It is easy to overdo COVID-19 quarantines

We have learned historically that if we can isolate sick people, we can often keep a communicable disease from spreading. Unfortunately, the situation with the new coronavirus causing COVID-19 is different: We can’t reliability determine which people are spreading the disease. Furthermore, the disease seems to transmit in many different ways simultaneously.

Politicians and health organizations like to show that they are “doing something.” Because of the strange nature of COVID-19, however, doing something is mostly a time-shifting exercise: With quarantines and other containment efforts, there will be fewer cases now, but this will be mostly or entirely offset by more cases later. Whether time-shifting reduces deaths and eases hospital care depends upon whether medical advances are sufficiently great during the time gained to improve outcomes.

We tend to lose sight of the fact that an economy cannot simply be shut down for a period and then start up again at close to its former level of production. China seems to have seriously overdone its use of quarantines. It seems likely that its economy can never fully recover. The permanent loss of a significant part of China’s productive output seems likely to send the world economy into a tailspin, regardless of what other economies do.

Before undertaking containment efforts of any kind, decision-makers need to look carefully at several issues:

  • Laying off workers, even for a short time, severely adversely affects the economy.
  • The expected length of delay in cases made possible by quarantines is likely to be very short, sometimes lasting not much longer than the quarantines themselves.
  • We seem to need a very rapid improvement in our ability to treat COVID-19 cases for containment efforts to make sense, if we cannot stamp out the disease completely.

Because of these issues, it is very easy to overdo quarantines and other containment efforts.

In the sections below, I explain some parts of this problem.

[1] The aim of coronavirus quarantines is mostly to slow down the spread of the virus, not to stop its spread.

As a practical matter, it is virtually impossible to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

In order to completely stop its spread, we would need to separate each person from every other person, as well as from possible animal carriers, for something like a month. In this way, people who are carriers for the disease or actually have the disease would hopefully have time to get over their illnesses. Perhaps airborne viruses would dissipate and viruses on solid surfaces would have time to deteriorate.

This clearly could not work. People would need to be separated from their children and pets. All businesses, including food sales, would have to stop. Electricity would likely stop, especially in areas where storms bring down power lines. No fuel would be available for vehicles of any kind. If a home catches fire, the fire would need to burn until a lack of material to burn stops it. If a baby needs to be delivered, there would be no midwife or hospital services available. If a person happened to have an appendicitis, it would simply need to resolve itself at home, however that worked out.

Bigger groups could in theory be quarantined together, but then the length of time for the quarantine would need to be greatly lengthened, to account for the possibility that one person might catch the disease from someone else in the group. The bigger the group, the longer the chain might continue. A group might be a single family sharing a home; it could also be a group of people in an apartment building that shares a common ventilation system.

[2] An economy is in many ways like a human being or other animal. Its operation cannot be stopped for a month or more, without bringing the economy to an end. 

I sometimes write about the economy being a self-organizing networked system that is powered by energy. In physics terms, the name for such a system is a dissipative structure. Human beings are dissipative structures, as are hurricanes and stars, such as the sun.

Human beings cannot stop eating and breathing for a month. They cannot have sleep apnea for an hour at a time, and function afterward.

Economies cannot stop functioning for a month and afterward resume operations at their previous level. Too many people will have lost their jobs; too many businesses will have failed in the meantime. If the closures continue for two or three months, the problem becomes very serious. We are probably kidding ourselves if we think that China can come back to the same level that it was at before the new coronavirus hit.

In a way, keeping an economy operating is as important as preventing deaths from COVID-19. Without food, water and wage-producing jobs (which allow people to buy necessary goods and services), the deaths from the loss of the economy would be far greater than the direct deaths from the coronavirus.

[3] A reasonable guess is that nearly all of us will face multiple exposures to the new coronavirus. 

Many people are hoping that this wave of the coronavirus will be stopped by warmer weather, perhaps in May or June. We don’t know whether this will happen or not. If the coronavirus does stop, there is a good chance the same virus, or a close variation of it, will be back again this fall. It is likely to come back in waves later, for at least one more year. In fact, if no vaccine is found, it is possible that it could come back, in various variations, indefinitely. There are many things we simply don’t know with certainty at this time.

Epidemiologists talk about the spread of a virus being stopped at the community immunity level. Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch originally estimated that 40% to 70% of the world’s population would come down with COVID-19 within the first year. He has revised this and now states that it is plausible that 20% to 60% of the world’s population will catch the disease in that timeframe. He also indicates that if the virus cannot be contained, the only way to get it under control is for 50% of the world’s population to become immune to it.

The big issue with containing the coronavirus is that we cannot really tell who has it and who does not. The tests available for COVID-19 are expensive, so giving the test to everyone, frequently, makes no sense. The tests tend to give a many false negatives, so even when they are given, they don’t necessarily detect people with the disease. There are also many people who seem to spread the disease without symptoms. Without testing everyone, these people will never be found.

We hear limited statements such as “The United States surgeon general said Sunday that he thinks the coronavirus outbreak is being contained in certain areas of the country as cases of the virus rise across the United States.” Unfortunately, containment of the virus in a few parts of the world does not solve the general problem. There are lots and lots of uncontained cases around the world. These uncontained cases will continue to spread, regardless of the steps taken elsewhere.

Furthermore, even when we think the virus is contained, there are likely to be missed cases, especially among people who seem to be well, but who really are carriers. Getting rid of the virus is likely to be a major challenge.

[4] There is an advantage to delaying citizens from catching COVID-19. The delay allows doctors to learn which existing medications can be used to help treat the symptoms of the disease.

