The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Is America Going to Have a Covid-19 Apocalypse?

The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole

The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole

Covid is one of those disasters which tests whomever it happens to. Countries like Vietnam and Taiwan and even Germany stayed on top of it, or got ahead of it, and are doing fine. Those who mishandled it are taking some hard hits.

This isn’t primarily about deaths, though those are awful, it is about the mishandling of the economy. In Canada, there’s a benefit of $2,000 dollars per month for which most people who lost their jobs qualify. Other countries have done even better: freezing mortgage payments, rent, and so on, and organizing food delivery.

In the US, we have predictions of a 30 percent unemployment rate. I just saw that less than half of Los Angeles county still has a job.

The bailout for regular people is $1,200. In a place like Los Angeles, that won’t even cover most people’s rent.

There’s been a vast bailout, mainly–though not exclusively–through the Fed, for the rich. Basically, as much free money at the trough as they can gorge on.

But small businesses are toast. A third of households, at least, are on the verge of not just homelessness but not being able to eat.

Meanwhile we have a lovely display of typical US business incompetence. The US’s logistics system is a wonder of the world, but it was created in the 80s and 90s by people who are retired or dead now. Meat packing plants are shutting down because of multiple cases, truckers and warehouse workers are getting sick and scared. Farmers complain of problems getting workers. The price of beef for farmers has crashed through the floor, but they can’t get the animals to consumers.

Meanwhile, multiple states have not instituted isolation, and there are “protests,” backed by Republicans, to reopen states that have.

Not isolating nationally means there are pockets of plague which are still expanding exponentially, and which can reinfect the areas which did isolate. Coming out of isolation too soon will mean that cases will explode again a month to a month and a half after self-isolation ends.

The job issues mean trouble. People who can’t afford food become violent. Food riots bring down nations.

Assuming these storms are weathered, or that Americans are so beaten down they won’t riot even when starving, when the economy does re-open, many of the jobs will be gone. People who did not earn during the time down will still have to pay back-rent. At best, their spending is crippled, at worst they get evicted.

Many landlords will lose their property in any case, many small businesses will go bankrupt and never re-appear. The likely scenario, longer term “after” the Coronavirus is another ten-year depression, except this one is likely to be a deflationary depression: No one but the rich has money, and no one is spending.

But imagine the fairly standard scenario of multiple waves of coronavirus with multiple waves of self-isolation. No national policy, so some states stay open as others are closed. People in warehouses keep getting hit, logistics people get hit, migrant workers get hit or can’t even get into the country.

The system, already drawn tight to extract maximum profit and efficiency, starts breaking. Prices surge, there are actual shortages in many places.

This is some months out, I’d guess, although this is the sort of scenario that goes from “eh, it’s OK” to BOOM very, very fast when it does go.

The US is fragile. The choice to not freeze mortgages, rent, interest payments and so on, and to not bail out ordinary people as I instructed is going to explain to the rich that it is everyone else who makes the actual economy run.

There is a real economy, Virginia, and if it freezes up, there will be hell to pay. Logistics workers need PPE and they need them now. Freezes of rent, mortgages, interest payments, and so on, need to be done now. If a complete idiot wasn’t running the country, taking national control of when states close and reopen should happen now. I would suggest that if Americans don’t want their country in a new great depression, that they find a way to depose Trump now, and if Pence won’t be competent, ditch him too.

There is a chance that the US will fumble through, as governors and mayors who aren’t complete incompetents (and the rare, actual competent governor, which doesn’t include New York’s Cuomo), plus the rare competent CEOs, manage to hold thing together–barely.

But right now, this is looking like an epic clusterfuck.

Remember, however, when the riots come, if they do, if you won’t just die quietly for the peace of your masters, to go to where they live, or where the Fed employees live, and riot there. Explain to them about what people do to fat, happy, rich people when they can’t eat.

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April 17th US Covid Data


Open Thread


  1. nihil obstet

    I’d prefer an honest, competent leader, but this is about an entire class of sadistic boobs. We have focused too much on trying to get a leader who will take the right actions. I’d be arguing strongly for active takeover of goods and services by workers and people if it weren’t for arguing that more people put themselves in contagious situations. Since many of them are there anyway, it might be worth arguing for, to prevent what looks like violence coming.

  2. Stirling S Newberry

    Right now, as opposed to later, the decision is “How many people are going to die to prop up the rich?” There are some who will want to sacrifice more, but everyone has to make a choice. The problem is that the better you ran things, the better off you are. While China is still under-estimating the death tolls, they are still better of the France, UK, and the US. Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have done well, Germany is OK.

    The larger issue is how do you dispose of a religion, which masquerades as a philosophy? It wants to do everything wrong. Starting with putting up two buffoons for the President in Charge of Running the Printing Presses.

  3. Jerry Brown

    Thanks for all the good news. At least you didn’t announce that all the nuclear power plants will melt down.

    It is difficult to argue that the leader of the US is not an idiot- but there are many, many millions of very competent people that live here in the US and we will pull through this. Most of us aren’t idiots most of the time.

    On the brighter side of things- there are some optimistic reports about treatments for covid19. My skills are not such that I could really examine them and evaluate them properly. Perhaps the person who provides your stat chart on the virus might be able to.

