The Coming Deadly Covid Winter

You don’t have to be the son of a fortune teller, like my former Sumitomo Bank colleague Atsuo Konishi, to sometimes say, “I can see the future. To me, it as if it is already here.” The trajectory of Covid in the US, in combination with the baked-in features of our inept policy responses, means that the general outlines of what will happen over the next few months are close to inevitable. The only element in doubt is the severity of the outcomes.

Mind you, nothing below should come as a surprise, yet the press and experts seem reluctant to look at the obvious and see where it leads.

Rising infections and hospitalizations, straining and breaking hospitals. If you want proof of leadership/elite failure in the US, you need to look no further than the collective shrug of the shoulders at the way Covid hospitalizations are already at or near the point where ICU capacity are under strain in more and more states.

Despite exhortations by officials (not matched by their actions, see Gavin Newsom, Andrew Cuomo, and Nancy Pelosi) even those Americans who curtailing the size of their Thanksgiving gatherings haven’t gotten the memo: festivities outside your daily circle risks spread. The press is full of stories of people who though they’d found a safe way to see friends and relatives by gathering outside, yet they wound up infecting each other because they spent enough time indoors (food prep, bathroom breaks, cleanup). And that’s before you get to indoor celebrations and travel.

So pretty much everyone with an operating brain cell is expecting an increase in infections in the weeks after Thanksgiving. Yet I don’t see any reason to see much of a change of heart or habits for the Christmas/New Year period, which means a further rise in disease levels and deaths by mid-late January. Washington is busy having Biden-gasms rather than go into overdrive to reduce the damage of an ongoing national disaster.

And to complete this sorry picture, Covid out of control means increased health impairment and deaths on other fronts: patients, particularly those in high risk groups like the immunocompromised, putting off medical treatments and avoiding emergency rooms, and even breakdowns in care. The CDC estimated that of the excess deaths from January 26 to October 3, only 2/3 resulted directly from Covid. And this estimate didn’t factor in that reduced road travel due to lockdowns would reduce traffic fatalities. Alabama, for instance, had negative excess deaths in April because Covid hadn’t really arrived yet and car-related deaths fell.

Recall that in New York during the spring peak, emergency room patients were left on gurneys for 30+ hours because there simply weren’t enough doctors and beds. Twitter and Facebook have reports of stress now, before the worst of the current wave has reached shore. For instance:

Once emergency rooms across a state are in crisis, officials will be forced into imposing some version of a lockdown to reduce the load on the medical system and save doctors’ and nurses’ lives. So we’re set to see a repeat of the spring: leaky containment programs that only go far enough to take the pressure off hospitals, as opposed to get infection levels low enough so that contact tracing + quarantines + masking can keep it at a low level.

And that’s before we get to the new public health threats this surge is likely to create, which we’ll address soon.

Lack of will and current capacity to deliver adequate relief to get people at risk to stay home and support containment. The official responses to Covid have been appallingly poor. Yes, we have a big problem in that any big funds distributions have to come from the Feds, but enforcement and emergency measures will be at the state and local level. But even so, once we had sufficient mask capacity, why wasn’t every employer required to provide masks to workers on site? Why weren’t free masks made available, say at City Hall, police and stations, and other government offices? Why wasn’t anyone clever about getting the police on board and offering them ways to impose fines (revenues!) as an enforcement mechanism? How about wrestling a positive lesson from Ferguson? For instance, I briefly had hope for Alabama when during the first weekend of Birmingham’s mask mandate for entering places of business, police were ticketing scofflaws at big box stores. That stopped quickly. But if citizens faced points on their drivers’ license or fines that could lead to impoundment of their vehicle, you’d see a lot less misbehavior.

Yes, it’s easy to blame this all on Trump, but how late in the game was it that Dem governors and Congresscritters took even to wearing masks in public? Have any of them proposed paying people to quarantine, say a small tax break for the well off and a stipend for everyone else, to wear a prettied up tracking bracelet during their period of confinement so it could be verified that they’d complied? These are modest but viable plans, yet they seem beyond the imagination of Beltway inhabitants. Democrats appear as incapable as the Republicans of dealing with any problem too big to be “solved” via PowerPoint or Excel. The default is “We can’t because it’s hard.”

Mind you, this isn’t to say that any of these ideas would prove to be winners. The real issue is the underwhelming official efforts. In the Great Depression, the Roosevelt Administration engaged in a tremendous amount of experimentation. Some schemes were losers while others stuck….and became important institutions and programs.

The year-end double whammy: end of relief and end of eviction ban. A study by the Century Foundation late last week described how 12 million Americans would lose extended unemployment insurance due to the expiration of two pandemic programs and the expiration of full federal funding for an extended benefits program. While 2.9 million of that 12 million might qualify for extended benefits under state programs, those coffers look empty. Congress looks unlikely to step up by the drop-dead date. From The Hill:

A slew of expiring emergency programs are setting up an economic “COVID cliff” come 2021, which could see millions of people lose unemployment insurance and get evictions, while a growing wave of small businesses close shop…

Unless a divided Congress can reach a deal to extend the programs, the country’s economic suffering could skyrocket….

The prospects of a deal are dim.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is pushing for a $2.2 trillion package, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who endorses a more limited $500 billion approach, have yet to hold a meeting on the subject. Their staffs have not discussed the matter either…

At the same time, provisions meant to shore up tax benefits for low-income earners, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Credit, are scheduled to go up in smoke, potentially pulling money out of the paychecks of the poorest people who are still working.

As we found with the CARES Act, unemployment insurance is a fast way to get funds to a lot of people. If these various programs lapse, which looks likely, nothing will even start to happen until the Biden Administration takes office, which means that even in an optimistic scenario, the earliest suffering citizens might see some relief is March.

The Trump eviction ban also expires on January 1. Even though some landlords have already tried to circumvent it, or have simply taken to harassing tenants, the real crisis begins after the stay ends. A November Census survey found that 5.8 million judged themselves to be somewhat or very likely to face eviction in the next two months, which is about 1/3 of the number in arrears. It’s hard to see, in the current environment, how many homeowners and tenants who are behind catch up.

However, one reason the proportion is that low is that some states have put catch-up programs in place with longer moratoriums and generous catch-up provisions. For instance, California:

The Tenant Relief Act is a statewide law that imposes a temporary moratorium between March 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021 on evictions of qualifying residential tenants for failure to pay rent because of financial distress related to COVID-19….

Subject to certain exceptions, if a tenant has experienced COVID-19-related financial distress and has not been able to pay part or all of the rent to their landlord between March 1, 2020, and August 31, 2020, the tenant cannot be evicted for failure to pay rent so long as they sign and return a Declaration of COVID-19-related financial distress (Declaration) to the landlord within 15 days of receiving a Declaration form from the landlord….

Subject to certain exceptions, if a tenant has experienced COVID-19-related financial distress and has not been able to pay part or all of the rent to their landlord between September 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021, the tenant cannot be evicted for failure to pay rent so long as they sign and return a Declaration of COVID-19-related financial distress (Declaration) to the landlord within 15 days of receiving a Declaration form from the landlord, AND, on or before January 31, 2021, the tenant pays at least 25% of each rental payment that was due, or will be due, between September 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021.

Mind you, tenants can still be sued for the rent they didn’t pay during these time periods, but they can’t be evicted if they’ve gone through the hoops.

On top of that, as Lambert described in Water Cooler yesterday, tenants who have been evicted find it well nigh impossible to secure a new rental; landlords won’t forgive this black mark.

Landlord could already have completed the first step of eviction, the notice of eviction, which in most states gives the tenant a short period of time to reply. But evictions have to go through a court, and they are already backed up and will be more so if cities go into soft or hard lockdowns in the new year. Some landlords have tried using public health as a pretext for eviction, depicting tenants who have contracted Covid or mask refusniks as hazards to fellow renters.

That is a long-winded way of saying it’s hard to judge how quickly the evictions will occur, but they typically take two weeks to two months in most states in normal times. But the flip side is that being evicted is so damaging from a credit report/rent record perspective that some, and perhaps many, tenants will vacate just before the landlord is set to file in court.

