We’ve all heard the COVID-19 doomsday scenarios. Millions dead, millions more ill and not enough man and material to go around. Even in those grim scenarios, there is a peak of epidemic cases. After every peak, there is a downturn. Eventually, the crisis will be over, at least the healthcare part. So far, we are not on track for the worst case. Were not on track for the best case either, judging by the flareups in different parts of the country. Assuming our fate lays somewhere in the middle, what would the recovery look like both in terms of fighting the disease and healing the economic damage done? Were not going to wake up one day and everything will be back to normal on either front. The recovery will take place in phases. How long it takes to go through each phase is a matter of nature, but also a matter of us being smart and demonstrating a strong national will.
Let’s start with where are now, still on the climb, but the curve starting to flatten. At the beginning of April 2020, the consensus is that the peak is still a few weeks away. We’re staying home more, we’re doing social distancing and we’re practicing good hygiene. Our borders are virtually closed and two-thirds of the states are under some sort of lock-down order. We have a promising but barely tested cure in Hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug. It has the benefit of being well studied and approved for malaria and other diseases but not COVID-19. A vaccine seems to be at least a year off.
Economically, the steps various states have taken which include closing all bars and restaurants except for takeout and delivery, closing all business deemed nonessential, and orders to stay at home when not going to an approved job, food, or medicine shopping, or seeking medical care. All tourism has stopped, not just in the country all around the world. This, of course, has had an immediate and drastic negative impact on the economy. The government has already spent over $2.5 trillion in medical and financial aid. As with the virus, there is also a doomsday scenario for the economy, it’s called depression, as in the Great Depression. We are all but guaranteed a recession, as defined as two or more quarters of zero or negative growth.
Fast forward about 4 weeks. The epidemic is at its peak, but so is the production of such things as personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, and the drug Hydroxychloroquine, and we’ll assume treatments based on that drug continue to prove effective. Due to everyone doing their part, staying in and staying clean, we’re seeing the first back-to-back days of no increase of caseload. We have the equipment we need but still must maintain production, especially of PPE and drug treatments. China and Italy are now on the downward slope, though both counties are in a crisis mode, especially Italy, with its large elderly population and a huge population of Chinese migrant workers. The combination of the two combines for a perfect storm of COVID-19 disaster.
By this time there will be a clamor for a fourth aid package. The President already wants an infrastructure package. We must be watchful for the media leading the call for more spending. The House Democrats, having been preempted by the Senate Republicans, tried, and largely failed to get a lot of unrelated pork spending and progressive goodies passed, with the thought that they could blackmail America into accepting these measures or being labeled as not caring about the people. The Senate beat them to the punch and they got very little of their wish list. This time though, they will be prepared and have their accomplices in the media sounding the alarm bells around certain client special interest groups. They will attempt again to get their progressive and Green New Deal items in the package. They will attempt to control the narrative of its need through their surrogates in the media. We must resist, any further aid connected to the epidemic must be focused like a laser at the problem, the virus itself. We should not fund anything except medical equipment, drugs, and PPE.
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