  4. Drought. Drought today, guvna’. Mega-drought, the worst in twelve hundred years. You might have heard about it, it was all over the news. Here, I clipped a bitfrom The Times… the LA Times:

    Western U.S. ‘megadrought’ the worst in centuries …

    ~ A two-decade-long dry spell that has parched much of the western United States is turning into one of the deepest “megadroughts” the region has experienced in more than 1,200 years, a new study found.

    And about half of this historic drought can be blamed on man-made global warming, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

    Researchers focused on a nine-state area from Oregon and Wyoming down through California and New Mexico, plus a sliver of southwestern Montana and parts of northern Mexico. They used thousands of tree rings to compare a drought that started in 2000 and is still going (despite a wet 2019) to four previous megadroughts since the year 800. ~

    Let me know when you figure out how to drink oil.

    And, ahhh, there’s still seven and a half, ten in a generation, billion people on an irreparably resource depleted ball of rock enveloped by an increasingly hostile, increasingly toxic atmosphere that can barely sustain one.

  5. Arthur

    What we are seeing is the very beginning of the breakup of the US. What it will look like and how long it will take is anyone’s guess.

  6. prodigalson

    Jerry, seriously. We\’ve got 700k cases, hundreds of thousands if not more who are still actively contagious, and community spread going on strong in states that never really shut down. At the same time the country has decided to pretend the virus doesn\’t exist and is racing to reopen as fast as possible.

    This is like your house catching fire, calling 9/11, waiting outside while the fire is still raging, then going back in your house to watch TV while it\’s still burning down around you instead of waiting outside.

    America is choking to death on its own cultural mythology, ideology, and false and misplace optimism.

  7. Zachary Smith


    Is America Going to Have A Covid-19 Apocalypse?

    My Answer: Probably.

    In fact, I fear Mr. Welsh could be overly optimistic with this piece. Under the present circumstances, “opening” the economy isn’t going to do anything except feed the Pandemic.

    That story about the firing of the Captain of the USS Roosevelt is having some unexpected side effects. Because every sailor aboard was tested, they’ve learned how roughly 60 percent of the over 600 sailors who tested positive so far have not shown symptoms of COVID-19, the potentially lethal respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. In other words, a high percentage of these mostly young adults were walking around shedding viruses with every breath they took. But no symptoms! In ordinary circumstances the young “healthy” guys and gals would not have been tested at all. These findings have some major implications for those of us who might be tempted to resume “normal” life. Wishful thinking isn’t the way to go back to the good old days. We need some other things before that happens.

    1. A working vaccine is going to be a lot harder to make than anyone expects – the virus mutates and even one which seems to work may have ugly side effects.

    2. There may be a good and effective treatment which results from all the work being done around the world, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    3. A cheap and fast test for the virus could happen. But not yet in the US!

    Returning to the good old days of last November is probably not a good idea unless either 1), 2), or 3) happens. I propose to stay “hunkered down” for as long as necessary.

    BTW, kids might be even worse carriers than the young asymptomatic adults. I’ve not yet heard much about them – probably because not enough children have been tested to get reliable numbers.

    So why are the crazies making all the noise about the “unconstitutional” lockdowns? One reason might be that they are even more stupid than normally thought possible. Another is that a certain subsection of The Powers That Be needs more death and disaster to advance its own agendas.

    I once read how a GOPer of the Nixon era said that if the Republicans tore the US apart, he believed they could pick up the biggest pieces. (Can’t find that now, so I may have imagined it.) The Super Rich have unbelievable amounts of money. Buying up bankrupt businesses for pennies on the dollar would be very good business for them. Ditto for any other tangible property like Farms and Homes. And everything else.

    Day before yesterday I got my Property Tax bill. How many of the unemployed will be able to pay that – if every dime they have is going towards food? Tax Sales will be another wonderful Rich People opportunity.

    The Super Rich might also plan to use social chaos to reorganize Government more to their liking. Say, set up a “Juan Guido” type of puppet who promises Justice! My history book says Hitler was initially funded by characters with this kind of ambition.

    Living in a chaotic US resembling the USSR when it fell apart wasn’t something I could imagine even six months ago. Government by Greedy Incompetent Morons may yet cause something like that to happen here. And I’m not talking about just the Trumpies when speaking of those GIMs, for the DNC and other Democrats have supported Trump every step of the way since 2017. Even now they have a near-senile possible rapist and for-sure jackass as the 2020 Nominee.

  8. Astrid

    I will say that I will be desperately looking into emigration after this. This is something we’ve debated about for ages, but family and moderately successful nontransferrable PMC jobs have kept us here.

    But staying in a failed state is a bad idea. And Murika is going failed state, full stop. I’m currently watching Brockmire and it’s a likely scenario for 2030s USA.

    And is anyone in the future, assuming human civilization keeps it going for another 100 or more years, going to miss it? This is a country founded on unintentional genocide, expanded upon by slavery and intentional genocide, and declared independence to cheat on their taxes and for opportunities to commit more genocide. And it’s track record in the 21st century is just doing the same things on a global scale. Is anyone, other than Israel, going to say anything other than good riddance?