The reason that California is being so aggressive about keeping tenants housed is it already has a homeless crisis, including third-world diseases like Hepatitis A, typhus, and cholera. Even with the upcoming eviction wave, most of the dispossessed will find a way to stay off the street: crashing with friends and relatives or living in their car. But some will wind up in homeless camps with no running water. From REB Research:

Most of the US homeless do not live in camps or on the streets. The better off US homelessness find it is a temporary situation. They survive living in hotels or homeless shelters, or they “couch-serf,” with family or friends. They tend to take part time jobs, or collect unemployment, and they eventually find a permanent residence. For the chronic homeless things are a lot grimmer, especially in California. The chronic unemployed do not get unemployment insurance, and California’s work rules tend to mean there are no part time jobs, and there is not even a viable can and bottle return system in California, so the homeless are denied even this source of income*. There is welfare and SSI, but you have to be somewhat stable to sign up and collect. The result is that California’s chronic homeless tend to live in squalor strewn tent cities, supported by food handouts.

Californians provide generous food handouts, but there is inadequate sewage, or trash collection, and limited access to clean water. Many of the chronic homeless are drug-dependent or mentally ill, and though they might benefit from religion-based missions, Los Angeles has pushed the missions to the edges of the cities, away from the homeless. The excess food and lack of trash collection tends to breed rats and disease, and as in the middle ages, the rats help spread the diseases.

In other words, the end of relief programs and eviction freezes won’t just lead to even more Covid, but also tuberculosis, typhoid fever, staph…a banquet of horrors. And we Americans fancy that we are civilized. Our nation-breaking hasn’t disabused us of this flattering view. Maybe seeing the cost of our incompetence and lack of altruism will.

And please don’t fall back on another American predilection, the last minute save, which here are the undue hopes pinned on vaccines. Even if they offer lasting immunity, it would not be possible to get the needed 70+% of the population treated in 2021. That’s before we get to the wee problem that fewer than 60% were willing to take the treatment as of peak hype, early November, before word is out about how unpleasant the side effects of the mRNA vaccines are. A lot of people are not willing or able to lose a day or two of work as a result of getting Covid-like symptoms, and others quite reasonably want to see the vaccine in use for at least six months before they give it a go. Given the perceived urgency of getting people to take the shot, expect many employers and schools to require it. Northern Arizona University locked students out of its online system if they hadn’t taken a required Covid test; this practice can just as easily be used to force vaccinations.

And as we pointed out, the vaccination process could make Covid worse as the recipients quit wearing masks, which will reduce the tendency of the unvaccinated to protect themselves.

In other words, the hard Covid winter won’t lead to a bright spring. The disease will be with us for 2021.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    Sadly, I think this is true. The news on the vaccine front is generally very good, especially as we seem to be close to having a range of different viable vaccines to choose from, but even if all went perfectly, we’d be well into the summer before a really substantive part of the population of any given country will be immune, and probably it will be later. I see a major problem not just in the potential for vaccinated people to act as spreaders, but in that people will generally drop their guard and their behaviour, leading to more super spreading events. I’ve already seen this happen in the behaviour of people I know (doctors!) who have tested positive for antibodies and have been extremely casual in their behaviour. One was surprised when I mentioned the number of false positives and the strong possibility that she might not be immune at all. A lot of people are chomping at the bit to travel and party, I can see the start of large scale vaccination as being a premature signal for this.

    And its becoming pretty clear that climate and weather is absolutely central to the spread of Covid. Or put another way, when its cold and dry, it spreads much more rapidly. Now winter is setting in all over the northern hemisphere even successes like ROK and Japan are struggling, and there seems to be rising anxiety in China about the increased frequency of cases. A combination of Christmas, New Year, and the various Asian Lunar New Years could spell all sorts of trouble for late winter, early spring.

    Even those relative successes, like Germany and the Scandinavian countries, seem to be bracing themselves for a surge later in the year. Given the abject failure of the US system, I think its going to be grim in much of the States, although at least you guys have the saving grace of scale – the peaks are likely to be scattered across the US allowing at least some form of resource management. The big unknown of course is what happens if Biden catches it?

    1. ambrit

      What I wonder is, will the Covid vaccines end up ‘working’ just like the yearly “flu” vaccines do?
      The yearly “flu” vaccines are formulated to combat the theorized most prevalent “flu” strains for the next infection cycle. This is complicated by the number of varieties of “flu” circulating in the world population. Thus, the annual “flu” vaccine is almost a lottery. The health authorities are ‘betting’ on which “flu” strain will be the year’s ‘breakout’ star. Often the health authorities get it wrong or, in the case of the vaccine covering several strains, mostly wrong.
      The Covid is already demonstrating the “normal” virus characteristic of evolving into multiple strains over time. This complicates the task of deciding which strain of Covid to aim the vaccines at. Over time, the selection of which Covid strain to vaccinate against may become just like the present “flu” vaccines; a crap shoot.
      Add to all of the above the fact that the vaccines for viruses give limited duration immunity. This suggests that Covid will require an annual vaccination. Multiply all the side effects of the ‘new’ vaccines by the number of times in a lifetime one would have to take such vaccines and you face the prospect of the ‘cure’ being worse than the ‘disease’ over time.
      The Covid is indeed a Poster Child for Dreaded Pathogens.
      Stay safe!

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yup, I’ve little doubt that there will have to be some ‘tweaking’ of vaccine protocols as we go, maybe requiring regular additional shots. Whatever the reassuring noises out there, its pretty clear that all the main candidate vaccines are quite radical in design, so there will be inevitable long term unknowns. This doesn’t mean they are unsafe, its just that we will be learning as we go, and there may be some unpleasant unpredicted results.

        Covid really is the perfect societal destruction machine. If it was more deadly, it would be easier to deal with as it would terrify people into correct behaviour. It just hits that fine balance between mortality and infectiousness which has caused so much social disruption.

        The one possible good thing from this is that just maybe the medical establishment will move beyond its epistemological confusion over nutrition and drugs, and realise that there are a whole range of perfectly safe, cheap and easily available compounds, usually available in your grocery store vegetable rack, that can provide very significant immune benefits. The fact that they are just waking up to the notion that just maybe it would have been a good idea to have given everybody Vitamin D supplements coming up to winter defies belief. And Vitamin D is just one of a range of safe, cheap products that are known to boost against viruses.

        1. ambrit

          I met Phyl when she was working in the kitchen of a Health Food store, so, nutrition and “natural” vitamins are ‘old tech’ for us. The medical practitioners in the West seem generally not to have been educated about nutrition and or vitamins. As a general rule, bring up the subject of ‘Holistic Medicine’ in any doctor’s office or clinic and you are immediately categorized as a “nut case.” I have seen this first hand several times in my own struggles with medicos and the system they inhabit.
          One hopeful sign I have seen recently here in the North American Deep South is that the vitamin shelves in the big box stores are constantly out of zinc, vitamin D, echinacea, etc. Someone is heeding the “countercultural” advice.
          Stay safe over there!

        2. WobblyTelomeres

          In the US, vitamin D has been added to most milk since the 1930s. It is mandatory in Canada and Sweden, voluntary in the US though most milk processors add it (read the label).

          1. Wukchumni

            Why the orange juice industry isn’t hyping their vitamin-D enriched product as a bulwark against the virus is a mystery to me.

            1. Louis Fyne

              US OJ consumption has been falling for decades, such that there is literally no extra capacity or oranges should everyone even wanted Vit. D OJ.

              and lawsuits. can’t tout such specific health claims. only the general standard supplement disclaimer.

              1. juno mas

                Although the earth’s trajectory around the sun reduces solar insolation in the northern hemishpere (28 degree tilt of earth’s rotating axis) in the winter, the minimum daily requirement for vitamin D can be acquired by exposing the body to the Sun for about 15 minutes. So, you northerners, get out in the sun for 30 minutes at mid-day; eat a good diet (Zinc, especially); and exercise for 40 minutes (at least).