There seem to be multiple drugs and multiple therapies that work to some limited extent.

For example, plasma containing antibodies from a person who has already had the illness can be injected into a person with the disease, helping to fight the disease. It is not clear, however, whether such a treatment will protect against future attacks of the virus since the patient is being cured without his own immune system producing adequate antibodies.

Some HIV drugs are being examined to see whether they work well enough for it to make sense to ramp up production of them. The antiviral drug remdesivir by Gilead Sciences also seems to have promise. For these drugs to be useful in fighting COVID-19, production would need to be ramped up greatly.

In theory, there is also a possibility that a vaccine can be brought to market that will get rid of the virus. Our past experience with vaccine-making has not been very good, however. Out of 200+ virus-caused diseases that affect humans, only about 20 have vaccines. These vaccines generally need to be updated frequently, because viruses tend to mutate over time.

With some viruses, such as Dengue Fever, people don’t ever build up adequate immunity to the many disease variations that exist. Instead a person who catches Dengue Fever a second time is likely to be sicker than the first time. Finding a vaccine for such diseases seems to be almost impossible.

Even if we can actually succeed in making a vaccine that works, the expectation seems to be that this will take at least 12 to 18 months. By this time, the world may have experienced multiple waves of COVID-19.

[5] There are multiple questions regarding how well European countries, Japan and the United States will really be able to treat coronavirus.

There are several issues involved:

(a) Even if medicines are identified, can they be ramped up adequately in the short time available?

(b) China’s exports have dropped significantly. Required medical goods that we normally import from China may not be available. The missing items could be as simple as rubbing alcohol, masks and other protective wear. The missing items could also be antibiotics, antidepressants, and blood pressure medications that are needed for both COVID-19 patients and other patients.

(c) Based on my calculations, the number of hospital beds and ICU beds needed will likely exceed those available (without kicking out other patients) by at least a factor of 10, if the size of the epidemic grows. There will also be a need for more medical staff. Medical staff may be fewer, rather than more, because many of them will be out sick with the virus. Because of these issues, the amount of hospital-based care that can actually be provided to COVID-19 patients is likely to be fairly limited.

(d) One reason for time-shifting of illnesses has been to try to better match illnesses with medical care available. The main benefit I can see is the fact that many health care workers will have contracted the illness in the first wave of the disease, so will be more available to give care in later waves of the disease. Apart from this difference, the system will be badly overwhelmed, regardless of when COVID-19 cases occur.

[6] A major issue, both with COVID-19 illnesses and with quarantines arising out of fear of illness, is wage loss

If schools and day care centers are closed because of COVID-19 fears, many of the parents will have to take off time from work to care for the children. These parent will likely lose wages.

Wage loss will also be a problem if quarantines are required for people returning from an area that might be affected. For example, immigrant workers in China wanting to return to work in major cities after the New Year’s holiday have been quarantined for 14 days after they return.

Clearly, expenses (such as rent, food and auto payments) will continue, both for the mother of the child who is at home because a child’s school is closed and for the migrant worker who wants to return to a job in the city. Their lack of wages will mean that these people will make fewer discretionary purchases, such as visiting restaurants and making trips to visit relatives. In fact, migrant workers, when faced with a 14 day quarantine, may decide to stay in the countryside. If they don’t earn very much in the best of times, and they are required to go 14 days without pay after they return, there may not be much incentive to return to work.

If I am correct that the illness COVID-19 will strike in several waves, these same people participating in quarantines will have another “opportunity” for wage loss when they actually contract the disease, during one of these later rounds. Unless there is a real reduction in the number of people who ultimately get COVID-19 because of quarantines, a person would expect that the total wage loss would be greater with quarantines than without, because the wage loss occurs twice instead of once.

Furthermore, businesses will suffer financially when their workers are out. With fewer working employees, businesses will likely be able to produce fewer finished goods and services than in the past. At the same time, their fixed expenses (such as mortgage payments, insurance payments, and the cost of heating buildings) will continue. This mismatch is likely to lead to lower profits at two different times: (a) when workers are out because of quarantines and (b) when they are out because they are ill.

[7] We likely can expect a great deal more COVID-19 around the world, including in China and in Italy, in the next two years.

The number of reported COVID-19 cases to date is tiny, compared to the number that is expected based on estimates by epidemiologists. China reports about 81,000 COVID-19 cases to date, while its population is roughly 1.4 billion. If epidemiologists tell us to expect 20% to 60% of a country’s population to be affected by the end of the first year of the epidemic, this would correspond to a range of 280 million to 840 million cases. The difference between reported cases and expected cases is huge. Reported cases to date are less than 0.01% of the population.

We know that China’s reported number of cases is an optimistically low number, but we don’t know how low. Many, many more cases are expected in the year ahead if workers go back to work. In fact, there have been recent reports of a COVID-19 outbreak in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, near Hong Kong. Such an outbreak would adversely affect China’s manufactured exports.

Italy has a similar situation. It is currently reported to have somewhat more than 10,000 cases. Its total population is about 60 million. Thus, its number of cases amounts to about 0.02% of the population. If Epidemiologist Lipsitch is correct regarding the percentage of the population that is ultimately likely to be affected, the number of cases in Italy, too, can be expected to be much higher within the next year. Twenty percent of a population of 60 million would amount to 12 million cases; 60% of the population would amount to 36 million cases.

[8] When decisions about quarantines are made, the expected wage loss when workers lose their jobs needs to be considered as well. 

Let’s calculate the amount of wage loss from actually having COVID-19. If workers generally work for 50 weeks a year and are out sick for an average of 2 weeks because of COVID-19, the average worker would lose 4% (=2/50) of his annual wages. If workers are out sick for an average of three weeks, this would increase the loss to 6% (3/50) of the worker’s annual wages.

