Go to the beaches… Mingle with friends… Get back to work. In the long run, this is best for everyone.
If you’re like me, you’re going on Facebook and seeing a lot of people urging others to stay home. Some posts are quite angry. There is a growing fury against the protestors who want to re-open the economy.
The gist of these posts is that if you don’t believe the lockdown is a good idea, you are immoral and do not value life.
Here’s a post suggesting that people who believe the lockdown should end shouldn’t have a right to healthcare if they get sick:
I want to address that idea with this post.
And I am directly speaking to those who feel compelled to admonish people to stay home.
First, my personal belief:
I am convinced that we should end the lockdowns immediately… that people should not stay home. In fact, it is a moral imperative that most of us get back to work immediately.
I ask that you read the following with an open mind. If you truly believe that we should all stay home as long as it takes, and you are committed to that, I ask you to read my message in full and refute it with facts and data.
Don’t be lazy.
Don’t skim it because you already have your mind made up.
Do not scold me or state that I don’t care about people or life.
Listen to the message and understand my beliefs. Then attack them as you wish in a respectful manner.
So let’s begin…
First, I want to address the idea that if we all just stay home “a little bit longer” that this will save lives.
Big Coronavirus Myth #1: If We All Stay at Home, This Disease Will Go Away in Under a Year
I call this the “Big Coronavirus Myth #1.”
It’s essentially the idea that if we all band together and stay home long enough, the coronavirus will eventually be wiped out and it will go away.
The posts about this go something along the lines of:
“Hey assholes, if you would just stay home, the cases and deaths would go down and this would end faster.”
Then you get a picture of a bunch of people together on a beach not practicing social distancing.
Like this one wishing death on the beach goers in Florida:
If it were true that social distancing would make the disease go away, then I’d be in agreement.
But the problem is, this is simply not true.
The fact is, unless you COMPLETELY wipe out a disease in full, it will come back if it still is active in a population of people who haven’t previously been infected and don’t have immunities.
As Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease at the University of Minnesota points out…
“Covid-19 will go away eventually in one of two ways. Either we will develop a vaccine to prevent it, or the virus will burn itself out as the spread of infection comes to confer a form of herd immunity on the population.”
Why is this true?
Because if even 20 people are missed and still infectious when the lockdowns end, then the exponential growth will start all over again. It would be like restarting back in January when all this began.
Those 20 people will jump to 40… then 80… then 160… and so on until we are right back to where we were.
As long as you have a substantial population of people who have never been infected, the virus will continue to spread.
This is a fact.
It is not arguable.
As Justin Lessler from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says:
“It is likely that eventually it will become endemic, and most of us will get infected.”
He estimates 60%-70% of people will get it, but he says it could happen over a few months or as long as three years.
So that’s key for people to understand now.
The two choices are “get herd immunity as fast as possible. Or keep the lockdowns going for 12-18 months until a vaccine is available.” (Keeping in mind that vaccines do not necessarily cure the disease which is why flu kills hundreds of thousands each year)
So if you are getting mad at people for not staying home now, keep in mind… that means you are advocating that we stay locked down for 12-18 months until the vaccine is out.
I’ll get into why this is devastating in terms of our economy and, yes, people’s lives in a moment.
But first, I can hear you thinking it now… “BUT THE LOCKDOWNS AREN’T ABOUT COMPLETELY STOPPING THE VIRUS, IT’S ABOUT SLOWING IT DOWN SO WE DON’T OVERWHELM OUR HEALTHCARE SYSTEM!”
Big Coronavirus Myth #2: The Hospitals are Overwhelmed Right Now So We Need to Flatten the Curve Immediately
Ok, so that gets me to my second point.
Many argue that YES, we know it won’t stop the disease.
But it will flatten the curve which allows our healthcare system to not get overwhelmed.
An admirable goal, but the problem is, by shutting down the entire country right now… we’re actually not utilizing our healthcare resources anywhere near capacity.
Ideally, if you want to flatten the curve and use hospital resources to their maximum, you actually want to see enough cases in all cities so that hospitals are fully utilized.
We are seeing the opposite of that right now.
Hospital beds are sitting empty.
For example, here in Florida… the number of hospital beds being used is actually dropping!