                1. taunger

                  You know temp hovers around or under 0 centigrade for many of us at that time? It’s not angle of incidence, but air temp that is the problem – no bare chests in freezing temps for me

          2. Louis Fyne

            per capita US milk consumption has been falling for decades…partially blame the whole animal fat = bad health pronouncements.

            from a public health POV, milk is not the way to get vitamin D levels up…only supplements or being outside

            then add in people many rarely leaving their house (esp. seniors), then add in shorter days

            1. WobblyTelomeres

              I agree. Just pointing out a small exception to PK’s sweeping statement:

              “The fact that they are just waking up to the notion that just maybe it would have been a good idea to have given everybody Vitamin D supplements coming up to winter defies belief.”

              The 1930s is not “just waking up”.

              And no slam at PK, a commenter I always read.

            2. Justin

              from a public health POV, milk is not the way to get vitamin D levels up…only supplements or being outside

              Unless, of course, you apply a healthy dose of sunscreen–you won’t make much vitamin D at all.

        3. Louis Fyne

          As a multivitamin user—to give the public health authorities the benefit of the doubt—

          my guess is that Vitamin D has not been brought up because public health authorities fear that touting vitamin D will discourage social distancing among some people who will mistakenly presume that vitamin D confers immunity.

          But yes absolutely, given all the anecdotal data (higher mortality among the D deficient, particularly those with darker complexions in northern latitudes), there is practically nothing to lose by encouraging everyone to take a multivitamin that includes zinc.

          in my opinion, it’s near public health covid malpractice not to emphasis a multivitamin, eating well, staying active, minimizing alcohol/recreational drugs.

          1. campbeln

            my guess is that Vitamin D has not been brought up because public health authorities fear that touting vitamin D will discourage social distancing among some people who will mistakenly presume that vitamin D confers immunity.

            Treating people like idiots is a major contributing factor in why the US is doing so poorly in all of this.

            Of course, that’s more in support of your statement than anything else :/

        4. Dave D'Rave


          You sure got that right!

          “If it was more deadly, it would be easier to deal with as it
          would terrify people into correct behavior. It just hits that
          fine balance between mortality and infectiousness which
          has caused so much social disruption.”

      2. Kevin Smith

        At least some of the Covid vaccines [notably the live-virus vaccines] will [like other live-virus vaccines] stimulate long-lasting, “non-specficic” T-helper cell immunity, which primes the immune system to rapidly respond to novel viral threats. More info about this will emerge over the next 3-6 months.

        That’s one reason why I and my wife got MMR [measles, mum[s, rubellea] vaccine boosters earlier this year. “MMR is an attenuated (weakened) live virus vaccine. This means that after injection, the viruses cause a harmless infection in the vaccinated person with very few, if any, symptoms before they are eliminated from the body. The person’s immune system fights the infection caused by these weakened viruses, and immunity (the body’s protection from the virus) develops.” We are also up-to-date on our other live-virus vaccines [yellow fever, BCG and smallpox].

    2. Clive

      You would have thought, in the US in particular, one step which state governments could be undertaking (it would be nice if this could be mandated at federal level, but we’d have to file this in “things that are never going to happen or are so vanishingly unlikely to do so that it might as well be never”) is to restrict vaccine availability to the most at-risk from COVID-19 morbidity first (say over 70’s with pre-existing health conditions, then over 60’s with the same, then over fifties generally before, finally, allowing younger people to receive the vaccine). Those with certain pre-existing conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, could also get to be the very first in line, regardless of ability to pay, since they are in likely life-or-death situations.

      This would prevent pay-to-play queue jumping and would, if nothing other than as a virtue signal, say that wealth is not going to be a pre-requisite to better healthcare outcomes, not this time — there is some notion of égalité.

      It might not make a huge difference but sometimes improving optics is the only thing you’ve got.

    3. Another Rev

      I wonder about the weather connection. Here in the US south, our peak came in mid-summer, i.e. hot and humid. What that does, however, is drive people indoors for the AC. Lot of stories about happy hour and restaurant gatherings leading to multiple infections.

    4. DJG

      PlutoniumKun: Yet the news on the logistics of vaccines is rocky. Here, one commenter, an M.D., pointed out that most doctors can’t afford the super-freezers needed for the Pfizer vaccine. The Moderna vaccine has some troubles, too. Yet they are being hyped in the U S of A.

      The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine uses a chimpanzee virus rather than the mRNA technology, so it is closer to older styles of vaccines. According to what I am seeing in the Italian newspapers, it may be the vaccine of choice in Europe. There is that weird problem with the doses and efficacy, widely reported.

      The medical director of the Spallanzani virology hospital in Roma reports that the Italians, in a group called Reithera, are going the “related virus” route and may have something to test seriously soon.

      The reality of logistics doesn’t favor some of these tries at a vaccine, though.

    5. drumlin woodchuckles

      How would Biden get it? Would the kamalabeast go get it and then bring it back and coughity-cough-cough-cough all over Biden?

  2. voteforno6

    I’ve heard some anecdotes about a hospital system in a city in the upper Midwest…they’ve requested hospital workers involved with cleaning, etc., to commit to working extra hours for the next two months. Also, it seems that other doctors are getting pulled into service in the hospitals, to augment the staff.

    1. Winston Smith

      healthcare workers are going to start to quit…the toll is too great and they are being asked to bear the load resulting from lack of decisive measures, denialism and general stupidity all around

          1. Wukchumni

            The biggest hero I know of, used to teach 7th grade science to newly minted teenagers that never aged, and had been contemplating retiring for years with not 1 iota of follow through-it was more of a veiled threat, that is until Covid came calling and he said adios.

            1. Roxan

              I tried teaching high school science in Camden, NJ,to students who had flunked, and needed summer school. My most valuable skill turned out to be the ability to duck, something I learned in karate.

      1. Noone from Nowheresville

        Not to be too cynical but…

        There you have it, two of the stronger remaining unions (nurses & teachers) will most likely falter. Public employee unions are next.

        The playing field is being cleared on so many levels. If we call it incompetence or dysfunctional (from the bottom view it is), then we aren’t paying attention to the long-term desired outcomes which this tragedy can achieve without much more than a national media-coverage whimper.

        Too bad the 2016 Sanders model turned out to be all smoke and mirrors as far as creating a national bulwark against The Machine & it’s desired objectives were concerned.

        By the time the virus and the desired outcomes have their way with us, the world will have surely changed, perhaps more than 9/11,

        Not that I wish anyone to die or even contract the virus, but perhaps we would’ve been better off with a Captain Tripps styled event so that this was an actual crisis for the elite rather than just a tragedy for the rest of us.

        1. Noone from Nowheresville

          Adding: This is the US’s Katrina moment.

          Really think about what happened there. The people with plans waiting in the wings to remake the city. The national media narratives. How quickly coverage changed and then disappeared. The populace displacement. FEMA housing. The grifting. And we still don’t know how many people died. etc.

          More time and more money this time around. They’ve learned from the 2008 financial tragedy and Occupy, Madison, immigrant & Ferguson disbursements. Bigger bazookas this time on multiple fronts.

          Most likely the tragedies will remain separated so that there’s no solidarity thread to make people realize there’s a unifying strategy from the top. Just bad luck. Blame the victims. etc.

      2. Clem

        Appropo of that;

        ” While the working poor are crushed by the stresses of low wages, plummeting purchasing power, long commutes and poor working conditions, a consequential slice of the highly paid professional class is crushed by taxes and the stresses of limitless liability, bureaucracy and work.”

        “When physicians, nurses, managers, et al. stop showing up for work, the system breaks down very quickly. Not showing up can take a number of forms: early retirement, sick leave, a demand to work halftime, a workers compensation stress leave, and of course, resignation/quitting. ”

    1. ambrit

      From what we have been reading, this will be a “Zombie Television Show.”
      “Stay tuned for scenes from next week’s complications!”

        1. ambrit

          Hmmm… “World War Scientology?” Oh, you mean the homage to “Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.”
          Enjoy Antipodean Summer you lucky fellow.

  3. Larry

    It does nakedly expose how the ruling classes see their subjects, strictly as cannon fodder and husks from which to extract all manner of rents. They just can’t envision doing anything substantial to get us through a crisis, that’s dangerous. The people might understand their suffering isn’t necessary.