Of course, not all workers will be affected by the new coronavirus. If we are expecting 20% to 60% of the workers to be out sick during the first year that the epidemic cycles through the economy, the expected overall wage loss for the population as a whole would amount to 0.8% (=20% times 4%) to 3.6% (=60% times 6%) of total wages.

Let’s now calculate the wage loss from a quarantine. A week of wage loss during a quarantine of the entire population, while nearly everyone is well, would lead to a wage loss equal to 2% of the population’s total wages. Two weeks of wage loss during quarantine would lead to wage loss equal to 4% of the population’s total wages.

Is it possible to reduce overall wage loss and deaths by using quarantines? This approach works for diseases which can actually be stopped through isolating sick members, but I don’t think it works well at all for COVID-19. Mostly, it provides a time-shifting feature. There are fewer illnesses earlier, but to a very significant extent, this is offset by more illnesses later.  This time-shifting feature might be helpful if there really is a substantial improvement in prevention or treatment that is quickly available. For example, if a vaccine that really works can be found quickly, such a vaccine might help prevent some of the illnesses and deaths in 2021 and following years.

If there really isn’t an improvement in preventing the disease, then we get back to the situation where the virus needs to be stopped based on community immunity. According to Lipsitch, to stop the virus based on community immunity, at least 50% of the population would need to become immune. This implies that somewhat more than 50% of the population would need to catch the new coronavirus, because some people would catch the new virus and die, either of COVID-19 or of another disease.

Let’s suppose that 55% would need to catch COVID-19 to allow the population immunity to rise to 50%. The virus would likely need to keep cycling around until at least this percentage of the population has caught the disease. This is not much of a decrease from the upper limit of 60% during the first year. This suggests that moving illnesses to a later year may not help much at all with respect to the expected number of illnesses and deaths. Hospitals will be practically equally overwhelmed regardless, unless we can somehow change the typical seasonality of viruses and move some of the winter illnesses to summertime.

If there is no improvement in COVID-19 prevention/treatment during the time-shift of cases created by the quarantine, any quarantine wage loss can be thought of as being simply in addition to wage loss from having the virus itself. Thus, a country that opts for a two week quarantine of all workers (costing 4% of workers’ wages) may be more than doubling the direct wage loss from COVID-19 (equivalent to 0.8% to 3.6% of workers’ wages).

[9] China’s shutdown in response to COVID-19 doesn’t seem to make much rational sense.

It is hard to understand exactly how much China has shut down, but the shutdown has gone on for about six weeks. At this point, it is not clear that China can ever come back to the level it was at previously. Clearly, the combination of wage loss for individuals and profit loss for companies is very high. The long shutdown is likely to lead to widespread debt defaults. With less wages, there is likely to be less demand for goods such as cars and cell phones during 2020.

China was having difficulty before the new coronavirus was discovered to be a problem. Its energy production has slowed greatly, starting about 2012-2013, making it necessary for China to start shifting from a goods-producing nation to a country that is more of a services-producer (Figure 1).

Figure 1. China energy production by fuel, based on 2019 BP Statistical Review of World Energy data. “Other Ren” stands for “Renewables other than hydroelectric.” This category includes wind, solar, and other miscellaneous types, such as sawdust burned for electricity.

 

For example, China’s workers now put together iPhones using parts made in other countries, rather than making iPhones from start to finish. This part of the production chain requires relatively little fuel, so it is in some sense more like a service than the manufacturing of parts for the phone.

The rest of the world has been depending upon China to be a major supplier within its supply lines. Perhaps many of these supply lines will be broken indefinitely. Instead of China helping pull the world economy along faster, we may be faced with a situation in which China’s reduced output leads to worldwide economic contraction rather than economic growth.

Without medicines from China, our ability to fight COVID-19 may get worse over time, rather than better. In such a case, it would be better to get the illness now, rather than later.

[10] We need to be examining proposed solutions closely, in the light of the particulars of the new coronavirus, rather than simply assuming that fighting COVID-19 to the death is appropriate.

The instructions we hear today seem to suggest using disinfectants everywhere, to try to prevent COVID-19. This is yet another way to try to push off infections caused by the coronavirus into the future. We know, however, that there are good microbes as well as bad ones. The ecosystem requires a balance of microbes. Dumping disinfectants everywhere has its downside, as well as the possibility of an upside of killing the current round of coronaviruses. In fact, to the extent that the virus is airborne, the disinfectants may not really be very helpful in wiping out COVID-19.

It is very easy to believe that if some diseases can be subdued by quarantines, the same approach will work everywhere. This really isn’t true. We need to be examining the current situation closely, based on whatever information is available, before decisions are made regarding how to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. Perhaps any quarantines used need to be small and targeted.

We also need to be looking for new approaches for fighting COVID-19. One approach that is not being used significantly to date is trying to strengthen people’s own immune systems. Such an approach might help people’s own immune system to fight off the disease, thereby lowering death rates. Nutrition experts recommend supplementing diets with Vitamins A, C, E, antioxidants and selenium. Other experts say zinc, Vitamin D and elderberry may be helpful. Staying away from cold temperatures also seems to be important. Drinking plenty of water after coming down with the disease may be beneficial as well. If we can help people’s own bodies fight the disease, the burden on the medical system will be lower.