  9. I think Trump could mostly luck in, in terms of the final death rate, by basically:

    1) protecting the most vulnerable populations (at least the 75+ year olds; those with co-morbidities even younger) via quarantine/self-quarantine, and extensive testing of care-givers
    2) giving hydroxychloroquine, azythromycin to the overwhelming majority of people who get the disease EARLY in the process (before cytokine storm kicks in), following the same sort of precautions (including EKG) as observed by Raoult in his largish (> 1,000) study
    3) providing adequate testing for front line medical workers; also adequate PPE

    Note that 2) implies ample testing, not just 3). Can Trump deliver adequate tests for 2) and 3) BEFORE whatever date he plans to “reopen” the economy? I don’t have great faith in his crisis leadership skills, nor the fact that he’s allowed his son-in-law to be a key decision maker – and who I think is a mega-grifter. I think it’s more likely than not that Trump would screw up, if he did not have SOME key, competent people under him.

    In fact, I think Pence understands what is necessary, and is not blatantly corrupt (as opposed to ideologically blinded), so will try and get helpful goals accomplished, even as he’s also surrounded by the Jared Kushner’s making decisions against the public interest (allowing, or at least excusing, states to bid against each other), and the Fauci’s bad mouthing things like hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin. (Despite a sermo poll of over 6,000 doctors, from around the world, which found a plurality calling hydroxychloroquine “most effective” against covid-19)

    So, I think it will come down to Pence (and probably a few other less selfish officials) and if Trump follows his advice, or not. To that end, if would help if Pence started making a public case for this sort of “protect the most vulnerable, but don’t kill the economy” strategy, starting from now.

    I don’t have a link, handy, but “statistical genius” Professor John Ioannidis was asked about an optimal strategy for dealing with the virus, and he gave a somewhat similar answer. He said nothing about hydroxychloroquine, and emphasized that we still don’t have adequate data to make an optimal decision, but indicated that he’d probably go with a “protect the weakest”, but keep the economy (mostly) open strategy. One thing that really impressed me about Ioannidis is that he was quite humble in his answer. He was less sure of it than I am, but he is the expert, and a “statistical genius”, to boot, unlike me.

    Trump will not mostly luck in, with respect to the economy, because, well, he didn’t follow enough of your economic suggestions, like a freeze on rents. I think this speaks to not just his stupidity, but also to the fact that he outsources his decision to a lot of plutocratically-inclined Republicans, as we saw with his empty promise of “repealing Obamacare, and replacing it with something better”. He outsourced this to Republican swamp creatures, who were also devoid of “something better”, even though they had been moaning about this for 9 years.

    While I also think Pence MIGHT also make better decisions about these economy-preserving sorts of things than have already occurred, I’m not so sure that the damage already done is not extensive enough as to make impossible Trump’s bluster about the “economy roaring back”

    There was a fairly good segment I heard today on ‘The Hill’ youtube channel called “Krystal Ball: Exposing Trump’s phony populism, no friend of workers”, which dealt with Trump’s inadequacies that make him incapable of an optimal response to the pandemic, viz., “Krystal Ball: Exposing Trump’s phony populism, no friend of workers”

  10. jessica

    The problem with relying on governors as well as mayors, and yes some have been acting more responsibly than Trump, and for that we are all grateful, is that they are in a world of hurt economically, sales revenue and income taxes collapsing. So Trump wants to open up the country without even adequate testing and send millions to their deaths with the Trump death cult cheering all the way. Into the valley of death they rode … However at some point it might look tempting to even the better governors too, just because of what is happening economically to state and local revenue. And the Fed and the Fed gov no help at all in an economic crisis.

    I’m not sure you can do it in a pandemic and a collapse but some kind of monetary sovereignty at the state level is starting to make sense, yes I’m talking succession in a sense, maybe this could be accomplished via state banks, I don’t know. States capable of even a moderate amount of rational decision making need to get out under the cult of Trump. However, I’m not sure it can be done right now.

    The thing is even with opening the economy up, even though it will increase deaths, people may not do anything more than they are required to to survive, because who really wants to die so a restaurant or a gym can have customers. So the economy continues to collapse anyway.

    The bailout to many is greater than $1200, it’s expanded unemployment, which is enough to live off of, even in Los Angeles, it is a true UBI, however that is only for four months.

  11. Guest

    Why are you so fixated on waves of covid, unless you think there will be little immunity?
    It will run its course, sooner and with more damage under the right wing scheme. So I’m little bit agnostic on that. It’s only a few percent of us, and it’s not like those of us who croak will miss out on some utopia waiting at the other side of the epidemic.
    But on the social political and economic side we are truly fucked. Not so much due to trump, IMO, as to the utter lack of alternatives to him. Pelosi is apparently the human embodiment of vacuity. Talenti gelato brain freeze. The rest of the dem leadership and followership aren’t much better. My nice elderly neighbor just told me Speaker Antoinette is coming out as the real hero in this crisis. There is almost no opposition in the US and what there is is stupid and incoherent. Such as the tweetI Ian Welsh just retweeted of someone who suggests protests or riots in the neighborhoods of govt employees, as if there are such neighborhoods. God forbid he take on the politicians’gated communities. That takes cojones. Much easier to threaten civil servants who are somehow responsible to make the politicians behave, the ones that you elect by comfortable margins. The same people politicians use as whipping boys who will soon get crushed by austerity budgets. Won’t help, Hope that makes you feel better.

  12. terrorist lieberal

    Now for the good news, just received an e-mail from Bernie asking I donate to DNC Unity Fund, how’s that for sheep dogging, lol !!!

  13. Mark Pontin

    ‘Is America Going to Have A Covid-19 Apocalypse?’