Here’s a report from the Sun Sentinel about what’s going on across Florida:
“At Broward General, the bed occupancy rate has dropped from last year’s average of 67% to only 55% on Thursday. At Cleveland Clinic in Weston, the bed occupancy has slid from an average last year of 84% to 57%. And at Palm Beach County’s JFK Medical Center, it has dropped drastically from an average of 67% to only 28%, according to data from Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration[TS1] .”
Only a 28% occupancy rate!
That is FAR TOO LOW.
You have to remember, people are going to get this thing regardless.
The only two ways out are herd immunity or a vaccine in 12-18 months.
So unless you believe that we should lock everything down for over a year, (A move that would result in devastating loss of life on its own) then the goal should be to get as many people to the immunity stage as possible now.
And you can’t do that while hospitals are empty, which they are all across the country.
Here’s a recent post from a nurse in LA published in Inside Sources:
“This doesn’t seem to be talked about at all… People are losing their shifts and paychecks and jobs,” the L.A. nurse wrote. “We only had 5 people in the whole ER when they sent me home. My agency sent out an email blast basically saying that there are a lot of people struggling to find shifts[TS2] .”
Or this one from Northern Virginia:
“As far as the amount of actual people in the ER, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a census this low three weeks in a row. Every shift is half empty.”
Or this one from Massachusetts:
“There are fewer people admitted to the hospital right now, so we’re able to move people out of the emergency department and into a bed very quickly if needed.”
This is happening all over the country.
Hospitals are sitting empty getting ready for the “surge.”
But hey, that’s what we’re gearing up for right? We need beds available for when the coronavirus gets out of control.
Unfortunately, the hospitals can’t take the wait.
By shutting down the economy and emptying the hospitals, we are actually bankrupting them.
According to The Wall Street Journal, hospitals are losing money right now at a pace that is unprecedented.
For instance, “St. Claire HealthCare in Kentucky is furloughing a quarter of its staff, and Appalachian Regional Healthcare is closing clinics and outpatient centers.”
In Pennsylvania, hospitals are losing $1.5-$2 BILLION PER MONTH because they are sitting idle[TS3] .
And YES, this is even true in New York:
Eastern Niagara Hospital’s CEO Anne McCaffrey explained last week: “For the last few weeks we’ve had [non-essential] employees not working to their full capacity, many of them not working at all, expecting there would be a need elsewhere in the hospital for them. Currently, we’re not experiencing a surge of Covid-19 patients.”
In short, by locking down the economy early, we’ve flattened the curve so much that we are actually destroying the very hospitals we need for the future.
But wait… I’m sure you are thinking “this is all in the name of saving lives. The hospital system would be so overwhelmed if we opened up the economy that it would be much worse. I’d rather the hospitals sit empty and lose money than be filled with dying coronavirus patients.”
And here’s where I tell you, if we opened up the economy, we would NOT see an overwhelming surge in coronavirus patients.
We would see many more, yes.
But we are talking about thousands not millions.
And here’s why…
Big Coronavirus Myth #3: 2% of People Who Get the Coronavirus Will Die
A growing body of evidence is now showing that MANY MANY times more people have had the coronavirus already than previously thought.
This is very important and it is GOOD NEWS for all of us as I’ll explain in a moment.
But first, the evidence.
As I said, testing is now showing much larger populations of people with antibodies to the virus, indicating that they have already been infected in the past.
For example, in the German town of Gangelt, an immunity study showed that 14% of the townsfolk are now immune to coronavirus[TS4] .
Previously, it was thought that only 1-2% of the town had been infected. And yet, this showed that 14 times that number had already been through it, almost all of them with no symptoms.
And here’s why that is important.
As MIT points out:
“Here’s why the true infection rate in a region matters: the bigger it is, the less pain still lies ahead. Eventually, when enough people are immune—maybe half to three-quarters of us—the virus won’t be able to spread further, a concept called herd immunity.”
So if 14% already have it rather than 1-2%… it means we are far closer to it being over.
And it also means that the virus is FAR LESS DEADLY than previously thought.
Again, from MIT:
“From the result of their blood survey, the German team estimated the death rate in the municipality at 0.37% overall, a figure significantly lower than what’s shown on a dashboard maintained by Johns Hopkins, where the death rate in Germany among reported cases is 2%.”
.37% is vastly different than 2%.
.37% is just slightly worse than a bad flu. 2% is devastating.
And this isn’t just one random study. These numbers are being confirmed in studies all over America.
For instance, a study in Santa Clara found that between 50 and 85 times MORE people have had coronavirus than previously thought[TS5] .