    1. carl

      I think to the ruling class, it’s just an acceleration of the impoverishment of most of the population that’s been going on for the last forty years, and by their non-actions of their puppets in government, they’re just fine with a lot of people losing their jobs, homes, and lives.

      1. Lou Mannheim

        It’s been 40 years for me as well. I think the world we inhabit has its origins in the 60s – maybe revenge for the unrest along with the deficits Johnson ran (there’s a book called Nixonland that I think touches on this but I haven’t read it).

        Whatever the catalyst, things are just so competitive and nasty now, and getting everyone off pensions to defined contribution plans keeps too many people wired to the stock market. Which leads to all the papering over of problems – try getting a wealthy lawyer or similar profession to understand how destructive inflation is for most people – they don’t know and don’t care, they just want stocks to go up and screw anyone else.

        I remember when Barings collapsed. I had a bunch of unsettled trades and was talking to my contact and remarked “we’re all in this together.” What a sap I was.

        1. Oh

          Defined contribution plans were a way to steer more money into Wall Street and “money managers”. They lured the public with tax deference and the public did not understand that their pension plans were better for them.

    2. IdahoSpud

      It is, indeed, all about the rents. They all scream when their ox is gored in the slightest.

      Literal rent for housing, credit card interest rates, insurance that fights you over payment, internet with high prices and shoddy service/speed, massive medical costs, warranties that won’t work in this particular case. I could go on.

      Only small local companies with their reputation and profits at extreme risk are responsive to their profit base, er customers.

      I vaguely recall a time when it wasn’t like this, but that almost seems like a dream.

    3. Geo

      Pelosi and Schumer didn’t want to pass a relief bill before the election for fear of giving Trump/GOP a “win”. Now, the GOP is gonna block relief efforts to saddle Biden with a cratering economy.

      It’s all power plays and no concern for us.

  4. Lex

    You didn’t need to be a math genius to see this coming last spring, or really very good with numbers. You needed to know how viruses spread + an understanding of the word ‘exponential’ + a lifelong student of crappy human behavior + and most importantly, a weak sense of denial about the consequences of the first three. Throw in a dysfunctional government when it comes to the working class (140 million) and you have yourself a national disaster you can see from miles and months away.

    Two years ago after I read John Barry’s book ‘The Great Influenza’, I was looking at some photos of people in Russia, infected with typhus. I didn’t know much about that disease, like how was it different than typhoid? Wasn’t there an outbreak of typhus in the homeless camps in CA last year? Add thousands of newly evicted to those camps and there’s a good chance we’ll see news of its return, along with hepatitis. Typhus is a particularly nasty disease.

  5. Bob Hertz

    Thanks Yves for a great article. I expect we will be re-reading it often in the coming hard months.

    The hospital shortage is driven in part by the huge amount of care that is required to preserve the life of many Covid patients. I watched a video recently showing six hospital personnel, all in expensive gear, needing to spend close to an hour turning over and bathing a Covid patient, who had been in the ICU for three weeks at that point.

    A part of me was moved by the great effort and care that was shown for one old and frankly rather obese patient. Another part of me was trying to say, “Let him go.”

    1. neo-realist

      If I were old and obese, or just plain old (and the Missus was gone), I probably would have said “let me go” too.

  6. IM Doc

    Internal Medicine Physician here

    First of all – a note of thanks to NC, its moderators, and commenters – this outlet for reasoned discussion and thought from non-medical peers has been a godsend to me.

    After reading your piece above, Yves, I cannot help but add/say a few things that are really on my mind.

    I was trained in one of America’s largest urban hospitals – and by members of its faculty – arguably the best Internal Medicine training program in the world. This was in the very early 1990s – during the middle of our last pandemic – AIDS – and before we were able to do a thing about the disease. It was normal for me to sign 6-10 death certificates daily – and these were young people still in their 20s – their whole lives in front of them. I guess you could say that myself – and my generation of docs now aged 50 and up – were marked from the beginning with death and plague – we grew up in it. It was so different in many ways to what we see now – things back then were confined largely to inner city big city hospitals – now it is universal. As anyone old enough to remember, it was still very traumatic back then and many mistakes were made – but I would go back to that time “culturally” in a heart beat compared to where we are today.

    What is the big difference? – the litigation of all things medical in our media – this has never been done before. Please do not get me wrong – many things about medicine need to be litigated for all to see. Who gets what? Who pays for what? Insurance issues and public good issues – ALL need to be litigated to the absolute death in public. But medical procedures? therapeutics? statistics? NEVER. It has been the politicization of medical treatment and reasoning – that has largely made COVID the disaster it is. I have never in my life seen politics play a role in the efficacy of a drug – hydroxychloroquine – for example. To the point, there was a run on it in March and April – and my little old arthritis ladies could not get it at all. And we played with this drug all summer long – in the national political shows and the papers – back and forth – not about medical science – but about politics. And this type of thing is exactly why simple public health measures like masking are so toxic now. This type of thing just simply did not happen in the AIDS era. Oh, mistakes were made – and made badly. (Indeed – some of the biggest public health mistakes were made by Ms. Feinstein and Ms. Pelosi and other officials in SF – both should have been booted from any commentary about public health for life – Go read And The Band Played On – but here we are ) But it was not litigated for all to see every night on TV. Medical statistics are some of the most abused numbers on Planet Earth. It takes a very discerning eye to pick up on the lies and damn lies – and I include the TV chyron death counts in this as well – but we now have a population who has been fed numbers and data churned to fit narratives – and not the truth. I see this every day in my practice now – people are so bewildered they are numb to it. They simply do not know who or what to believe – and this is SOOO different from AIDS and the 1990s. It is hard for me to know who to blame more – Trump – or the Rachel Maddow crowd – sitting in front of a scrolling death chyron with gleams in their eyes. I also have no idea how this gets fixed. To be honest – I have given up trying. I live in a part of the country that is just getting slammed right now – the cow has left the barn as far as public health mitigation – it is going to be damage control from here on out.

    My very first attending as an intern was one of this nation’s foremost infectious disease experts. Every medical student and intern in America carried his book in their pockets. After one July day that was profoundly emotionally draining from all the AIDS death, he could tell I was green and I was rattled. He as an almost 80 year old man – took me the 25 year old aside – “Son – I can tell you are taking this all way too hard. Let me share with you something. Learn now how you feel – you will live to see another airborne pandemic hit this world in your lifetime – you must be ready – The politicians will fail. The newspapers and media will fail. And all that will be left for the people is you and your colleagues’ ability to maintain your wits.”

    In a lecture later that month – he talked about airborne pandemics – and I will never forget one of his comments – “I hope for the sake of humanity – that it is not a coronavirus. They are sneaky to our souls – they are innocent for most people – but kill just enough to be truly a disaster. That combination let loose in a population has the potential to rip the very fabric of the society apart.” Not exact words – but close enough. As in all things in life – being taught by people who are truly experts is a most enlightening thing for young people in life. And unfortunately – I am seeing his expertly informed nightmare come true.

    I treasure my time spent here every day. I wish everyone the very best Holidays we can have under the circumstances.

    1. Clive

      My experience in substance abuse in a fundraising capacity (but also as an independent trustee) for treatment centres was a hard lesson in what happens when medicine is politicised — and in substance abuse treatment, it is definitely politicised — which I’d always thought was an anomaly, purely because of the peculiarities of the disease process at work there.

      Everything malicious in the provision of healthcare for substance abuse treatment has been doled out to the people in COVID-19 — certainly here in the UK, US readers can confirm if the parallel is valid, there, too, but I suspect from my observations it is true, or substantively true.

      What resonated with me particularly was when you referred to the old man’s observation that:

      “The politicians will fail. The newspapers and media will fail. And all that will be left for the people is you and your colleagues’ ability to maintain your wits.”