    Is rain wet?

    ‘Apocalypse’ is too strong word, as COV19 isn’t that lethal a pathogen. Nevertheless, every terminally stupid lie that Americans have ever told themselves and their rulers have ever propagandized them to believe will now lead to the worst possible choices — and non-choices — being made at almost every step in the months and years to come.

    And in the end the outcome in the U.S. — the number of deaths, the extent of the economic and social collapse, the civil conflict, the chaos and ruin — will be out of all proportion to the actual threat that the pandemic presented, and America, having handled it worse than the most vulnerable African country, will be recognized as the truly exceptional nation.

  14. Mark Pontin

    Guest wrote: “It will run its course, sooner and with more damage under the right wing scheme. So I’m little bit agnostic on that. It’s only a few percent of us.”

    See, this is the sort of thing I mean about Americans making the worst possible choices. There’s something that people aren’t paying attention to currently because (a) there isn’t much data yet and (b) most people are stupid and don’t want to think about it.

    And that is what condition those 20 percent of COV19 cases who need critical care and then survive will be in.

    From the very few early studies that I’ve seen, the pulmonary, cardiac, kidney and immune system damage among those survivors is such that it’s possible that 30 percent will be too sick to ever rejoin the workforce again.

    In other words, those who’ll have to be maintained on permanent welfare as a result of COV19 for the rest of their lives may conceivably outnumber those who die outright.

  15. bruce wilder

    the utter lack of alternatives . . . the dem leadership and followership aren’t . . . There is almost no opposition in the US and what there is is stupid and incoherent.


    Atrios: The unwillingness of the Dems to go after obvious and easy to understand Trump corruption does not suggest anything good.

    The popularity of Andrew Cuomo, who is malevolent, is proof of something rotten.

  16. Jerry Brown

    Not sure about the comments protocol here but if this gets through at least most people found it humorous.

    Just a speech delivered in a less severe time frame. When the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor. It remains one of my favorite movies of all time.

  17. capelin

    ” I don’t have a link, handy, but “statistical genius” Professor John Ioannidis was asked about an optimal strategy for dealing with the virus, and he gave a somewhat similar answer. He said nothing about hydroxychloroquine, and emphasized that we still don’t have adequate data to make an optimal decision, but indicated that he’d probably go with a “protect the weakest”, but keep the economy (mostly) open strategy. One thing that really impressed me about Ioannidis is that he was quite humble in his answer. He was less sure of it than I am, but he is the expert, and a “statistical genius”, to boot, unlike me.”

    Perspectives on the Pandemic | Dr John Ioannidis of Stanford University | Interview”

    The best interview, EVER, of a scientist on covid-19 and public policy is on youtube:

    about a month old, and excellent. a bit more recent,

    Population-level COVID-19 mortality risk for non-elderly individuals overall and for non-elderly individuals without underlying diseases in pandemic epicenters

  18. Hugh

    The problem is that there has been no US response to the coronavirus. Various parts of the federal government have been doing various things. Ditto some of the states and cities. The Fed has been shoveling out trillions to bail out billionaires. Trump has been doing his weird incoherent daily pressers to make it look like he is doing something. And Congress has been passing bills now and then for the same reason. But there is no plan, no explanation to give the American people.

    A plan does not have to be complex rather just a series of commitments. We will mobilize the resources of this country to take care of all the sick and bury the dead, to test the whole population and keep testing it as needed, to develop and distribute a vaccine as quickly as possible, and we will cover the costs of all these things. If you are deemed unessential and not working or a small business and not open, we will guarantee your wages and freeze your mortgage, rent, student loan, and car payments for the duration. And if you are essential, then you will get these things, an increase in pay, and free PPE.

    That’s a plan. The current programs with their multi-hundred billion dollar price tags are just examples of throwing money in the general direction of a problem rather than solving and resolving it. That is solution first and pay the cost of that solution second. Not pay some money and hope that solves, partly solves, kind of solves the problem. People want to know they will be taken care of, not that there is a government program somewhere along with several others with plenty of hoops to jump through to qualify for, and may or may not keep you afloat –for a while.

  19. Ioannidis will have an interview posted this weekend:

    Perspectives on the Pandemic


    Our highly requested follow-up interview with Dr. John Ioannidis of
    will be live this weekend. Hear him talk about how the data around the #CoronavirusPandemic
    has evolved, if #COVID19 testing is reliable, and more.

    Stay tuned!

  20. Zachary Smith

    Professor John P.A. Ioannidis strikes me as a cold-blooded fellow. From Page 3:

    People <65 years old and not having any underlying predisposing conditions accounted for only 0.3%, 0.7%, and 1.8% of all COVID-19 deaths in Netherlands, Italy, and New York City.

    In other words, if you’re under 65, you’re OK. Later on:
    It is important to study in more detail the socioeconomic profile of the COVID-19 victims, but preliminary data show that deaths cluster in areas with high levels of poverty and underprivileged populations.
    The poor people get hit hard, but whose fault is that? Why don’t they get themselves a good job and become not-poor?

    Needless to say, not very many Rich Old People are going to be victims – not after they’ve become aware of the risks to themselves.