 

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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4,403 Responses to It is easy to overdo COVID-19 quarantines

  1. Fast Eddy says:

    Skip the part where gold/silver will save you.

    https://srsroccoreport.com/the-energy-disaster-kicking-into-full-gear-world-is-totally-unprepared-for-whats-ahead/

    Outstanding timing with this Wuhan Plague thing

    • All of the shutdowns kill demand, and make prices energy prices fall way too low. So the Wuhan plague is a big part of the low prices.

      • Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

        yes…

        but who thinks demand will be back to normal (2019 normal) by the end of the year?

        “Now, it seems as if the IEA believes Wall Street’s forecast that there will be a “V-Shaped Recovery,” (hence, the v-shaped oil chart) and everything will be back to normal by the end of the year. I highly doubt it.”

        that guy definitely gets it…

    • Robert Wilsonn says:

      You can’t print gold or silver

    • doomphd says:

      there’s a classic Twilight Zone episode where a lost man is wandering in the desert with a large gold bar, begging for water, and willing to trade. He dies before he can be saved, and some tourists come along and wonder why he thought the gold was so valuable, since they figured out how to make it so long ago.

  2. psile says:

    Great Covid-19 Data

    An interactive visualization of the exponential spread of COVID-19.

  3. Herbie R Ficklestein says:

    Looks like BAU ain’t going to be an easy least restart.
    China’s factories reopen, only to fire workers as virus shreds global trade
    By Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo
    ReutersMarch 26, 2020, 1:31 AM EDT
    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/chinas-factories-reopen-only-fire-053157310.html
    mbling to fulfil orders.
    Now, the reverse is happening – overseas orders are being scrapped as the pandemic ravages the economies of China’s trading partners.
    “The unprecedented shutdown of normal economic activity across Europe, the U.S. and a growing number of emerging markets is certain to cause a dramatic contraction in Chinese exports, probably in the range of a 20-45% year-on-year drop in the second quarter,” said Thomas Gatley, senior analyst at research firm Gavekal Dragonomics.
    Shi said his fabric supplier in hard-hit Italy suspended operations on Sunday, meaning no fresh raw materials from May. His stockpile of fabric will last until the end of April.
    Shi said he would slow production and might suspend all output soon if business does not improve.
    He also told the 50-odd workers who have yet to return from Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak in China, to find jobs elsewhere.
    “We know this year is bad and next year would be better, but the question is how many factories can make it to next year?” Shi said.
    ,…More big layoffs would be a concern for the ruling Communist Party and its focus on social cohesion and economic stability, particularly in a year when Beijing aims to double GDP and disposable incomes from a decade ago.
    China’s urban jobless rate hit 6.2% in February, up one percentage point from the end of 2019, and a record since the statistics bureau started publishing the data in early 2018.
    Dan Wang, an analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), said the jobless rate could go up by another 5 percentage points this year, which corresponds to an additional 22 million in urban unemployment, on top of an estimated 5 million jobs lost in January-February.
    Another 103 million workers could be affected by salary cuts of 30%-50%, Wang said.

    • These stories are going to get wider and wider distribution. Particularly notice, “Another 103 million workers could be affected by salary cuts of 30%-50%, Wang said.”

      Also, we will start seeing actual shortages from some things that are not available from international trade anymore. Some vehicles, for example, may not be available any more.

      • VW announced they are extending the factory shut down, so it’s now for a ~month..

        In terms of “special carz”, this could be manifested in EVs or hybrids, on the other hand these tend to be vertically integrated, at least the Japanese and Korean brands in this segment, so perhaps only European and US brands will be hit the most here. Again, who is going to buy hybrids in the US when gasoline price goes bellow bottled water..

    • Chrome Mags says:

      “Now, the reverse is happening – overseas orders are being scrapped as the pandemic ravages the economies of China’s trading partners.”

      That didn’t take long to boomerang.

      • Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

        and Chinese leadership was probably aware that a pandemic could do just that…

        though too late to lockdown Wuhan sooner than January 23rd…

        the Chinese knew that this virus was a real threat to the world…

        the “it’s fake” crowd will be disappearing in the coming weeks…

        “April is the cruellest month…” T.S. Eliot

        • Azure Kingfisher says:

          “We would rather be ruined than changed. We would rather die in our dread. Than climb the cross of the moment. And let our illusions die.” – W. H. Auden

  4. Tango Oscar says:

    We’re obviously seeing the stages of collapse right now play out at an accelerated pace. The virus looks ready to wreak havoc on the US right as Trump wants to open the economy back up. No one needs to be a fortune teller to see that this is going to turn out badly. China is lying about their data and never actually got the virus under control after a brutal 2.5 month lock-down. Now they wanna open back up in a week and the virus is circulating again.

    Italy and Spain look bad. Several other countries are hot on their heels. Having the global economy pause certainly makes collapse seem more likely, particularly when supply chains are scattered all over the planet. Needless to say globalization is finished, no matter the outcome of the battle with the virus. Regardless of its origins if someone were going to release something intentionally to cause panic and collapse the global economy, it would play out almost exactly like what we’re witnessing.

    The Federal Reserve has unleashed more QE than I ever thought possible. Jerome Powell said this morning that the ammo that the Fed has is unlimited. They’re going to do whatever it takes to stop an economic collapse in the US, balance sheet be damned. $600 Billion in one week is a staggering amount of QE, coupled with Congress unleashing a few trillion more in bailouts and helicopter money. “Unemployment on steroids” is how Chuck Schumer described it. Nancy Pelosi is already talking about a 4th stimulus package and the checks from the 3rd haven’t even been sent out yet.