      Such is, as I have witnessed first-hand, the fate of the substance abuser seeking treatment. The politicians do indeed fail, but their failure is, in my view, one of a decision to intervene in the provision of the needed healthcare — as opposed to simply asking the clinicians, medical scientists and the patients themselves “What is it that you require? What is going to help?”. And then delivering it. Substance abusers are, as they’ve come to now predict and expect (if they’re lucky enough some semblance of recovery) already fully cognisant that they must rely on their wits and that of their peers, plus whatever support can be obtained from the medical community. No-one else is, or at any rate, precious few are, going to do anything for them. Not a few people and agencies will be actively harmful to them.

      As I said at the top, I had thought (hoped) that this was an anomaly. As COVID-19 has shown, it is a normalisation.

    2. DJG

      Thanks for these insights. What you point to in your closing paragraphs is that we must have compassion, but we cannot let the way that the world is overwhelm us. (I am thinking of the Buddhist parable of the woman asking for mustard seeds, but only from a house that has not known grief.)

    3. chuck roast

      Yves and support staff assemble this machine, and it’s people like you who give it the gas. All the best.

    4. juno mas

      To IM Doc: thank you for your service to mankind. As a rare survivor of cardiac distress (LAD_CBG:4), and later cancer, I’m deeply indebted to the medical profession, including dedicated and talented nurses, to still be enjoying a wonderful life.

    5. farmboy

      “…damage control from here on out”
      “I am seeing…expertly informed nightmare come true”
      thanks for sharing

    6. Anthony

      Thank you for that. Am I out of line to want to know more about this important POV beyond the anecdote? What was your mentor’s name?

    7. Glen

      Thank you for your efforts, and your comments.

      We are not traveling, or visiting anybody else over the holidays, and we are taking all the precautions we can.

      Stay safe!

  7. Wukchumni

    Seeing as the country will be rudderless when the eviction period starts anew with the coming of the new year, there’s going to be an interesting diaspora-off of people that never dreamed they would ever be homeless, and not the usual drink-drugs-demented profile one can stereotype and not be far off the mark.

    Similar to real estate, living rough is location-location-location, and all of the good spots have long since been claimed by pre-Covid homeless, leaving new entrants sloppy seventeenths other than living in what were termed ‘jungles’ in the Great Depression.

    If I was Bob & Betty Bitchin’ from Burbank with our 2 kids, Trevor & Truly, it’d be weird hanging out with tweakers and the like, a giant step down in class literally in your face, all ensconced in alt-a fabric fabrications of some semblance of home, re-education camping.

    Before Covid came calling, the traditional way of making a living in such straits was hitting up the dumpster behind a restaurant laden with leftovers of meals not finished by patrons of said eateries, and financial handouts from whomever you could hit up on the street.

    Both of those avenues are closed now largely, with the new arrivals due soon, and did I mention ‘past-class’?

    It’s a horse racing term used to signify a steed that can only compete in fields of much lower ability than it used to, a $40,000 claimer that hasn’t been anywhere near the lead at the finish, but stick it in a $10,000 claimer and it might as well be Secretariat compared to the nags it’s competing against. Now switch out horses for people to complete the comparison.

    There will be agitation amongst our ‘caste-aways’ to add to uncertainty, certainly.

  8. Robert Hahl

    Even among people who are trying to be careful about Covid, myself included, there are a lot of personal exemptions being granted. That is, the kind of behavior addressed by signs which say something like “No Trespassing, this means you.” I am getting better at that but not very quickly.

  9. doug

    But the flip side is that being evicted is so damaging from a credit report/rent record perspective that some, and perhaps many, tenants will vacate just before the landlord is set to file in court.

    I wonder what percentage of tenants have a clue about that? If you have never been in that situation, you probably are unaware…

  10. Tom Stone

    As a Realtor who is at high risk due to co morbidities I was infornmed that I qualified for Pandemic unemployment insurance here in California two months ago.
    So I tried to apply, and found out that the CA EDD stopped processing new claims just about that time.
    UI online does not work, emails are responded to by a Bot, the local office # is no longer in service, the toll free number leads to a 4 minute recording that ends with “We are unable to take you call at this time due to the high volume of calls, please try again later” and the local office is closed to the public.
    I’ve had EDD on speed dial for two months and it’s become a running joke, I call 6-8 tines a day, every day…
    and get the same message.
    I’m going to splurge and have meat for Thanksgiving, hamburger.

    1. cocomaan

      Tom, check out Reddit to see if you can find any information on how to “skip the line”. I know someone who got some good information on how to bypass the awful systems in place at the UI offices in other states.

      There’s a whole tag in there for California. Definitely worth surfing the site and seeing if anyone else is complaining about this.

    2. Oh

      UI has always been a joke and will continue to be. They put up a lot of hurdles for people who have worked for years and years and have to apply for UI because of the difficulty to find employment. The compensation is a pittance and they require you to further demean oneself to keep looking for non existing jobs and reporting the details of your search. Now they have new impediments to those who direly need help – on line forms, more automated phone systems and rejection for any small reason. IMHO, UI should be automatic for those who’ve lost their job (which usually happens during the Christmas holiday season) and should be the same amount as one’s most recent paycheck with payments for at least a year or until one finds new employment. It’s time people are treated as humans by a system that pays big for grifters and crooks.

  11. Wukchumni

    I mentioned the other day about a rarity in restaurants, one that had survived decades of being open-which is almost tantamount to hitting the lottery, as the survival rate of such endeavors is poor or worse.

    This was a eatery I looked forward to going, good food and fine service, and they never lacked for customers and sometimes it was difficult to find a parking spot, it had a good vibe.

    Fast forward to last week, and said establishment which has been closed since April, was now sporting a bright & shiny ‘For Lease’ sign in front of the building. The owners gave up, and a dozen people who worked there once upon a time, also threw in the towel.

    Some of them will be new to the ranks of being homeless…

    1. Carolinian

      It’s the same for movie theaters. Or worse. Restaurants can at least sell takeout although perhaps not enough to pay high rents. McDonald’s, which once began with a takeout model, seemed to be moving back in that direction even before the pandemic.

      And while reduced economic activity will help with global warming it’s hard to deny that car crazy suburbs are looking more attractive relative to crowded subways and sidewalks.

  12. Bob Hertz

    I can understand that Republicans don’t care about desperate tenants — this is a political party that stood for fiscal rectitude even during the worst of the Great Depression.

    Right now it appears that they don’t care about landlords either. Very few of the limited eviction relief bills in the states have any money for landlords.

    Both Republicans and Democrats showed no caring for the victims of foreclosures after the 2008 Crash. I suppose this could be justified in their minds by assuming that the victims were just speculators, who bought a second home in Las Vegas to cash in on rising prices.

    I don’t know how anyone with a heart, or a brain, can dismiss the current plight of families who are crushed by the economic collapse of bars, restaurants, hotels, and other in–person services.

  13. michael hudson

    Here in Forest Hills, NY, I see only 10% of the people wearing masks. It’s stopped in the park, and for runners, dog walkers, etc. And this is the high-risk area (next to Kew Gardens).
    My main point is the likely plunge in home ownership, especially among blacks and hispanics. the Obama Administration ended by reducing U.S. home ownership rates from 69% to 63%, kicking out 10 million families, mainly minorities. It looks like the Biden administration will start right where Obama left off, kicking out another 5 million for mortgage or rent arrears. As Yves points out, landlords already have been doing their homework.
    Not bad for a party that won by courting the black and hispanic vote.

    1. Carolinian

      Where I live hardly anyone wears a mask outdoors. I’m not sure that is wrong. Walking trails do have signs urging users to maintain social distance.

      1. Wukchumni

        I walked about 175 miles this summer on and off-trail in Mineral King and maybe saw 10 masks worn on hikers mugs, if that.

        There was certainly social distancing involved, but it comes with the territory.

      2. carl

        I think it depends on how crowded your outdoors is. NYC streets? Mask up. Walking the dog in my neighborhood? Unnecessary; you won’t get within 30 feet of anyone.

    2. Louis Fyne

      outdoors, odds of transmission, particularly in fleeting encounters, is very very low.

      on the hierarchy of risk, more effort needs to be focused on care homes and jails, buses, 12 singles partying in a living room for 2 hours., etc.

      but america being america, nuanced advice can’t work.