    So let’s open up the country. Almost all the deaths will be among the groups we’ll miss the least. The obese Poors who are in bad health on account of eating the only food they can afford – the cheap high-fat high-sugar stuff. Because they’ve neglected their “underlying” health issues on account of the extreme expense of American Health Care, that’s another reason they’re more at risk. Tough! Greed Is Good in the Most Exceptional Nation. Jesus was just kidding with that Sermon on the Mount stuff.

    It’s a shame about the Olds, but what the hell? Haven’t they lived most of their lives? Their deaths will mean such heirs as they have will get an early bonus, so nobody except possibly themselves will really be saddened at their slightly premature passing.

  21. @capelin


    “Individuals with age <65 account for 5%-9% of all COVID-19 deaths in the 8 European epicenters, and approach 30% in three US hotbed locations. People <65 years old had 34- to 73-fold lower risk than those ≥65 years old in the European countries and 13- to 15-fold lower risk in New York City, Louisiana and Michigan."

    To me, it's sort of obvious from the above that, taking a worst case scenario (in the case of the US):

    Quarantine and self-quarantine everybody 65+. That immediately cuts the covid19 mortality risk to (1/13) * FUDGE_FACTOR (of previous, all-ages measure). FUDGE_FACTOR won't equal 1, because the quarantines and self-quarantines will leak. I'll guesstimate 1.15 is reasonable.* This means we can cut covid death risk to 8.8% of the previous value, which I will also guess is more than enough to prevent medical facilities from being overwhelmed.

    But, wait! There's more!

    The largish study by Raoult, with over 1,000 patients, showed that when hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin was given EARLY, the net fatalities were only .47% (= 5 patients, the youngest of which was 74, though "poor outcomes" comprised 4.3%, and the rest of the baddies required 10 days of hospitalization, or more.)

    91.7% obtained a "good clinical outcome and virological cure…within 10 days".

    So, sticking with the apples to apples of fatalities, we should be able cut covid deaths to something like (1/13) 1.15 (1 – .995) = .04%, by protecting seniors + early dosing with HCQ + AZM.

    Of course, with adequate testing of care-givers, you could cut the leaking of the quarantined seniors, further.

    Assuming these numbers are reasonable, I believe we can still count on the incompetent Trump administration NOT to make this argument, because they stink at honest propaganda, also. Those people who hate Trump, above all else, should be glad that he and his team also has this incompetency. They may pay with their livelihoods, and/or the livelihoods of their children, or other people that they care about, but hatred can be as blind as romantic love, no?

    Having said all that, I'm dying to hear what Ioannidis says, this weekend.

    * I saw a graph about 3 days ago that divided new cases, in the US, by # of tests, and it was practically flat. So, between all of the social distancing, plus some largish, but largely unknown % of Americans already post-infection, has mostly stopped the spread of the virus.

  22. Jerry Brown

    Thinking I want to vote for Hugh.

  23. Mallam

    This is an incorrect comparison to Canada’s response:

    “The bailout for regular people is $1,200. In a place like Los Angeles, that won’t even cover many people’s rent.”

    If you’re unemployed and you normally make $12/hour, the unemployment system has been reformed to pay greater than your job’s wages to tune of about $3600/month (in Washington State as an example). By contrast, Representative Jayapal’s “Paycheck Guarantee” proposal would be about $2750/month, and her proposal is the best one currently that I’ve seen. Both would be more generous than what Canada has implemented, particularly for those who are in service industry and can’t work.

    The problem, really, isn’t the benefits themselves, but that there is not enough state capacity to handle the surge in filings and government has been drowned into the bathtub. Increasing the number probably wouldn’t change this, it’s a matter of figuring out how to get money to people. Not sure it can be done on the fly, but they’d better figure it out soon.

  24. Eric Anderson

    Dispatch from the hinterlands:

    My little rural hamlet is losing it’s mind.
    Gun toting flag waving “patriots” on main street waving and carrying on like they’re at the Macy’s parade.
    Golf course opened today and it was filled to the brim with people carrying on and partying.
    Someone hung a homemade sign over a billboard near the entrance to town saying how this is a Trump County and if you don’t like it leave.
    None of the essential businesses that are open are providing PPE and the employees are obviously not happy about it. Most are owned by religious nuts. God will protect them.
    Churches convening all over the place.
    Governor has a fairly extensive lock down order, but cops are complicit (intimidated/both) with the locals and enforce nothing.
    Local hospital stuck together by duct tape and bubble gum.

    It’s going to devastate this tin-foil hat County when it hits.

  25. @Eric Anderson

    “It’s going to devastate this tin-foil hat County when it hits.”

    No, actually, it is not. It may devastate your senior population, and therefore it may create a crisis in your local hospitals, but that’s not the same as devastating your local population, en masse.

    I just heard a replay of the latest Tucker Carlson show, and he had on a guest that did a large (presumably random) sampling of covid19 exposure in Santa Clara County. They tested 3,300 people, and found that 2.5% to 4.2% tested positive for antibodies. from this, they extrapolated that the infection rate could be 50-85 times higher than believed.

    From this, the reporter (Trace Gallagher) stated that, applied to NY (he didn’t say NYC), that means 11 million could be infected. (Also, 3 million in NJ).

    As NY has a population of 20 million, this means over 50% infected. While I find that plausible, I’m puzzled as to how one could go from 4.2% to 50%. I assume that they are considering NY to be so many weeks ahead of Santa Clara; and/or, the population density of NYC figures into it, and skews things this way. Note that NJ has a population of 9 million, so the infection rate is estimated at 1/3.