    The stock market is an anomaly in and of itself. Low volume melt-ups 3 days in a row. It went up 6% today AFTER they announced 3.3 million signing up for unemployment benefits. This defies logic and shows the market is wholly disconnected from any sort of fundamentals or reality. As long as they keep pumping money out, this thing could be reaching new highs right around the time we’re seeing Grandpa’s everywhere dying on Facebook in real time. This is the type of twisted plot that I expect from a thriller sci-fi movie or novel but here we are. Unreal!

    Now how do things continue to break down from here? Supply chains are slowing and being completely severed. Amazon is already selling/shipping less and less on a daily basis. Local stores are closed up, governor’s orders after all. Oil companies talking about sealing wells and pausing operations. We’re obviously on the brink of thousands or more companies going bankrupt, tens of millions of folks unable to pay rent which will tilt bank balance sheets badly. Are bailouts and printing money enough to backstop every corporation from disappearing? Does someone get to pick and choose, sort of like determining which patient gets a ventilator?

    I keep telling people that we are witnessing collapse in real time, but nobody wants to hear it. Everyone has been conditioned to believe in happy endings, like any number of tales from Disney. It must be normalcy bias to the extreme because most of the folks I talk to, it all falls on deaf ears. It feels like the big collapse is about to happen but the whole thing feels surreal. At this point, I don’t have any goals in life outside of growing some tomatoes one last time. Right now, July seems like a lifetime away. Just one more heirloom tomato from my garden and then I can let go. Carpe Diem folks.

    • Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      I’m making some small plans (in my mind) for 2021…

      IF we get The Collapse this year, I don’t see any reason to plan for anything… it will be interesting to watch, like a slow motion car wreck, as long as the internet stays up to give enough details about what is happening out there…

      IF the economy sinks 50 to 75 % and IC is still limping along after escaping the car wreck, then that scenario will leave people with things to do and choices to make…

      it also will be quite interesting to see how IC might partially recover from such a car wreck…

      life might be horribly awful though, but I’m guessing there will still be things to live for in 2021…

    • Chrome Mags says:

      “Regardless of its origins if someone were going to release something intentionally to cause panic and collapse the global economy, it would play out almost exactly like what we’re witnessing.”

      That’s the truth. If you were to sit down and outline a plot about a pandemic taking out the global economy, a person would be hard pressed to find better attributes in a virus for doing just that. It even started in the heart of the manufacturing hub of China, then was asymptomatic in enough people travelling internationally that it escaped detection to go on and infect many more people to spread far and wide. Word is it’s also doing well in hot weather areas when many thought it wouldn’t. It’s even great at targeting those with weak immune systems because they are old or have some medical issue. Isn’ that exactly what a predator does in the wild? But maybe when its taken out the weakest, it will then go after healthier ones. It’s quite possible since it seems unstoppable.

      But one thing is certain. Collapse is occurring FAST! I never knew it could happen this fast. I wonder if we are just a few weeks from chaos, regardless of the stimulus package/s because that’s not going to help everyone. And once there is no economy, then you can be certain that at some threshold all hell’s going to break loose.

      • Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

        somewhat agree… economic damage is occurring fast…

        and yes, there is most likely a threshold/tipping point where IC disintegrates/collapses…

        so that’s the scenario for 2020 forward…

        can enough of the economy hold together so it stays above that threshold?

        I think it’s quite obvious that no one knows… yet…

        I don’t see any reason to plan for chaos, so I’m planning for the economy to stay above the threshold of stalling and crashing…

        but yes, in a few weeks (or months or years) it could collapse…

    • JMS says:

      Well put, Tango.
      Let’s enjoy the good things of life while they last. Example:

    • timl2k11 says:

      I know this will be an unpopular opinion here, but I just don’t see it. I think the system cares too much about itself to let things get too far out of hand. It’s a very resilient and persistent system. Am in denial? Perhaps, but the system will pull out all the stops to save itself. We are seeing this. The question is always… How long can it keep going? Well, quite a lot longer than anyone here seems to think.

      • Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

        I very much agree…

        do you even consider yourself a Doomer?

      • psile says:

        The system has to end sometime, why not now? The only reason you’re in denial is that you’re living through what may be the end of life as we know it. I mean, how could this be? This wasn’t supposed to happen while I’m still alive. Can’t doom be postponed to under someone else’s watch? Well, doom, it appears, was postponed until 2020. It has now stormed out of the gates, and it is mad.

        We had a really good run, got an extra 10+ years, courtesy of all the funny money and accounting tricks done to preserve the system so that it became a zombie, eating the brains of everyone around. The zombie was always going to get whacked by reality at some point, and that point seems to have arrived in the form of a tiny virus that, like a zombie, is neither alive nor dead.

        • timl2k11 says:

          Why not now, indeed, but also, why not later? What is the real limit? Isn’t it resources? Have we suddenly run out of resources? I hope I don’t sound like a Pollyanna, but the system has its believers, and they will put up a helluva fight to keep things going. That’s my point, I guess. It ain’t going down without one heck of a battle. The system is not as in good shape as it was during the Spanish flu, enduring world wars and all, but it’s still got some fight left in it, and you will see it, you are seeing it now, it will fight to the bitter end, doomers be damned.

          • psile says:

            We could go around in circles at this point.

            Has BAU been mortally wounded? Time will tell, but if it hasn’t it sure as heck been severly wounded.

            As for earth, neither its sources nor its sinks are infinite. The abuse has to come to an end at some stage. It’s a mathematical cert.

          • psile says:

            Further to this point. What did QE and all the other central bank interventions around the world do since the system almost expired in 2008 with the GFC? It brought forward consumption. It stole time from ourselves, our children, the unborn and all the other species, so as not to face the pain of being wrong. What might have been averted until perhaps 2030, was instead chewed up in an enormous surge of exuberance.