      1. Kurt Sperry

        Wearing masks outdoors with adequate spacing and only passing contact is almost pure pandemic theater. It might still be useful as a reminder not let one’s guard down but it has little or no prophylactic utility. That’s probably not the hill to choose to die on vs. anti-maskers.

  14. Carolinian

    Clearly economic disaster looms regardless of what happens with the disease and any notion of the once desired “v shaped recovery” seems dim. However I’d say prospects on the medical front are considerably less clear. One should point to the predictions of some epidemiologists that we would have a second wave, and successive waves, but they would be progressively less deadly than the first. If it is turning more into a “casedemic” then there are those who say early home treatment of the symptomatic can keep people out of the now overcrowded hospitals. Needless to say this goes against the economic model of current US medicine for which “house calls” have long been anathema.

  15. Watt4Bob

    I’ve run into several several posts/comments lately, evidently trolls, who state things like;

    “I’ve got a lot of friends who work in hospitals, I ask them about covid and they say it’s all BS.”


    ” I have a friend who works in a hospital, she tells me it’s almost empty, and that she, and the other nurses are just wondering around looking for things to do.”

    What sort of human being would be spreading this sort of garbage?

    The partisan war, at the bottom of the power spectrum is every bit as craven and dishonest as it is at the top.

    For health care professionals, I’m sure it adds to the misery.

    1. Watt4Bob

      I’ve mentioned before, I have a friend who injured himself in his shop, He’s a guitar maker, he had to go to the ER for stitches, he was horrified by the conditions he found there, and encouraged every one “Don’t get hurt, you don’t want to go to the hospital.”

  16. arielle

    Re: Homelessness from REB study: the article really does say “couch-serf.” (I clicked to actual article to make sure.) Is this a typo or another indication of how completely out of touch the chattering class is from real-world problems? Sic

    1. tegnost

      I noticed that too. Out of touch/narrative creep (they wouldn’t be serfs if they had merit…oh well)

    2. Lex

      I laughed and blamed spellcheck. Yesterday I downloaded a pattern that says, ‘What doesn’t kill you will give you an unhealthy set of coping skills and a dark sense of humor’. Often they’re one and the same.

    1. JEHR

      I thought we were doing well in Atlantic Canada which is made up of smaller provinces, two of which are islands, which can control their borders, and the other two with entry points that can be more easily monitored. But two provinces have already been kicked out of the Bubble of four provinces due to increased cases and, in the future, increased deaths. Not enough people can see that caring for others has mutual benefits in protection for themselves. We may have to learn the harder way. I hope not.

      1. RMO

        We were doing great here in BC – until recently. In summer even in the Fraser health district (where I live and the area which had the heaviest Covid case load) we were down to multiple days where the new cases were zero. In the first wave BC never got to 100 cases a day. Last 24 hours? Over 700. When I found out that there were numerous superspreader events connected to spin classes, dance classes, weddings and freaking PARTY BUSES I nearly destroyed my desk with my forehead.

        From what I see when shopping everybody seems to be taking it seriously again. Hopefully this means it will peak and recede in a couple of weeks. If it doesn’t… well, I guess I really will have to break out the full-face respirator when I go out for food and such.

  17. Code Name D

    It’s not just the failure of politics. It’s the near total failure of just about every intuition at every level.

    I keep asking myself, what would a COVID pandemic look like in the 70s or 80s? Every news cycle would always start with “Day something, of the pandemic.” There would be frequent news conferences from the president and governors. They would interrupt your regularly scheduled programing to bring you the latest findings from the scientists on the front lines. There would be constant PSA about social distancing, cartoon characters that would teach our children to wash hands frequently and how to wear a mask correctly. Self-help shows would teach us how to keep the house clean, or techniques on how you might self-treat with COVID symptoms – and when you might need medical help. COVID would even become the central topics of sitcoms.

    But I see none of this today. For starters, I can’t even remember when the last time I saw a news cast. The few that remain are constantly going on about Biden’s adorable dogs or Trumps ongoing criminal and fascistic macanations. Twitter loses their shit over Mandalorian boob armor. When I do here COVID mentioned on the radio, its only in this oh-by-the-way attitude that far more laments the closing of local and national sporting events. Then goes on about how this bar or that club is offering drink specials for the big game to bring in customers.

    Just the other day at the grocery store, the manager announced that “masks were now mandatory.” And the people cheered and applauded. This one tiny little stand – was cheered.

    It’s as if society itself is coming to an end – and no one noticed. Even when is deep in the brutal grip of the pandemic, there is barley any coverage of the pandemic in the local paper. And what little COVID news there is, is behind a paywall. Even then, its usually about how some “famous” celebrity I do not know is recovering from COVID and will soon be discharged from the hospital. Little wonder so many people believe COVID is a hoax. With some believing it was invented by closet communist democrats in yet another conspiracy to damage the president. There is so little coverage of COVID at all, good or bad, how could roomers and conspiracy theories NOT run amuck.

    And to say nothing about the coming eviction catastrophe and other economic consequences. While Wall Street is nervus about a “double dip” recession that might shave a few percentage points off of their investment returns. But the rest of America is looking past the teeth of a brutal and cruel national depression. Homeless camps are already overrun with sewage, rats and cholera. What’s one new pandemic in the face of so many preventable ills which are just as deadly.

    The ugly truth is that COVID is not the new normal, but just a new part of the old normal. School shootings, missing WMD in Iraq, the torture of US prisoners, the horrors of Katrina, homeless camps that go one for miles, prison citadels that have inmate populations that are larger than some cities. Endless horror stories from medical debt, to judicial terrorism. Global warming and climate change. Massive wild fires that make the skies over LA blead red. Teachers that have to wear adult diapers because they aren’t even allowed to go to the bathroom. If none of this matter to the media, why should COVID?

    It’s bad enough that I have to watch the end of the world. Why do I also have to be gaslight about it at the same time.

    1. TMoney

      The old TV networks, before DVR’s gave Nations a collective view from which to start a conversation. The cost of which was paid for in exposing everyone to the latest packaging for soap powder or chip flavor. In the age of “personalized” news feeds that are only interested in gathering clicks, the shared view points no longer exist. We are back to the middle ages – only less so. We don’t suffer from geographic ignorance, where the geography of places determined how out of touch you were, now all news travels really fast but is filtered to each of us by our own biases. “Self inflicted” ignorance, where our own biases help reenforce our positions – because we keep clicking on stuff that we like. Think…. “Cities bad” or “Guns bad”.

      Now nearly everyone you meet comes with a more hardened position, built on the repeated news we choose to read. The networks forced everyone to eat the same news. Your biases could influence your view, but everyone started with about the same knowledge/view/initial report. For better or worse, it produced a less divergent / more cohesive zeitgeist.

      You have to work hard to get a comprehensive news view, the feeds keep “channeling” you, because channeling is the optimal way to maximize clicks. NC is run by people (not an algo) so you get more diverse stuff here – including things you (*horror*) might disagree with.

  18. William Hunter Duncan

    I talked to my Dad last night. He lives in a central Minnesota county of about 35,000 residents. He admits he did not take this pandemic very seriously at first, but he is deeply spooked now. Twelve people he knows have died just in the past few weeks. In the span of a few days recently, in a nearby small town, five people died and my dad knew them all. His former competitor in the marine business died, as did one of his sons, the wife of another son, and everyone in the business contracted it.

    Meanwhile on a local news site, liberal Democrats are reveling in it, mocking, laughing about those ignorant rural Trump people getting what they deserve.

      1. Wukchumni

        Our neighbors on one side are classic lefties in their late 60’s, prime fodder for Covid and they know it. I sauntered over the other day and we had a Mexican standoff of a conversation ensconced in chairs outside, about 10 feet away from one another, and talk turned to the neighbors on the other side of us who are so far to the right-they’re a bit wobbly, and also in their late 60’s

        Said righty-tighty-gawdalmighties are convinced the virus is a hoax and actively do things that could be to their detriment to prove us on the left how wrong we are, lots of shopping, eating out and glad handing and hugging, see it isn’t real!