    Gallagher did make the fair point that we don’t know how much, and for how long, immunity is conferred via having the antibodies.

  26. Jerry Brown

    Metamars- would you be referring to this?-

    Warning there are a LOT of numbers in this and don’t scroll down to the increased general death rates in Italy if you have anxiety issues like me.

    I’m as scared as the rest of you at times but don’t see how actively trying to get everyone panicked helps things much. I assume if someone is reading this blog then they also read the news. Maybe that is wrong though.

  27. NR


    Keep in mind that there is a big, big difference between “asymptomatic” and “pre-symptomatic.”

  28. KT Chong

    Americans have themselves to blame. Why don’t they hit the streets and protest and riot? In large scales and all over the country?

    Well, then they partly have themselves to blame.

  29. Jerry Brown

    Oh KT Chong- we will find someone to blame- that is for sure.
    I’ll give the rest of your comment what is called a ‘Bronx cheer’. Look it up if you don’t understand.

  30. [still trying to chuckle like Jabba the Hutt] No fear, guvna’.

    Fear is the mind-killer. The little-death that brings total obliteration.

    It is said that caution is the better part of valor; that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Given all that we know about it – it doesn’t come from space – a degree of caution, indeed perhaps even a certain over abundance of caution, is not to much to ask. Really, too, when you pause, when you stop and think about it, whither it came from bats or bacteria thawing out of the glaciers and tundra or an insecure bioweapons lab in southeastern Ohio is moot, in the generally accepted vernacular – it doesn’t matter where it came from, it is here. Culling the herd.

    Nothing to be afraid of. I have often commented here that it is not necessarily ‘the strong’ who will survive; it should be obvious why the weak minded, the fearful do not, will not. In the end, within the next couple years, we will develop herd immunity, just as we have previous novel viruses. A few will not. The question is how many, and how quickly, culls are we willing to have die to get there. It’s natural selection, survival of the fittest.

    Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

    Tucker Carlson is not news. Tucker Carlson is NAZI propaganda.

  31. Jerry Brown

    No Ten Bears. Your outlook is far too bleak and painful for me and I want MY government to at least attempt to mitigate that. I’m not very worried about my own health- Stats say I’m more than 99% likely to survive if I get it. But I have a lot of older relatives and friends who are not necessarily in the best of health to begin with and I don’t want to lose them to this is the point.

    In case you were calling me Govna, well not that Jerry Brown but certainly don’t mind the title. But in any case – I do not think of people as ‘herds’ or want to consider how they may be ‘culled’ by the virus.

    But fear can be a force in and of itself. So I think I agree with you there.

  32. @Jerry Brown

    Your link strikes me as a potentially well done refutation, so thanks for posting. A weakness of it, though, is that the author pooh-poohed the idea of rapid contagiousness, but didn’t quantify that. I thought that, by now, it’s a given that rapid contagiousness is a fact….. , certainly compared to flu. So, the plausibility of implied rapid contagion could/should be inferred (I believe), and compared to quantification of what is likely contagiousness in other studies.

    I am also wondering about:
    “Naively, getting 2 false positives out of 401 total and extrapolating to the sample population of 3330 would mean 2/401 * 3330 = 16.6 false positives out of the 50 total reported positives. That would mean fully 1/3 of the reported positives could be false positives.”

    This is, indeed, naive. And so I have to wonder why the author would even bother mentioning it…

    Also, ignoring the part about a Poisson distribution being more realistic, if you consider the downside of working with a plus 2 sigma of false positives (I mean downside with respect to the conclusion), shouldn’t you also mention the ‘upside’ of a minus 2 sigma value for false positives, also? I.e., in this case, that both false positives are themselves false.

    Another, possibly far more significant consideration (note: I don’t completely follow the details of the paper) is under-counting positives; i.e., the existence of multiple false false negatives. We read of 85 samples with positive IgM, of which 78 were kit-positive. So, they have missed at least 7 positives with the kit. I’m not sure if these were subsequently included in the final tally, or not. If not, these alone would cancel out ” 6/401 (for a false positive rate of 1.5%”.

    BTW, the Lombardy graph seems problematic, also, but in the direction of insufficient blame assigned to covid-19. (OTOH, I believe it’s known that northern Italy is an outlier, in terms of covid-19 fatalities. They were evidently transmitting a lot of covid19 through their hospitals.)

  33. Stirling S Newberry

    No, Jerry, the statistics say that you believe you will have a 1% mortality rate but you will not know what that means. There is a large difference.

    Right now The President is counting on that.

  34. Stirling S Newberry

    “Tucker Carlson is not news. Tucker Carlson is NAZI propaganda.”

    No, he does not have the craziness. The is ours, homegrown.

  35. highrpm

    “The obese Poors who are in bad health on account of eating the only food they can afford – the cheap high-fat high-sugar stuff. ”

    gotta disagree. when shopping at the local wal-mart, the cheapest is produce. the bigger hits are
    the processed food. which i gotta have for emotional eating, salve for a meaningless life. (geez, if i had the constitution to stick to the produce and oatmeal, i save a $5-$10 every shopping trip.)

  36. Ché Pasa

    Apocalypse Now? Sure, why not? We’ve been in a rolling apocalypse for decades, one massive shock after another, with a guarantee of more, much more to come. The Apocalyptic vision is part of the DNA of the USA — as well as most of the English-speaking world — and no matter when this virus is tamed or goes away, the vision of apocalypse will remain.