          • Robert Firth says:

            Don’t worry, I’m sure you sound quite differently from Hayley Mills. (great movie, by the way)

        • Fast Eddy says:

          The aircraft is speeding towards the ground and the wings have fallen off … everyone is screaming … the attendants are shouting BRACE BRACE BRACE….

          And I am sitting calmly… a slight smile on my face… and muttering… yes Mutherfukkkkers… brace … and good riddance!

          • erwalt says:

            “Not so fast, Eddy!”: The scene you described reminds me of

            (Madagascar – Escape 2 Africa Trailer) [Jun 7, 2008, DreamworksAnimFan]

            It’s not just the wings …

        • Chrome Mags says:

          “The zombie was always going to get whacked by reality at some point, and that point seems to have arrived in the form of a tiny virus that, like a zombie, is neither alive nor dead.”

          Absolutely spot on, psile! People worried the debt bubble would burst and now because of this zombie virus, the debt will balloon skyward. There are always limits and they will definitely be tested, but also, we don’t know the timeline of the virus. It’s almost like we’re holding our breath while the economy shrinks into a former shadow of itself, hoping the virus goes away so we can go back to BAU.

          Let’s say this goes on for a year. What is there to go back to? Whether there is full on collapse or a huge leap down for mankind, it’s going to be real slow moving in the aftermath. How much stimulus is it going to take after the virus has been slayed like a dragon with meds? Another 10 trillion? 20 trillion? The thing that galls me is the amount of money already needed and we’re just getting started here in the US with this virus. This will definitely test the limits of what can be done at this late stage of the oil age to keep the beast from falling into the abyss.

          • psile says:

            Goes on for a year?

            Another month or so of this, the way the virus is spreading and the bubble is deflating, and the end of the world WILL be televised!

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Just because you don’t want it to end … doesn’t mean it won’t.

        You are definitely in denial.

        The system was already riddled with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and was on a nutrient poor diet… and now it has been hammered by this virus.

        Billions of people — and I mean billions (India alone has 1.3B – and is in lockdown) – are out of work. Some countries are helping out with some monthly cash — most countries are doing nothing for their citizens other than making sure (so far) that they don’t starve.

        Billions of people are consuming nothing much more than food. I know I am not. Even if I wanted to I could not – there is not even restaurant delivery here — and there is no online shopping available. I buy nothing but food now.

        What cannot continue — will stop. It’s very difficult to determine when though.

        • timl2k11 says:

          Likewise, just because you do want it to end (so very badly) doesn’t mean it will. I could also say that you are in denial that the system will go on for another 20 years or more. We just don’t have a crystal ball. After all, you and I are here against enormous odds.
          The system does not want to die, just like you or I don’t want to die. It will fight to stay alive is all I’m saying, and in doing so surprise us all. I wish I had more data to support one outcome or another, to back up my feeling that this will last quite a bit longer, but it’s a chaotic system. There is so much going on at any one moment, that I must admit I know nothing. I have merely an intuition, a belief or a hope.

          • Xabier says:

            I suspect what many fear in the advanced economies, if they aren’t among those who expect a quick rebound after the contagion has passed, is that it might all limp on for another decade or two, but in form less pleasant than average life in the Soviet Union……

            A bit like knowing a cancer isn’t going to finish you off in a month or two, but that with treatment you will linger to enjoy all the effects of chemotherapy, etc, for several years and a painful end all the same.

            The system will try to live, all we can do now is observe.

        • Kim says:

          Where I live it is the harvest time for rice. Everyone is out in the fields, cutting, threshing and bagging the rice. It is a time of hard work but it is also a happy, community time. They have heard about this virus hoax, and there are police on the roads here and there, putting on a ridiculous show with thermometers, but it doesn’t worry anyone.

          You people here have all lost your minds. I have never seen such hysteria.

          I used to respect this site.

          • Kowalainen says:

            You will change that tune in a hurry when it is time for sowing the next crop.

            That is if the ‘merchants of marseille’ get their wishes and let it rip to “save” their already worthless portfolios.

            It is science and engineering that will shred this threat back to oblivion. Lean back, grab some popcorn and watch it unfold.

          • Tim Groves says:

            Gail is not onboard with the hysteria. It’s only the hardcore doomer chorus in the comments section. Of course, they may end up correct that this is the end of everything, but what is obvious to them is far from clear to some of us. What is clear to me is that the lights (of reason, entertainment and industry) are going out all over Europe and America, and I fear we may not see them lit again in our lifetimes. These rich countries, which are, metaphorically speaking, tightrope walking without the aid of a net, have the farthest to fall, and so are likely to suffer much more damage from collapse than places where community farming and frugal living are still practiced and respected.

          • Xabier says:

            If they are truly enjoying the harvest, it’s obviously much better now to be a jolly rice-farming peasant than like us, stuck in our apartments and houses, manically disinfecting everything, until……..who knows when?

            Next news: rise in mental disorders -at keeps us out of trouble 🙂 – domestic violence, divorce and unwanted pregnancies.

            General crime is down, though, and every day feels like a Sunday, which is very pleasant.

            Right, off now to disinfect myself in the garden with a nice long, cold, drink. It’s my patriotic duty not to go off my head.

          • Rodster says:

            I visit this site regularly and I have NOT bought into the hysteria at all.

          • Tango Oscar says:

            The virus isn’t a hoax and that’s a dangerous assumption. No one here from what I gather has lost their mind, on the contrary the breakdown in the system is causing many of us to dig deeper into the cogs of system analysis to predict how all these moving components will impact one another. It doesn’t take an actual killer pandemic with 50% death rates to tilt the system and collapse globalization/industrial civilization. It was already super fragile and going into a recession anyways.