        I like both sets of neighbors quite a bit and i’d greatly miss the man on the right, as he’s one of those fellows that can fix anything mechanical, he’s that good.

        That said, we got to talking about what happens when the worm turns and one or both of them are down for the count, what then?

    1. Ames Gilbert

      I’ve read the post you linked to twice over, and I can see no mocking and laughing. In fact, the article seems to be a model of objective reporting with no personal opinions inserted by the journalist at all. Perhaps you’d care to quote a sentence or two to help dullards like me understand where you’re coming from. Thanks!

        1. Basil Pesto

          yes, I believe he’s referring to thevarticle comments (you have to click to see them, which is probably for the best)

    2. Louis

      It’s not just local news–check out the New York Times comment section on anything related to coronavirus and you’ll see the same thing.

    3. furies

      I read the comments and don’t see what you’re complaining about.

      They weren’t nasty; they were stating the truth of it.

  19. Wukchumni

    My mom’s assisted living place has a memory loss ward attached to it, although never the twain shall meet as far as we were concerned, despite having visited her there about 100x, it’s a mystery locked in an enigma of lost minds.

    2 people there tested positive for the virus last week, with the common thread in the saga being that all of the employees there tend to glom together with staff from the area where my mom lives.

    I see her every Friday on our family Zoom sessions, but haven’t been with her physically since around the new year.

  20. Krystyn Podgajski

    So my close friend, an orthodontist in NC who just opened a practice and was working at a second, has contracted covid from a patient. The family or moderately young and don’t have any of the risk factors and is showing no symptoms, but it means his business and his second job are over for the next few weeks at least.

    he was notified to get tested after a patient at his second practice tested positive. He contracted covid even after all the precautions they take in the office.

    So yeah, to me this means it’s really out there and it’s going to be a long dark winter. I’m just trying to not raise any of my risks for going into the hospital for any reason at all.

    The big shutdown is coming and at 30,000 stock market it’s going to be the first peak that we are looking at in a rear view mirror.

    1. Susan the other

      The “stock market” is the clearest signal we have of inequality. It is a direct measure of it. It is not a measure of inflation because none of the money goes into the real economy. It is a measure of money manipulation and extraction. One of the first commenters I read here on NC, c. 2009, was (I assume) a biologist whose moniker I didn’t remember but I have remembered his classic metaphoric summary of what ails us, he said more or less: If the elite amoebas in the amoeba colony usurped and extracted all the ATP (adenosinetriphosphate – the biological energy amoebas live off of) and left all the other lesser amoebas to die off without a drop to drink then of course the colony would collapse. So since then I have always considered “money” to be human adenosinetriphosphate. Why don’t we do something about this? Deprivation is purely political. The gas lighting is just flat-out unacceptable. So is the poverty and the hunger and the squalor.

      1. Glen

        Unfortunately, that stock market money is flowing very much into the real economy looking to get better returns. It is driving up the prices of everything but especially housing. I get cold called by people wanting to know if I will sell my house, and most of these types seem to be PE money looking to buy realty and jack up rents. Estimates are that 30% of the local realty is being bought by PE.

        1. cwalsh

          Got a letter from a real estate company two weeks ago. The parcel number and address of the property were listed, along with a contract to sell at about a 60-75% discount. I have gotten a number of offers to buy over the years, but I thought it quite cheeky to send a contract out as a cold call.

      2. ambrit

        You have just made an excellent argument for the thesis that the denizens of the FIRE sector have the cognitive capacity of amoebas.

  21. dcblogger

    From last May:
    California hospitals lacking non-COVID patients laying off staff amid pandemic
    “I think we hear with the coronavirus [that] healthcare workers are in demand and you should be on the frontlines… I never thought I’d be filing for unemployment.”

    the insanity of for profit healthcare

  22. teri

    “At the same time, provisions meant to shore up tax benefits for low-income earners, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Credit, are scheduled to go up in smoke, potentially pulling money out of the paychecks of the poorest people who are still working.” This is from The Hill article to which Yves gives a link.

    I have not been able to find anything that indicates these two tax credits are disappearing; at least not through 2021. Does anyone have other information on this?

  23. Jeremy Grimm

    “…the press and experts seem reluctant to look at the obvious and see where it leads” — and unwilling to state the obvious.
    But why is that so?

    “leadership/elite failure in the US” and their “collective shrug of the shoulders” suggests a lack of caring more than mere failure.

    I cannot get past feeling there is too much method to the madness in the US response to the Corona pandemic — even after allowing for incompetence in fashioning inept policy responses.

    Are we being had by our leadership/elite?

  24. Henry

    I realize the US has turned towards authoritarians with Google ranking their responses much higher and facebook and twitter filtering out non authoritarian responses, but I still believe the doctors working out in the field when they say they have a protocol (I-MASK +) that is effective against Covid and some here might find it beneficial to listen to what they have to say especially if gathering with family members over the holidays.

    Note: I may be mistaken, but I believe most Vit D fortified drinks, milks/OJ are about 100 IU/cup and while it is possible for a body to generate 10,000 -20,000 IU Vit D/hr light skin laying in full noon sun mid latitude, as this is dependent on UVB, which is absorbed by the atmosphere thus is highly dependent on the angle of the sun that window can be pretty small in the winter. Now it is possible to get sufficient Vit D naturally in the winter in the US especially if you are a big fish eater, drink lots of fortified milk and run around naked in the snow at high noon, but based on experiments the optimum Vit D levels for fighting Covid seem to be somewhere around 40-50 ng/ml which currently way higher then typically measured even in sunny places like Florida.
    Also note a good natural source of Quercetin are capers.

    1. dogwood

      Excellent presentation with lots of good data by Dr. Marik on the effectiveness of Ivermectin at treating covid-19 at any stage of the illness (including for long haulers). Dr. Marik’s website (mentioned in this presentation – provides protocols if patients are trying to educate and convince their doctors to utilize this treatment. Both doctors did a good job of calling out institutional ineptitude. Thanks for the fantastic link Henry!!

  25. Arthur Dent

    The engineers are doing testing on cloth masks etc. now. The science is coming back that they protect the wearers as well as others if they meet some relatively low bars.

    Linsey Marr is also one of the people who has been doing work on ventilation and filtration. The information is out there with real technical back-up now to dramatically reduce the probability of transmission.

    A key challenge for the average person is understanding that there are no magical, single-shot bullets. Everything is about reductions in probability of transmission and reduction of the severity of the disease if it is transmitted. Stringing together several different things can dramatically reduce the probability of getting it in the first place, and the severity if you do get it. but no one thing eliminates the possibility of getting it altogether.

    There has been quite a bit of evidence to date that Vitamin D deficient people tend to have much poorer outcomes than people that are not deficient. That is a small easy step to give yourself that probability reduction. We are mvoing into low daylight days and cold weather, so this will become a much more serious issue in the coming months than over the summer. However, it is likely easily remediated though simple supplements commonly available. Just don’t take too much or it may cause its own issues.

    There is also evidence now that people with elevated blood pressure etc. do better if they are on regimens of low dose aspirin and are taking their ACE-inhibitor drugs. That was up in the air a few months ago, but seems to be getting resolved that the ACE-inhibitors are beneficial in improving outcomes for people with cardiac and blood pressure issues.

    None of these steps make it safer to go to restaurants, bars, and large celebrations though. They just mean that living a fairly sheltered life makes it unlikely you will get it at all, or it won’t be a bad case if you do get it. However, the utterly illogical public health measures of closing carefully running schools with good protocols and very few cases while leaving bars and restaurants open for unmasked patrons to spread it means that there is so much cognitive dissonance that the average person has no idea which way is up in our topsy-turvy world.

  26. Lins

    I find NC invaluable, having followed/supported Yves for a very long time. I’m a huge fan! But I have a confession: I’m struggling to hang on to this community to the point that I’ve taken multiple breaks since COVID because I become overwhelmed with the no solutions doom and gloom content. Please don’t take that the wrong way! I’m just frustrated and looking for hope, a new idea, any solution, even if they are pie in the sky. Please understand, I’m not a troll, nor an ostrich. I genuinely appreciate all the time and effort of Yves, Lambert et al. I guess I’m just wondering if there are other lurkers/rare commenters that feel this way too.

