advent of air conditioning and vaccines about 50 years ago.

      So we can figure out how to work with modern medicine and older practices to live decent lives without being in lockdown. Long-term lockdowns are generally due to a combination of ignorance and unwillingness to execute common sense approaches. That is different from a short (2-4 week) lockdown to dramatically bring down a major spike in infection.

      Reply
  13. FluffytheObeseCat

    As Yves pointed out in the post, if COVID is surging out of control the lack of formal, top down lockdowns doesn’t matter, the economy will crap out anyway, because most sensible people will stay home, restrict their movement, and hunker down. And ‘sensible people’ tend to be the ones with money to spend.

    Rationalizing western government inaction with prattle about how “we aren’t Asians” and “won’t stand for their lack of personal autonomy” is nonsense. Either we get strong government control of the population or we get sickened, en masse. Neither is a pleasant alternative. However, airborne infectious disease doesn’t give damn about your cultural sensibilities and conceptions of personal freedom.

    Reply
    1. Arizona Slim

      Yesterday evening, I had a conversation with two of those sensible people. They’re engaged to be married, both have steady jobs, and one of them just had a birthday.

      So, time to go out to dinner, and they did.

      They chose a locally owned and operated pizza restaurant. And they occupied one of the two tables that had customers than evening.

      My friends noticed that the “pizza in a box” part of the restaurant’s business was BOOMING. Those pizzas were flying out the door.

      However, my friends felt like they were wasting the restaurant’s time. Sitting there in a largely empty space. And, no, they didn’t find that enjoyable.

      I doubt they’ll be doing another evening out — even if it’s socially distanced — anytime soon.

      Reply
      1. polecat

        So why, for HeyZeus’s sake, don’t they just order some of the Hot flying pizzas?? .. and call it good!
        I don’t get it.

        Reply
  14. Polar Donkey

    Two weeks of high school football left in these parts. It really can’t end fast enough,but now it is basketball. High school still planning to play and let people in stands. The University of Memphis basketball team is still planning to play in the FedEx Forum arena, fans spaced 6 ft apart. They are f-ing crazy and any dumbass willing to go to the game should get slapped. Total madness.

    Reply
  15. Carolinian

    Deaths have not gone up here in SC and I’ve been following this for weeks. It may be incorrect to use the experience when the virus first hit to predict subsequent waves and how they will affect the population.

    Epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta has predicted that we will have successive waves with each less deadly than the last. Since it’s not disputed in all this controversy that the young are at far less danger than the old then the population skew of the infections very much matters. Also given widespread testing, testing positive does not mean that you are actually sick since so many people have no symptoms. In the beginning of the pandemic people were only tested if they had symptoms.

    Reply
    1. Clive

      Certainly in the U.K. there is no evidence — yet — of any increase in excess deaths https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/929386/Weekly_report_mortality_W43.pdf

      Which may change as we enter winter of course.

      But the growth in cases is being driven by the under 24’s age group https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19infectionsurveypilot/23october2020#age-analysis-of-the-number-of-people-in-england-who-had-covid-19 (fig. 5)

      So there’s some evidence to support the thesis that the elderly are already self-shielding where possible (fully aware of their higher risk) and the younger age group aren’t (but have very low morbidity for COVID-19, hence no excess deaths).

      Reply
    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Wowsers. This is agnotology. You are treading on thin ice. We have repeatedly said death isn’t the only thing to worry about with Covid.

      First as we indicated, asymptomatic cases frequently exhibit serious serious organ damage:

      Recent studies, some in the form of case reports, refer to computed tomography (CT) imaging abnormalities, even in recovered asymptomatic COVID-19 patients. The analysis of the positive cases from the cruise ship Diamond Princess revealed that 73% were asymptomatic, of whom 54% had lung opacities on CT, usually showing a prevalence of ground glass opacity (GGO) over consolidation.4 A comparable prevalence of abnormal chest x-ray in asymptomatic and minimally symptomatic patients was reported by a radiologic center in the first Italian COVID-19 epicenter.5 An unsuspected COVID-19 case undergoing CT for other pathologies showed numerous foci of GGO suggestive of COVID-19; the patient was subsequently diagnosed with a nasopharyngeal swab test.6 Another case report by McGinnis et al demonstrated bilateral GGOs detected after CT image guidance performed as part of the routine setup and delivery of curative RT treatment in a patient who was ultimately asymptomatic for COVID-19.7

