The Week of Saturday, March 14 through Friday, March 20, 2020 [#35]
The Week’s Most Notable:
Here are some salient points that developed this week in the coronavirus crisis:
– Congress and the administration knew from intelligence reports in January that the coronavirus would become a major worldwide problem. Because of political considerations, Trump and the GOP chose not only to do no preparation, but also to mislead the public. Chief among the many points of misinformation, the lack of sufficient ability for coronavirus testing was not addressed for two months.
– The United States missed the opportunity to use information generated by coronavirus testing to do what South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore did – identify the infected population, isolate it, and treat it without totally disrupting the economy.
– Not only are coronavirus tests lacking but also mundane medical supplies such as masks, personal protection equipment (PPE), and ventilators are in short supply. All of this put added pressure on hospitals and medical personnel, at some point exceeding their ability to treat patients. The dark shadow of Italy, approaching 1,000 deaths a day, may be in the near future for the U.S.
– Although the administration announced we were in a “war” against the coronavirus, there was no evidence of the kind of massive, systematic mobilization needed to conduct such a war. It became clear throughout the week that the Trump government could not or would not take the lead in coordinating an effort, but instead insinuated that it was a job for state and local governments. This guarantees an inconsistent patchwork response, resulting in unnecessary illness and death.
– During the week it also became clear that the economic damage done by coronavirus mitigation (such as restriction of movement, large-scale quarantine, voluntary isolation, and even social distancing) would be worse than anyone imagined. Other than the death count, the pain caused by a major recession and massive unemployment could prove greater than that of the illness itself. This highlighted a terrible trade-off: without testing and analysis as a guide, the effort to save lives damages the economy.
– Governments worldwide struggle to comprehend the magnitude of the coronavirus disaster and the necessary response. While epidemic specialists repeatedly said over-responding was necessary, leaders and legislators continue to think in terms of traditional budgets and “proportional” responses. Characterize this as too little, too late.
– While nobody knows the exact future of the coronavirus crisis, it’s likely to continue for 6 to 18 months. During that time, it will alter many patterns of life as we know them, perhaps permanently. As one headline put it, “The new coronavirus economy: A gigantic experiment reshaping how we work and live.”
Saturday, March 14
[Coronavirus] House Passes Coronavirus Relief Bill – While the legislation boosts unemployment insurance, paid sick leave, and Medicaid support, its coverage is very limited especially in the context of the ever-widening coronavirus crisis. The bill is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by President Trump, soon to be followed by far more expansive (and expensive) bills.