            The virus has already caused a full blown financial crisis. So basically with the federal reserve and government printing trillions of dollars out of thin air you want everyone to maintain their calm composure. Very laughable. Apparently you are much more knowledgeable about rice than you are about finance, economics, and government. And there’s nothing wrong with that but spare us your judgements.

          • This is good news, if everyone is out in the fields harvesting rice. Where do you live?

          • SomeoneInAsia says:

            To adopt the modern industrial way of life and way of thinking is already to lose one’s mind.

            I wish I could live as a rice farmer where Kim lives. Sigh. 😦

        • MM says:

          The point is that nearly 8 Billion people are living on this planet today and every single one wants this world to go on and will do a lot that this will go on. There are physical limits and financial limits, both will be tested. It is for sure that humanity’s psyche will take a big hit and that does not point to a disneyland future. People have to get their grips on the fact that the old days can not go on. They will understand that fast also due to the fact that suddenly political moves are possible that were deemed impossible for the last 50 years. People will not forget this. The thing is broken and I count on a healing process

          • Kim says:

            I live in East Java. But allow me to say that I am fully on board with the arguments with regard to peak cheap oil.

            Like much of Asia, we have one season of monsoon rice each year and two seasons of rice that depend on small petrol-driven pumps for their oil. Total of three growing seasons. Drive across Asia and you can see the small bamboo huts in fields. Millions of them. They are shelters for the pumps. And small motorobikes are also ubiquitous, vital farm equipment here.

            So without cheap petrol, there would be only one harvest, and people would not be able to drive distances to cut grass for their goats and cows.

            So, I understand peak cheap oil. But the reaction to this corona thing, it has just been insane. It is society blowing out its brains because it has stubbed its toe.

        • mch says:

          “What cannot continue — will stop.” or even better –

          That which is falling should also be pushed! — Thus Spoke Zarathustra, The Wanderer, Friedrich Nietzsche

          Mother Nature is pushing hard.

      • Tango Oscar says:

        Weather the system cares about itself or not is irrelevant. And most of my post was facts, not fiction or hysteria. I am a systems person and have studied this stuff for years. We are seeing all the signs of a collapse in fast forward on a daily basis. The only thing the system is doing is pumping out enormous amounts of debt in an attempt to keep our heads above water as the storm rages on. Will it work? Maybe, maybe not. If the virus does what I think it’s going to do, we’re on borrowed time.

        All my talk of supply chains breaking down is something that is happening in real time. Oil companies are sealing wells and stopping operations. Anyone who follows this site should know by now that if oil stops, vehicles stop, food stops, we all starve. Will a few million people survive in small pockets throughout the globe? Maybe, but industrial civilization will collapse and with it electricity, fuel, comforts, the internet, and more. Then spent nuclear fuel will melt down and wash the globe with radiation. No one will want to be around for that.

        Right now the world has too much oil. It’s actually a deflationary death spiral from a drop off a cliff in demand and oversupply since OPEC has disintegrated. But no one is using it, which is just as bad as if it were never there to begin with. Oil companies cannot just restart operations with $20 a barrel oil like flicking a light switch. For starters they’re all going to go insolvent. Then there’s the geophysics of the wells themselves. Flow rates are going to go down, compressing oil companies already disastrous finances. This means we would need to rely on the Saudis or someone else for oil and look how that’s turning out with us relying on China for everything. What could go wrong?

        So far, the virus cannot be contained. It can be slowed down or briefly paused if China’s data is to be believed. But now it’s spreading there again. So they’ll shutdown all over again? Workers will refuse to come back and open up factories and when they do arrive in factories they’ll find out they’re laid off due to a drop off a cliff in demand. The virus is globally spreading, after all. So more debt defaults, more shutdowns, more drop in demand, and then what?

        At some point governments will lose control of the narrative. When will food or other needed supplies stop coming? We’re already not able to get most other things right now. Government is warning corporations/countries not to hoard food. The FDIC is warning us not to withdraw our money and shove it under a mattress. Would they be doing those types of things if we weren’t already on the edge of it all? Of course not. They’re saying it because some experts at the top of the government hierarchy are already forecasting these things to happen.

    • Marco Bruciati says:

      You are right this Is mother of all collaps

  5. Tim Groves says:

    Remember all those warnings in the media that people displaying no symptoms can infect others with THE VIRUS?

    Well, that’s not what this case study from South Korea indicates.

    A Chinese Case of COVID-19 Did Not Show Infectivity During the Incubation Period: Based on an Epidemiological Survey.
    Bae JM1.

    Abstract
    Controversy remains over whether the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) virus may have infectivity during the incubation period before the onset of symptoms. The author had the opportunity to examine the infectivity of COVID-19 during the incubation period by conducting an epidemiological survey on a confirmed patient who had visited Jeju Island during the incubation period. The epidemiological findings support the claim that the COVID-19 virus does not have infectivity during the incubation period.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32114755

    • Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      wow, that’s an impressive number of study cases: one!

      can’t get any lower than that…

      I don’t buy it…

      • Tim Groves says:

        Are you, by any chance, the kind of person who screams, “Dog Germs! I’ve got DOG GERMS!” whenever someone else’s pooch licks your face?

        Well, the story going around the press at the moment is that as The Sun puts it, “one in three coronavirus patients are ‘silent carriers’ who show no symptoms – despite testing positive for the disease.” However, if they have no symptoms of any disease, why call them “patients”? So my answer to the Sun is “Gocha!”

        • Jarle says:

          Hear the man!