    On a personal note, my household has been economically unharmed throughout this nightmare, but I did test positive for COVID on 11-21. I’ve been extremely cautious throughout: always masked up and only trips to the store for groceries and Lowes/Home Depot. What has me completely disturbed is that I had zero symptoms, I went about my normal routine for a week. I only tested because my co-worker (1 of 3 including me) tested positive after developing symptoms on a Sunday night. My point is that I don’t know how much can be done to prevent COVID if 80% of those infected have an experience similar to mine. I can’t imagine how many are going on “biz as usual” because they have no idea they are sick.

    Right now I feel ok and I’m somewhere between day 10 to 12 since exposure. I’ve had some very minor symptoms over the last few days. In fact, I’ve had sinus infections 1000x worse than this. I don’t even know what I’m saying or trying to add here. Just scared-venting? My personal experience has me questioning if shutting everything down really was the “right” response then or now IF it goes that way again. Maybe we should have been keeping the most at-risk on lockdown and having low-risk workers like me tested, given we are the most dangerous (carrying the virus unknowingly).

    Anyway, just wondering if I am alone in feeling hopeless and disappointed with the doom and gloom and wishing for any ray of hope. I’m all for keeping it real and calling out the bad, but is anyone listening that can make a difference? What can we do besides read, nod and agree (sometimes disagree)? I truly wish to convey I appreciate this site and all it provides, I hope all maintain health and security through these trying times.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Thanks for the kind words and I am sorry that you might be infected.

      If you got the antigen test (the non-traumatic nose swab), TAKE IT AGAIN.

      It is very reliable on symptomatic patients but generates a lot of false positives for people who don’t have symptoms.

      1. Lins

        Thanks for replying!! I hope you have an ok Thanksgiving! I did have the slightly traumatic double nostril test! So I’m confident I’m not a false positive.

        On related side note, my local Red Cross made a public appeal for blood donation from recovered “covidees” for research. Once I am clear, I will be doing so. It’s a small thing, but a thing I can contribute to the fight!

  27. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here’s how I see the BiPartisan Party using the “Covid Cliff” to their advantage. The Democrats Incorporated and the Republicans Limited will get together and decide that the ongoing Covid Relief money streams will be renewed in return for cutting or abolishing Social Security and Medicare. The Grand Catfood Shakedown, if you will. ” One back scratches the other”.

    I don’t like riots, but would anything else prevent the Grand Catfood Shakedown? If the riots were multi-million-man riots . . . . too many people to shoot all at once? If they began burning down trillions of dollars of upper class property and assets?

    1. Hepativore

      Then that is when they will start doing drone strikes on low-income/blue collar areas. A few here and there would probably be enough to frighten are already rather-complacent populace into submission. Also, mainstream media outlets would probably spin it as thining out high-infection areas to help control the spread of the virus.

      I doubt that the massive incompetence displayed by our political leadership in the face of the pandemic was part of some grand intentional plot, but who is to say that they will not endeavor to drag it out as long as possible? The elites and the PMC probably know a good thing when they see it and a pandemic such as this can help discourage gatherings of malcontents of the lower classes, keep the peasantry obedient at work for fear of losing their precious, low-wage jobs, stifle political dissent by making it much harder for people to organize because of social-distancing regulations, and finally there is also all of the money being made off of COVID hand-over-fist by Amazon and Silicone Valley.

      If and when we do have a vaccine roll-out I fear the elites and the PMC will attempt to horde it for themselves and try and privatize its distribution availability in addition to pricing it out of reach of the hands of the serfs.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If the Elites do that, pray the Elites horde the mRNA vaccines and use them ALL on themselves. Pray they leave us with the Oxford/AstraZeneca classical method vaccine.

  28. VietnamVet

    This is excellent analysis.

    I am old enough to realize, everything has changed. 1950’s America is long gone. I got out of the US Army in 1971 (the year when the billboard was put up that said “Will the last person leaving Seattle — turn out the lights”). I got unemployment from Washington State for a year and half while I went to University in Oregon on the GI Bill. No hassle. No problem.

    What changed? As a result of the lost war, bussing, hippies and inflation, the middle-class working families that filled the draft were intentional thrown in the trash. With the volunteer army fighting corrupt unwinnable wars they are no longer needed. “Greed is Good” belief seized power. The rule of law for the rich discarded. The USA is occupying a Syrian oil field in the middle of nowhere in an enemy country allied with Russia, Iran and China for money with no thought of the consequences or risks that are not in the best interest of the American people.

    All that matters is corporate profit and bonuses. The stock market breaks 30,000 on the eve of a long deadly winter. Those in the money are simply incapable of seeing reality – their incompetence – their corruption. Chaos is unavoidable unless for the first time in forty years a functional US government that serves and protects the people is resurrected and the coronavirus pandemic is controlled and a depression averted.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The DC FedRegime is not even occupying that little oilfield in Syria for money. The DC FedRegime is occupying it simply out of pure spite and nastiness. The DC FedRegime occupies that oil field in order to keep the Syrian Arab Republic government from gaining any reconstruction money from it. The DC FedRegime also occupies it in hopes that al Qaeda will rise again and then the DC FedRegime can turn the oilfield over to Crown Prince Mohammed bone Sawman’s favorite little pack of Cannibal Liver Eating Jihadis.

      And THAT’S why the DC FedRegime occupies that sad little oilfield. Not for the money, which is too little to matter. Simply to keep the chair warm for the Global Axis of Jihad.

  29. Jack Parsons

    At this point, the virus is (statistically) everywhere. There is a roll of the dice in every city corner and rural hamlet. The illegal retail drug trade is now a minor but predictable factor in driving Covid spread everywhere. I’ve seen reports of buys where both parties wear a mask, but this is antithetical to the trust-building aspect required to commit to a buy.

    This says that more&more young pot&meth users are going to catch it, and this may show up statistically. It’s the only way I can think of to track the ramifications of drug-driven spread.

  30. Kfish

    I’m not sure how tougher penalties for non-mask-wearing would have helped. Even at the current toothless level, there are large numbers of people screaming about their freedoms and engaging in public defiance. I live in Australia, and whenever the topic of our COVID response comes up, the response from American readers is ‘but we have more freedom than you’.

  31. Ep3

    Lol good luck doing this in Michigan! They want to lynch the governor for asking ppl to stay home and wear a mask!

    On that show “Curse of Oak Island” the first episode talked about COVID. One person in Nova Scotia said due to the lockdown in March, and use of tickets for those violating restrictions, they had a period of 7 days without a new case. Yet in “Murica ppl would rather get sick than limit their precious fake freedoms.

  32. phichibe

    I’ve been watching this slow-motion train wreck since mid January. I was not an inveterate pandemic worrier but rather I’d been in Wuhan in the mid 90s so when I heard the at first obscure news of a mysterious new respiratory illness in that city, I went online to find out anything. At that time there were only a few people on YT creating vids on the subject, compared to now when it’s everywhere. NC has definitely been one of the earliest sites to flag this matter.

    I just watched Anthony Fauci on ABC’s Sunday show (11/29) and it was evident from his words and especially his demeanour that he’s expecting the worse. We’re currently approaching 3,000 dead per day, with 90,000 + people in ICUs. I went to the Health Metrics site at the Unviersity of Washington and they’re projecting 460,000 dead by March 1st. That would amount to an average death of 2,000 per day. Fauci said that given the Thanksgiving travel surge it would only be reasonable to expect a surge on a surge. Not to be morbid, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the US hits 5,000 dead per day by Christmas. If that’s the case, and it continues through the end of January (reflecting Christmas and New Years travel and get togethers) then I have to think that the true death total by March 1 may be as high as 600,000.

    I have a good friend who late in life went back to school to become an RN. He’s been working in the largest hospital chain in New MExico for four years and did COvid/ICU duty for the first half of 2020. He’s telling me he’s burnt out and doesn’t know how long he will continue.

    Happy 2021.


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