      In symptomatic patients, longitudinal CT studies showed diffuse lesions with extensive multifocal involvement; abnormalities were bilateral in most cases and progressed rapidly after symptom onset.8 , 9 Lesions were particularly evident in the lower lobes, posterior lung fields, and peripheral lung zones. Various combinations of pure GGOs, GGOs plus reticular or interlobular septal thickening, and GGOs plus consolidation were common. These mixed patterns of GGO peaked during illness and became the second most prevalent pattern thereafter. Long-term follow-up analyses are clearly required to determine whether the reticulation represents irreversible fibrosis, thus clarifying the transient or permanent nature of CT changes noted in asymptomatic COVID-19 survivors. In addition, concerns exist for COVID-19 carriers on direct and indirect involvement of other organs, with the cardiovascular system being particularly affected.10

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7462877/

      And this:

      One thing we didn’t anticipate was that the virus seems to accelerate a great deal of scarring in the lungs. And if lung tissue is replaced with scar tissue, it is no longer functional as regular pulmonary tissue, which translates to poor gas exchange. What we really fear is long-term shortness of breath that could extend anywhere from being very mild to severely limiting. There is also a disturbing report looking at computerized tomography (CT) scans of asymptomatic people that found they were left with some scar tissue. So, this could even be happening on a subclinical level.

      Another area is the heart. There is evidence now that the virus can directly attack heart muscle cells, and there’s also evidence that the cytokine storm that the virus triggers in the body not only damages the lungs, but can damage the heart. We don’t know what the long-term effects of that may be, but it could be that we will have a population of people who survive COVID-19 only to go on and have chronic cardiac problems.

      The third organ system that we’re now pretty clear about is the central nervous system. There is evidence of direct involvement of the virus with neurons, and also the cytokine storm and inflammatory mediators can cause damage to the central nervous system. This is manifesting itself not only in neurologic clinical findings, but also psychological findings. We’re seeing patients post-discharge struggling with psychological challenges, almost like PTSD. And, we’re also seeing some cognitive defects in some people that are very disturbing.

      We’ve also seen damage to the kidneys from the cytokines, and there is also evidence that the virus can bind to receptors in the liver, though we haven’t seen significant liver disease yet in patients. Finally, the gastrointestinal tract itself has virus receptors, and about 15% of people, especially children, present with gastrointestinal symptoms. But, so far, there is no evidence that this will cause persistent symptoms.

      Finally, it has become clear that infection with SARS-CoV-2 triggers abnormal clotting of the blood in some people. This has led to pulmonary emboli, which are blood clots that travel to and damage the lungs, and strokes, which are blood clots in the vascular system of the brain. Both pulmonary emboli and strokes may have long-term consequences for these two organs.

      Then, in pediatrics, there’s this multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, which appears to occur not typically with acute infection, but following the acute infection by a short period of a few weeks. This is where multiple systems are involved with inflammation, including skin, joints, kidneys, lungs and heart. And some of these kids can be very sick, with rare deaths.

      I think I’ve gone through almost all the organ systems, and the ones that I think are highly likely to suffer persistent complications are lungs, the heart and maybe central nervous system. But, the rate at which we are learning is enormously fast. I’m sure if you come back to me in three or six months, the list will be longer in some places, but maybe we will have eliminated some potential chronic problems.

      https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/07/08/from-lung-scarring-to-heart-damage-covid-19-may-leave-lingering-marks/

      And there’s long Covid.

      Second, as we said in the post, death and serious cases lag infections. So it’s premature to say what the impact of this spike is. Did you miss that some states are already running out of hospital bed capacity again?