        • 09876 says:

          There are things on this earth that eat humans. Mosquitos , black flies. They are unpleasant. This virus is one of them. They dont stop you from getting on. This virus is not nothing. Its not collapse either. Their is more US dollar demand than ever. Infinity and beyond and dollar demand is through the roof. Oil is still being extracted and refined. Sorry this is not collapse.

          While not collapse things have changed. Ghost streets. ghost cities. People conditioning themselves to stay away from close proximity to others. Fear of shortages. These are permanent changes in the collective mindset. Everyone is a doomster now whether they admit it or not.

          • The current oil prices are way too low for producers. So are a lot of other prices: phosphate rock, used in fertilizer; natural gas and coal prices; copper prices; many food prices.

            It is easy to see how collapse unfolds from here. Producers cut back on investment. If one of their machines needs major repair, they simply go out of business. They cannot afford a new machine or repairs.

            Gasoline stations start closing. Gasoline will still be available, but you may have to drive 30 miles to find it. It is simply too unprofitable to have a gas station.

            Grocery stores gradually have more and more out of stock items. Hair dressers and dentists go out of business.

            Debt defaults of all kinds rise, as government try to hide these. These may be easiest to hide. Everyone may qualify to buy a new automobile.

            Supply lines increasingly are broken. There are no repair parts for broken elevators, for example, rendering the upper floors in high rise buildings unusable.

            Eventually electricity fails, essentially because wholesale prices fall too low for producers.

    • There is also the issue of the period “after a person appears to get well.” Some places are requiring a 14 day quarantine after the end of symptoms, I believe.

  6. Yoshua says:

    Europe has 250,000 confirmed cases of Coronavirus infections and 15,000 that have died from Covid-19.

    Europe is the hot spot with half of world’s confirmed cases.

    • Robert Firth says:

      “Europe is the hot spot with half of world’s confirmed cases.”

      Which we Europeans brought upon ourselves. By keeping the borders open because of “solidarity” even when it had long been obvious that the pandemic was being spread by travel. By making exceptions for “asylum seekers” who were already known to be spreading tropical diseases. By listening to the EU bureaucrats living in their secluded bunkers, and to the WHO, whose head is a Chinese sock puppet. All, I would point out, pushed on us by organisations with no democratic accountability, and showing more contempt for ordinary people than the Emperor Nero.

  7. val says:

    I know that Ibuprofen is very important med for people with arthritis. Is it good and for coronavirus?

    • It is terrible for Coronavirus. Do not take it! There are articles about this.

      Cold cloths on the head would be a good choice, to reduce fever. Tylenol (acetaminophen) to reduce aches.

    • Tango Oscar says:

      I would go one further and avoid all anti inflammation supplements as well. Things like Elderberry for example are anti inflammatories and there are papers online saying to avoid taking it if you have the virus. The only safe things to counteract it right now are multivitamins, vitamin C, and make sure you stay hydrated. Acetaminophen is okay to take for fever and aches too like Gail said.

    • Kowalainen says:

      Gail, didn’t your arthritis improve when you cut your food intake of animal products?

  8. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The specter of widespread corporate defaults in the coming months has caused a massive selloff in junk bonds around the world, as many debt-laden companies face the prospect of going weeks or months with virtually no revenue.

    “Bonds without investment-grade ratings plunged at their fastest pace in history in March, money managers said, stunning investors and hitting levels that portend a deep recession with scores of company failures.”

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/investors-fearing-defaults-rush-out-of-junk-bonds-11585215004

  9. Harry McGibbs says:

    “As the coronavirus outbreak roils credit markets around the world, Asia is under particular threat.

    “The region has led the world in economic growth for years as debt helped fuel frenetic construction of airports, bridges and apartment towers for millions of people moving into cities…

    ““It’s all coming home to roost,” said Charles Macgregor, head of Asia at Lucror Analytics, an independent research firm based in Singapore that focuses on high-yield credit.”

    https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/echoes-1997-asia-financial-crisis-haunt-regions-debt-market

  10. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Profits earned by China’s industrial firms slid 38.3% year-on-year to 410.7 billion yuan (47.63 billion pounds) in the first two months of 2020, the statistics bureau said on Friday…

    “The decline in profits points to lingering trouble for the manufacturing sector, which is wrestling with a coronavirus epidemic…”

    https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-china-economy-industrial-profits/china-industrial-firms-jan-feb-profits-slump-383-year-on-year-idUKKBN21E06D

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “”At the beginning the problem was reduction in supply,” says Simchi-Levi, referring to China’s production issues. “But now it is not only a matter of supply from China; it is supply from everywhere. Second, the demand side is completely changing. Now there is a big drop in demand.” With unemployment rising and consumer spending reduced, fewer large manufacturers can keep operating at full capacity or anything close to it…

      “”You can see there are cascading effects that have an impact,” Simchi-Levi says. Clearly, without an abatement of the spread of Covid-19, a substantial economic uptick is hard to imagine.

      “”This is all fluid and dynamic,” he warns.”

      https://phys.org/news/2020-03-chain-outlook-slowdown.html

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        “Since last week, emails from foreign clients have been flooding into export manager Grace Gao’s in-box, asking to delay orders already made, putting goods ready to be shipped on hold until further notice, or asking for payment grace periods of up to two months.

        “Gao’s firm, Shandong Pangu Industrial Co., makes tools like hammers and axes, 60% of which go to the European market. As the virus ravages the continent from Spain to Italy, the shutdowns there are cutting off orders to Chinese factories just as they were beginning to get back on their feet. It’s a story playing out across the country.”

        https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-26/the-second-virus-shockwave-is-hitting-china-s-factories-already

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