    Of course our rulers are doing things wrong. It’s all they know. Not one of Our Betters has shown the least ability to formulate and act on a plan for or vision of a better way. Not one. Oh yes, I know, certain efforts are better than others in an immediate context. But from appearances, “30,000 ft” as some wags are wont too say, they are all pivoting around maximizing illness, death and despair in pursuit of some mythical “herd immunity,” letting the virus run, sometimes slowly, sometimes not, but none of them intentionally stopping the spread and its consequences.

    This inability to envision anything better unless it immediately and massively benefits the ruling class leaves the rest of us prey to whatever comes, be it disease, economic collapse, environmental catastrophe and global warming or what have you, with no escape and no real protection.

    Understand, this is policy. It’s not an accident. It’s quite deliberate, cynical, and disruptive. Intentionally.

  37. Mallam

    As someone who has had COVID19, no, you do not fucking want it or take a chance that you’ll be the one to survive. My case is/was “mild”, and it’s the scariest shit I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t even have a fever that lasted long, but the inability to breathe with a constant pain in the chest for four weeks straight leaves you with dangerously low oxygen levels (my monitor said 70-80% O2 levels). Under normal circumstances that should mean you’re put on oxygen, but my case was mild enough and I’m young enough that I was recommended to stay home and avoid the hospital. I’m on week 5 and only now have I been able to breathe normally. But I still get winded just from talking/walking up stairs. And this was “mild”.

  38. nihil obstet

    What produce are you talking about? Potatoes, cabbage, and onions are pretty cheap, but after that, eating fresh produce seems to be more expensive than prepared foods, much of it substantially so. And for the poor, food prep is a problem. It takes time (30 minutes prep time is considered “almost instant”) and equipment, neither of which are easily available to someone who works on their feet for eight hours a day plus a substantial commute and trying to rear children.

  39. Aqua Lung

    They’re going to force America open when seemingly no one, and I mean no one, except maybe a few, know what this really is and the potential implications of it. Raise you hand if you’ve seen a laboratory sample of this extracted from the blood of someone who tested positive? All these experts are speaking to something they haven’t seen and analyzed. They’re just winging their analysis based on second-hand information that may indeed be misinformation.

    The first line responders, the ER healthcare workers, have no clue on how to treat this. They claim it’s a corona virus but in its effects it’s not like any corona virus they have encountered heretofore. It is NOVEL in every conceivable way. Other worldly, in fact.

    Considering that, a return to “normalcy” is a bad joke. You can’t return to “normal” when everyone is feeling around in the dark as far as this pandemic is concerned. Nobody knows and the most nightmarish part of it is, we may never know. Wrap your head around that. We may never know. This may be the new normal and if so, it is surely an apocalypse.

    I mean, sh*t, this may as well be an alien invasion because the effect is eerily similar.

    It has exposed the fragility of systems. Think of the pandemic as an earthquake. An earthquake tests the resiliency of infrastructure. As such, America’s resiliency in the face of this metaphorical earthquake is that of Haiti’s in the face of a devastating earthquake. China’s resiliency in the face of this metaphorical earthquake is that of Japan’s resiliency in the face of a devastating earthquake. America is crumbling in the face of this and China is rocked but still standing and intact.

    Will America end up nuking China over this? If Trump remains in office, the probability is high and it’s a strong possibility. Trump and the cabal using him as a foil are this f*cking batsh*t crazy. China, if it’s smart and we know it is, should be preparing for that eventuality. Trump and the cabal using him as a foil have proven they are mass murderers. They are indeed psychopathic criminals who are capable of ANYTHING.

  40. bruce wilder

    Che Pasa:
    “Of course our rulers are doing things wrong. It’s all they know. Not one of Our Betters has shown the least ability to formulate and act on a plan for or vision of a better way. Not one. . . This inability to envision anything better unless it immediately and massively benefits the ruling class leaves the rest of us prey to whatever comes, be it disease, economic collapse, environmental catastrophe and global warming or what have you, with no escape and no real protection.”

    Atrios: “We can’t separate the marks from the con men anymore because they’re all fucking idiots.”

  41. krake

    @ mallam

    Luck, and the old gods’ glare turned away from you.


    The level of schmaltz and corporate self-congratulation may kill us all long, long before this latest pestilence.

  42. Willy

    From my own limited perspective, there’s a cultural value that’s been broken. I see it all the time in my own little meatspace world. Not to everybody, but seemingly to most. It’s something along the lines of “the ability to measure integrity” or “caring about real social value”, which seems to happen when selfishness becomes the most respected social value.

    I think this “thing” is best illustrated by the story of the Western Roman emperor Honorius after the first sacking of Rome. He’s said to have panicked after being told that “Rome has perished”, but calmed down when it turned out to be the city instead of his beloved chicken also named Rome.

    Maybe there needs to be a catchy name for such a thing.

  43. S Brennan

    Mallam, I hope you recover fully. I had sepsis/pneumonia just over 1-1/2 years ago, I was a couple hours from death, it took four months to recover enough to get back to something that approaches “normal”. In my case, convid-14 would likely prove fatal due to my body’s overreaction to infection…ie..sepsis, which is what is killing a substantial number of the victims. Good luck in your recovery.