      Third, the notion that viruses mutate to become milder is a myth. Polio is a classic example of a virus whose destructive effects have nothing to do with its transmission. That particularly appears not to apply to Covid. It not only mutates particularly slowly, but its slow rate of mutation suggests its current form is a mutation from a less virulent version:

      https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/07/pandemic-virus-slowly-mutating-it-getting-more-dangerous

      https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-not-mutating-to-be-weaker-over-time-genetics-2020-7

      As to your comment:

      One hypothesis, floated by doctors in Italy, is that coronavirus could grow weaker as it spreads. Through viral mutation, Sars-Cov-2 could lose its potency and become milder or less infectious. But coronaviruses have proven a remarkably stable type of virus. There is no evidence to support this kind of mutation occurring in a matter of years, let alone weeks. Rather than viral mutations, improvements in survival rates in Italy are probably related to better clinical management of Covid-19, as doctors learn how to treat patients in hospital more effectively.

      https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/11/pandemic-scientists-second-wave-coronavirus

      Reply
    3. Yves Smith Post author

      Confirming the comment above, see this article in tonight’s FT:

      Hospitalisations of Covid-19 patients are surging across the US, leading to a shortage of medical staff and threatening to force state governors to make difficult decisions about rationing access to intensive care.

      New field hospitals were being opened from the Wisconsin state fair grounds to the El Paso Convention Center in Texas, as US Covid-19 cases surged to an all-time high a week before the presidential election. 

      https://www.ft.com/content/97322e1b-cb4f-423e-bb4d-68b4dc9edc19

      Reply
  16. Brick

    It is interesting that protecting the medical profession is a top priority and nobody really mentions utilities being a high priority as well. For instance there are rumors of staffing level issues at nuclear power plants. Every medical professional relies on power, water, drugs and information and without these you will most likely have anarchy.

    There is also an abject fear on the part of politicians to instigate restrictions which don’t have a clinical reason. Wearing a mask outdoors or in a car has very limited clinical benefit but psychologically it may deter certain unwise actions. Perhaps this is the difference between earlier lockdowns and the current ones.

    It seems when it comes to politically difficult decisions, some politicians have more of an eye on their own political support than protecting the economy or peoples lives.

    Reply
    1. rd

      In our area, the stores all have signs saying masks are mandatory. People put the masks on as they approach the store. When they come back out to the parking lot, the mask comes off and they drive away. Its pretty simple and everybody does it. We have some of the lowest case rates in the country.

      Reply
  17. JMM

    I’ve just read that in Spain there are actual discussions of trying to end this new curfew before Christmas, so that the commercial activities can be somehow saved. It’s like no one learned anything about trying to save the summer holidays.

    Reply
  18. VietnamVet

    The elephant in the room that is not mentioned is that democracy has been flushed down the toilet. Western governments with the current neo-liberal leaders simply cannot conceive, let alone do, what is necessary to control the virus. Go to war for several months and eradicate it within each nation’s borders. Everyone is quarantined at home or safe facilities and gets a stipend and food. Universal testing and public health controlled bubbles are formed for schooling and essential work that keeps track of all their members. If the infected do not come in contact with the uninfected for a month, the virus disappears. The Elite won’t spend the money to do this. Little people are to be exploited and die when they are no longer productive.

    Reply
    1. Clive

      It’s difficult to avoid a temptation towards indulging in magical thinking when confronted by no-win scenarios. But it precludes any hope of right action.

      You already had to contradict your own proposal from one sentence to another. As you righty concluded, you can’t quarantine “everyone”. You have to divide a functioning society into some notional criteria for “essential” and “non-essential”. You can simplify it with basics like food. But it almost immediately becomes complicated. Utilities are almost certainly “essential” — and these require huge workforces to keep these shows on the road. Then you’ve got other associated services — in the northern part of my country (the UK) heating in winter is essential otherwise you’ll die of hypothermia on the coldest days — or succumb to other respiratory illness. So you need maintenance techs. They need spare parts, these need wholesalers and retail outlets.

      And how do you propose to distribute your food delivered at home? There’s no infrastructure or logistics capability to do that. Which means supermarkets. Which means staffing, cleaning, stocking etc. etc. etc.