The cases in Santa Clara were thought to be only about 1,000, of which 60 had died. That’s a very scary death rate of 6%.
But this study shows that actually between 48,000 and 81,000 people had it at the time of the study.
As The Los Angeles Times Reports:
“Based on their results, the Stanford researchers estimated the mortality rate in Santa Clara County to be between 0.12% and 0.2%.”
.12% to .2%.
I should remind you, the death rate of the seasonal flu is about .1%.
So this is slightly elevated over that.
And the studies confirming this keep coming in…
The Boston Globe reports that a test of 200 random people walking in Chelsea found that 1/3 had already had coronavirus[TS6] .
One third! That’s almost all the way to herd immunity already!
Yet, it had been thought that only 2% of the community had coronavirus.
Another study by MIT of sewage in Massachusetts found that in an area with only 446 confirmed cases, the true number of cases could be over 100,000[TS7] .
In Boston, a homeless shelter tested every single person staying there. Of the 397 people, a stunning 146 came up positive[TS8] .
According to the shelter “Every one of these folks were asymptomatic. None of them had a fever, and none of them reported symptoms.”
Let me repeat that.
None of them were symptomatic.
That is why this thing is impossible to stop. So many people have it and don’t have symptoms, that the economic lockdown cannot and will not work.
It still will continue spreading, but in slow motion, because so many asymptomatic people still have it.
BUT, at the same time, the disease is so much less deadly than is being reported that if we open up everything, we will get through it much faster and with far less death than we previously were led to believe.
In short, the only reason you should advocate for a lockdown with these death rates is if you believe we should also lock down the entire economy during any bad flu season – a preposterous idea that nobody would want.
Here’s another big study just released from Los Angeles.
This one was done by Neeraj Sood, professor for USC’s Price School for Public Policy.
Again, they randomly tested people in Los Angeles County in an area that had roughly 8,000 reported cases and 500 deaths at the time – a scary death rate of around 6.25%.
But the testing showed that actually anywhere from 221,000 to 442,000 Los Angeles people already had coronavirus.
That brings the death rate down to between .11% and .22%.
Yet again, just slightly more deadly than seasonal flu.
Ok, so let’s recap what we know so far.
We know that this virus spreads easily, especially because so many people who have it don’t have symptoms. We also have a pretty good idea that the death rate is far lower than thought and that so many people have already had it that it’s likely unstoppable.
And yet, we still have a lot of people dying.
We still have doctors and nurses posting stories of seeing people die.
We shouldn’t just give up and let those people die, right?
I don’t believe we should. And in fact, I believe there is a way to limit the deaths while also not destroying the world economy.
We know for a fact that a very specific subset of the population is vulnerable to Covid-19 while almost all others are fine.
USA today reports that 86% of the people who died from this in New York had chronic disease[TS9] .
In Italy, Bloomberg reports that as many as 99% of deaths were people who had another illness[TS10] .
And the BBC says that in the UK 90% of those who are dying are people with chronic disease[TS11] .
In short, if we can limit the exposure to these people, we can minimize the deaths.
So here’s how we do that.
First, we quarantine people with chronic diseases. As a nation we put all our resources toward doing that effectively. We help these people with paying bills. We get them food. We gear all of our resources toward protecting them rather than shutting down everything.
At the same time, we fully open the economy for healthy people, especially those under 50.
Since we know that this can only end with herd immunity or a vaccine (which is more than a year away), opening up the economy fully to healthy young people will ensure we achieve herd immunity the fastest, especially when you consider the studies that show 50 times as many people have this as was previously thought.
Those studies prove that it will move fast and relatively safely through healthy populations.
This is key.
And in the end, the faster we reach herd immunity, the faster those vulnerable populations end up safer.
Because there will be fewer carriers who can pass it along to them once we burn the disease out by not having enough hosts for it.
As it is now, we are prolonging the infectious period where the virus is out there because right now, it is simply moving slowly through the population.
If we keep the lockdown going, it will make this dangerous period last far longer than it needs to.
It will also leave our hospitals sitting empty and potentially bankrupt, which leaves us less able to handle the patients when they actually come in.
AND, and this is where it truly does get scary, in the meantime, we will do irreversible damage to people’s lives and the economy.
Big Coronavirus Myth #4: We are Only Talking About Losing Money Rather Than People’s Lives
And by “economy,” I don’t just mean money.
