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Acceptable risk

On 24 March I wrote an article discussing whether the cure for the virus was worse than the virus itself.  It is now time to revisit the message of that article.  We see selected governors extending their blanket closing into May, at the minimum.  This is absurd except for the politics that underlies it.

Part of the thinking that underlies the extended shutdowns is that it would be terrible for there to be one death from the China virus on an individual’s watch after the lockdown is lifted, while there is no guilt associated with all of the deaths each year from the flu.  The media has created a psychological monster out of the China virus. This monster it is hoped will bring down the president.

The political/media game somehow made the China virus more dangerous than the annual flu.  At worst the numbers may end up being about the same and most likely the annual 60,000 deaths from the flu will exceed the China virus.  But of course the democrats need to remove Trump’s economic success.  The way to do that is to keep the country locked down.

The question then is when and how will the country get back to work?

In spite of all of the government stimulus money many small businesses may find it impossible to reopen:

  • Market has been usurped by a company that avoided the shutdown—it was essential
  • Employees have found work elsewhere or are not yet ready to go back to work because government unemployment benefits are too good to be true, but they are
  • Government regulations will be so restrictive so as to prevent a small restaurant, for example, to be profitable. (Table spacing an example.)

The handful of states that do not have sweeping lock down orders — Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming — counted fewer than 300 mortalities between them as of Wednesday afternoon, according to their websites, and roughly 11,000 cases. In these examples lockdowns were not necessary and yet infections did not explode. They each are governed by Republicans.

Continuing lockdowns may be undercut with the governors now having been acknowledged to have the authority to loosen their lock downs.  If demonstrations such as occurred in Michigan this week continue this attempt to paint the economy failure as Trump’s fault may fail.  Expect more bombastic press briefings in the White House. In short the governors could be blamed for local economic problems.  Having fought the White House for the power to unlock they may still try to shift the blame for economic problems onto Trump.

The other message from the left is that the President’s handling of the virus has been incompetent.  Of course Adam Schiif will attempt to make this message get traction, but the experts will most likely make his attempts to be shown to be empty.

In some states with Democrat governors it is likely that they are trying to get the attention of the Biden staff so as to be considered for vice-presidential candidacy.  This may backfire on want-to-be Vice President governors such as Kelly in Kansas and Whitmer in Michigan. Both of these governors have portions of their states where the lockdowns could be relaxed. (Similar to the 8 states noted above.)  Case in point.  Western Kansas hardly has any virus cases.  The same is true of the rural portions of most states, as noted above.

In the coming days we should expect to see recommendations on industries and geographic areas that can be unlocked early in the unlock process. In looking at the unlock process there will be multiple considerations in what / where to unlock.  The amount of infection in a geographic area will be critical.  Demand for the product of a small business (or any business) will also be a critical consideration. Certain industries where large groups gathered may be late in the unlock process.

The Washington Post reported that the White House draft plan gave four criteria for a state to reopen. According to the Post: a low number of infections, a monitoring system to detect new infections, a medical system that can accommodate a surge of new infections, and enough hospital beds to handle that surge.  These criteria are insufficient.  Consideration also needs to be taken to the considerations listed above.

As we watch the coming debate we need to keep the above thoughts in mind.  Politics will become more and more dominant as this goes forward.


5 Comments

  1. Skip O’Donnell says:

    In Nevada today we have 134 virus deaths out of 3.2 million. There is no reason for our not getting back to normal business.

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  2. Gordon Larsson says:

    First, let me say that it is and always has been the governor of each state who make those decisions. The Constitution is quite clear that it is the states who have policing power necessary to take those actions. The President can provide federal guidance, but theoretically at least, that should be a matter of consolidating and passing on the collective wisdom of his health and economic advisors. My state of NC has kept the numbers low in large part because our governor has shut down travel from outside and inside the state.

    My home county provides daily reports of the number of positive and negative test results as well as whether those postives are travel related or not. A very high percentage of those who tested positive were people who returned from travel out of state of from contacts with out of state visitors. For that reason, our local government has put a moratorium on short term rentals and closed all the beaches to discourage tourism. As the owner of a rental property, I’m taking a huge hit on income, but I understand why that is necessary in order to preempt a potential epidemic in the county.

    I doubt seriously that Nevada will return to normal business anytime soon, regardless of government decisions. The casino business is not likely to return to normal anytime soon, regardless of how quickly the government acts. Airline travel is down by about 95% and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. As long as the Covid threat exists, most people are not going to engage in unnecessary travel. As Senator Scott from Florida remarked recently, people are not going to flock to restaurants until they feel safe doing so.

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