    BTW, I think Tucker Carlson and Trump are absolutely wrong to be talking about reopening the economy before we have some effective treatments that keep people from reaching the state where they need critical care. Those treatments are in the works and are based on prior experience with viral infection, we have to show patience on the matter.

    Having said that, all criticism of Trump’s policy is made moot by the cacophony of 24/7/365 criticism over the last four years. The current state of affairs in this crisis, where everything is seen purely through political zero sum gamesmanship, where everybody is arguing about who gets to be called captain…just before the ship sinks beneath the waves..makes a room full of unruly preschoolers look like..cultured sophisticates.

  44. Mark Pontin

    @ Mallam —

    Thanks for your input re. your personal experience.

  45. Eric Anderson

    Devastate can mean a lot of things. I get the fatality rate. What it is going to do is rip though a very old and and extremely unprepared population (as is true in most rural counties). It will devastate the retirement home and the hospital. It’ll devastate the small business owners. It will devastate the employment rate. And in these rural counties that are already barely hanging on by a shoestring, taken together, yes, it’s going to be devastating.

  46. anon

    Who are the competent governors?

  47. Ten Bears

    Luck, old gods and ethnicity are man-made constructs.

  48. krake

    …so is the internet, by which to express other constructs, like words and any thoughts…

  49. StewartM

    Coming late to this discussion, thought I’d toss these in (from Vietnam)

    Only 31 of 470 foreign tourists stranded in HCMC want to return to their countries

    What It’s Like to Be an American Expat During the Coronavirus Pandemic
    A writer based in Vietnam explains his decision to stay put through coronavirus

    Despite having a fairly comprehensive health insurance plan that covers me across Southeast Asia and for extended stays in the European Economic Area, my provider, like most international insurers, won’t touch the U.S. healthcare system with a 10-foot pole. Being 30 years old and in good health, my chances of hospitalization from COVID-19 are unlikely, but were it to occur in the U.S., I would face exorbitant medical expenses. Spending 24-plus hours on planes and in airports to get back to that system in the midst of a pandemic did not strike me as prudent.


    With China’s outbreak apparently under control and the vast majority of cases now being recorded in Europe and the U.S., Westerners in Asia are experiencing what it’s like to be feared as a potential source of transmission. This is compounded by the fact that Westerners are generally less likely to wear facemasks than locals, which can be interpreted as careless or disrespectful under these conditions. While recent reports of resentment directed toward foreigners in Asian countries are not nearly as extreme as the deplorable rise in anti-Asian bigotry in America, it demonstrates how an innate sense of self-preservation can beget xenophobia anywhere.

    Acts of tribalism are probably not that shocking in the wake of a global pandemic. In my experience, what’s been most surprising as an American expat is that I feel like an outsider watching the United States implode from afar; the irony of my family’s concern for my well-being in the early days of the outbreak is not lost on me. It’s a very strange sensation to be in an under-resourced country that shares a border with China but still feel like the situation is under control.

    And yet, hearing Warren describe what it was like to reenter the U.S. just one week ago, on April 5th, it’s not that hard to comprehend how it’s happened.

    “Our arrival in Atlanta was laughable and concerning,” he tells me. “There were no health checks or mention of COVID. The only indication of the pandemic was CBP agents donning masks. No temperature checks or isolation requirements. Nothing.”

  50. StewartM

    Ok, again, coming late (working from home now pretty much full-time), I’ll toss this out:

    I think most of the commentariat here would agree our major party choice of Drumpf vs Uncle Joe is a horrible one. But would any of these two do better now at managing the response to our pandemic?

    I myself believe that, with Sanders out, whatever chance we had for a rebound of any sort has been lost. We’ve run out of time. Even if Sanders had won, his own shortcomings and the probable alliance of foes determined to stop him would have likely prevented enough meaningful change to mitigate what is going to hit us. Also if a Sanders or Corbyn had been in power in January they would have also had to deal with the damage done to their countries’ ability to actually make useful stuff to fight the pandemic which has been gutted by forty years of Reaganism/Thatcherism. So now the issue is not who will stop the US from becoming a ‘shithole country’, but who would continue to hold things together longer?

    So we’re stuck with Drumpf versus Uncle Joe. Insofar as containing the pandemic, who would be better?

    I lean that Joe would be better, but not by a wide margin and with some major caveats. Those caveats include that the Republicans will stop cooperating at all in Congress and will try to block everything, and Joe (like Obama) elevates bipartisanship and collegiality to the highest object of governance other legislation that actually produces meaningful results. Like with health care and the ACA, whatever countermeasures won’t be enough, will still elevate profit over ordinary people. and rescuing people from death and economic impoverishment will become a partisan issue from which the corporate MSN will say we need to hear “both sides of the “debate” (yeah, you heard that right). Joe’s personality is also a bit like Trump’s, a lot will depend if he can be ‘managed’ to let someone more competent run policy–again, that’s iffy. And of course, after a term or two of betrayals and misgovernance by the Biden/Dems an even worse version of Trump will take power and the descent will escalate.

    The reason I frame the issue this way is that I believe that Ian is right, we can’t save the US at least, so we should now start thinking of how to save ourselves and our loved ones. I believe for me this includes leaving the US. I have been planning to do that for years now; no place else in the world will be problem-free, but some places will be better than others and the US looks like an unstoppable train wreck. So who will keep things together a little longer for people who can to get out?

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