There is a lot at stake.
Let’s start with the loss of life, since it is what’s most important.
We know for a fact that global poverty is closely tied to economic strength. And we also know that poverty leads to death, especially for children.
This is not just an idea.
A UN report just came out indicating that “hundreds of thousands of children” will die just this year alone due to the economic shutdown[TS12] .
Likewise Professor François Balloux, chair in computational biology at University College, London recently stated that the economic shutdown could kill more people than coronavirus itself.
“If you trash the economy you trash the health system and education – and if you trash the health system and education you trash life expectancy,” he said.
Those are real consequences you cannot and should not ignore.
Even if you hate Trump and think he only cares about money, you need to recognize that keeping the economy shutdown will lead to death. A LOT of it.
And that’s not even the half of the consequences coming if we continue this economic shutdown.
According to The Wall Street Journal, as defaults come in and companies go out of business, we will see a new debt crisis that will lead to disaster for some of the biggest employers in the world.
And as “they fall into default, the losses hit pensions, insurers, and scores of mutual funds and hedge funds[TS13] .”
These are the financial instruments retirees depend on to live. And they could be in big trouble.
At the same time, we could see a new housing crisis caused by defaults on mortgage debt.
The New York Times reports that a full 40% of tenants already are not paying rent as of March 31[TS14] .
Politico reports that the mortgage system could collapse if the Fed doesn’t step in.
But even then, it’s doubtful that Fed relief will keep the crisis at bay for long.
“Usually, a mortgage company can withstand a few borrowers failing to make payments, but the breadth of the coronavirus pandemic has sparked industry estimates of between 25 and 50 percent of borrowers being unable to pay.”
That’s devastating, people.
Of course, there are unemployment benefits to consider.
That will keep people from defaulting, right?
Well, for a short time yes.
But nowhere near long enough to get to a vaccine in over a year.
According to NBC News, nearly half of states don’t have the funds to pay unemployment benefits[TS15] .
Howard Gleckman, Senior Fellow at the Tax Policy Center had this to say:
“We’re talking about 10 million people filing for unemployment insurance in two weeks. Nobody is prepared for that,” he said. “That’s unprecedented.”
I wish it was only 10 million.
As CNBC reports, the Fed is now looking at potentially 47 million job losses and 32% unemployment[TS16] .
Keep in mind, the highest rate of unemployment in the United States EVER was 24.9% in 1933.
32% is catastrophic.
It will be so destructive on all Americans… and everyone across the globe.
We’re talking about major increases of all the diseases of despair… depression, alcohol use, homelessness, suicide, drug abuse, and yes poor health that leads to death.
Even the ultra-left Mother Jones has called the mental health crisis coming out of this a “slow motion disaster[TS17] .”
So here’s what I ask of all of you…
Knowing all of this…
Knowing that half the population will come in contact with coronavirus either sooner or later…
Knowing that the disease is likely far less deadly and far more widespread (meaning we can get to herd immunity faster)…
Knowing that our hospitals are actually sitting empty and potentially going bankrupt across the country now…
Knowing that the economic collapse ahead will lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths of children, millions out of work, homes lost, mental health destroyed…
Knowing all of that…
Can you not agree that we should end the lockdown now for all healthy people?
Can you not agree that we should quarantine only those most vulnerable and ensure everyone else gets back to work so we save our livelihoods?
Can you not agree that the protestors might just have a point that makes sense?
Again, if you disagree that is fine.
But please refute some of the facts respectfully. I’m happy to listen.
Alternatively, if you understand why I feel the way I do about re-opening the economy… please give myself and others that feel this way a bit more respect.
Stop with the shaming and scolding that people like me “don’t care about life.”
We all want what is best for people. It’s not that we are pissed our lives are inconvenienced. I am genuinely concerned that the economic and life destroying devastation from this will have been for nothing. And it will lead to far more destruction than the alternative path I’ve laid out.
I ask that you join me in fighting for the economy to be fully re-opened for people who are not at risk while we quarantine those who are vulnerable.
Let’s do this together and end this situation as soon as possible.
Todd Skousen is a Senior Writer and Member of the Executive Team of The Oxford Club, one of the longest running financial clubs in the country. He’s written over the past decade about a wide range of subjects including biotechnology, technological advancements, and macroeconomics. He cares deeply about the lives and livelihoods of all people.