COVID-19: The Cost of Doing Business

I am writing this over Easter weekend in 2020 (April 11-12). Today is my wife’s birthday, and tomorrow is Easter Sunday.

As I write this, the United States of America has 525,000 COVID-19 infections, and 20,223 deaths. Both are the highest totals in the world. The infections (525,000) are three times higher than the second-highest total in the world (Spain), and the death total is now higher than that of Italy.

The number of new infections in New York (where the U.S. infection total is highest) is starting to level off. That is good news, for sure. And there is some optimism as the daily U.S. case count starts to level off. But our reality is grim. The new case count in the United States yesterday was over 33,000. That means that (on average), those 33,000 people will each infect 3 more. And 1,500-3,000 of those 33,000 will be dead within the next month.

If you have read some of my recent COVID-19 essays (like “The Perfect Storm”, and “The Economic Impact”), you know that COVID-19 is not just a health crisis. It is also an economic crisis.

Two weeks ago, 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment. That was a record that was 5x higher than the next highest weekly total, which happened during the mortgage crisis. Last week, another 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment. This past Thursday, another 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment. That means that in the last three weeks, 16.5 million Americans filed for unemployment. And more are to follow.

That means that we went from a prosperous economy, right into a major recession, and we are just a few weeks away from The Second Great Depression.

Yesterday my friend Alan and I were talking about life in America. We both saw a news story about a pop-up food pantry in Van Nuys, California, that opened up with 2500 packages of food. Californians lined up in a line of cars more than 1 mile long for that free food. When I was young, I remember looking at photographs of Americans standing in line for food. I learned that we created programs so that would never happen again.

We cut those safety net programs, because some of us don’t like safety net programs. Now we have Americans lining up for food again, because we don’t like safety net programs.

So this is a health crisis, and this is an economic crisis.

Both of those crises are in conflict with each other. If we all stay in separate places, and have no contact with each other for eight weeks, the virus would run its course, and we could come out on June 1st, and the new cases would drop to almost zero. But the economy would continue to crash, and we don’t have an appetite for that. There are still eight states that don’t have “stay at home” orders in place. They have decided that their economies are more important than the lives of the people in their states.

If we all come out of our homes tomorrow, forget about COVID-19, and go back to our job settings (for those of us lucky enough to have jobs), shopping malls, grocery stores, houses of worship, sports stadiums and other social gatherings, the economy would quickly rebound. And so would the COVID-19 case counts, and the COVID-19 fatalities would spike up again about two weeks after that.

Unfortunately, the leadership of our country bungled the response to this virus. The President acted like the virus was a hoax for three months. Now there are 500,000 infections (three times more than any other country, and continuing to grow every day) and 20,000 deaths (more than any other country in the world), and the numbers worsen every day. That is not a “hoax”. It is a healthcare crisis and an economic crisis, and Americans are dying as a result.

For those who voted for the current leadership, this is the result of how you voted in 2016: Americans are dying and America sinks into the Second Great Depression.

While our leadership figures out what to do next, this is where we stand:

I suppose that is the cost of doing business in the United States.


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