      Then there’s keeping medical services going. And people need medication even if they’re not hospitalised. So there’s pharmacists, drug production and importation.

      Roads need maintaining. Police need to report for duty. They need support staffing. Refuse needs collecting. Having been collected, it needs processing.

      Unless you intend a system of ration cards (and in today’s world of easy forgery, this needs a secure identification and verification arrangement, not in existence, so it’s just a load of assumptions) you’ll need a payment system. This means banks — and their employees.

      You propose keeping the schools functioning — wise, as you can’t really avoid this as the essential workers are usually of median working age and will have children who need looking after when they’re doing their essential work — but the “Universal testing and public health controlled bubbles are formed for schooling and essential work that keeps track of all their members” is the most vigorous handwaving I’ve seen since the last royal wedding. In the UK, which has the amongst the largest testing system in Europe, if not the largest, there’s capacity for 250,000 tests per day. This would not even cover teachers and teaching assistants, NHS workers (there’s 1 million of them) plus backup staff getting tested every 10 days. Let alone all the other essential workers. Here’s the list of who is “essential” — it’s over ten million people in the UK https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested#list-of-essential-workers-and-those-prioritised-for-testing-england-only

      And how would the “bubbles” work? What happens if a household has two essential workers in different industries?

      I don’t think anyone is really saying nothing should be done. Everyone seems to agree something should be done. But what’s the consensus on what the “something” is? What are the costs of the “something”, whatever it turns out to be? What’s the problem trying to be addressed? Morbidity? Healthcare constraints? Post Viral Syndrome?

      These are big questions. They have no simple answers. But they can’t be avoided and they can’t be addressed with over-simplistic knee-jerk reactions.

      Reply
  19. Mr Kloop

    It looks like Europe and the US got tackling the little critter wrong. Yes, they locked down for a period in the initial outbreak, but it was far to short for any long term gain. Political pressure from the selfish won out. Opening up an economy has to be managed slowly with baby steps, if you want it to stay open for a period long enough to satisfy the selfish. Australia and particularly it’s second biggest State Victoria, is a fantastic example of this dilemma in real time. Locked down in late March the numbers started to fall. The Premier of Victoria came under intense attack from his right wing political opponents who were screaming blue murder in co-ordination with the Murdoch Press “Fifth Columnists” to open the economy back up in May. The Premier resisted as his health officials were telling him that community transmission numbers were still too high for their comfort in the State. In early June, he relented under the media barrage and began opening up the State. Within six weeks, cluster of infections began surging again. By early July Victoria was experiencing 500 cases a day. Interestingly, France was also recoding 500 cases a day at the same time. This time, the Premier decided he’d had enough of the Murdoch Press and their right wing enablers and locked down harder than the first time. Much harder. Numbers rose to 750 a day and then began to fall. As they came down below 100 a day, the Right Wing political opposition and the Murdoch minions began they’re tried and true attempts at getting the State to open up again. This time the Premier was ready for them. He laid out a plan for everyone in the State. Victoria will not open up until the 14 day moving average of infections fell below 5 as well as the 14 day moving average of mystery cases in the state. Plain and Simple. We’re all in this together. Victorians responded to the challenge magnificently. It took until October 27th, but Victoria has recorded zero cases and zero deaths for two days in a row. The 14 day moving infection rate average is 3.6 and mystery cases at 5. Victoria has now been presented with a plan on how it will open it’s economy up. Slowly but surely. Victorians also know that they will be locked down again if they misbehave and numbers climb again. They have been warned. It’s amazing what can be achieved by a determined Premier who presents a plan to his voters and doesn’t succumb to the pressure of screaming right wing political opponents and their paid for propaganda media. The Premier is currently very popular with the punters. He delivered on his plan and took the punters with him. He fronted a regular press conference every day for 117 days so far. Answered every question the Murdoch minions asked in their attempts to get a “Gotcha Moment”. Some of these “Pressers” went on for two hours. Victoria has basically eliminated the little critter. France now records 52,000 cases a day. Lockdowns work and they work well. You just have to tell the punters how it’s going to work and what the targets are for change to occur. Australians love a challenge.

    Reply

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