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. Marco Bruciati says:

    How to prepear to deflaction and live some months Better?

    • Store up supplies of necessary goods now. Fresh water is likely to be a problem. Don’t count on electricity lasting, either.

      • Marco Bruciati says:

        Thanks a lot for the advice, living without electricity would still be a problem.

    • Ed says:

      If you have cash buy six months of food.Things that keep like rice, flour, oil, quinoa, tuna in cans, pasta, tomatoes sauce in glass or can, multi-vitamins, I add hot sauces to keep make the food less boring.

      • Xabier says:

        Can’t do that in Britain now, as all those long-life items are strictly rationed.

        One just has to go from week to week, more or less.

        Even wine rationing at some stores, God forbid!!! That one shook me.

        I can buy as much chorizo and Spanish drinking chocolate as I like though, so not quite the end of the world.

        • Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:


          “Break off a portion, heat up a mug of milk until it is simmering, add the little block and stir thoroughly until the chocolate has melted. Alternatively for a truly authentic Spanish Hot Chocolate, melt the 25g portion and enjoy with Churros or simply drink! … Then sit back and enjoy this gorgeous drink.”

          which way do you prefer?

  2. Yoshua says:

    There’s a rush for ventilators today.

    “In another report from Wuhan, mortality was 62% among critically ill patients with COVID-19 and 81% among those requiring mechanical ventilation.”

    • Yoshua says:

      The hospitals need protective gear for the medical staff…and quick deaths among the critically ill.

    • Ed says:

      hummm and patients with no heart beat who have cv19 have a mortality rate of 99.9% some can be shocked back for a few hours.

  3. ITEOTWAWKI says:

    For those fast-collapsers here on OFW, it’s crazy how perusing local, national and international headlines, you are seeing what we have commented about here for years happening right before our eyes, like a slow-motion car crash.

    However many of you would have preferred a “let-her-rip” approach instead of going the quarantine route. I disagree. Let me preface this, before I explain my take, that we are in a Catch-22 situation…both strategies (let the virus burn or quarantine) lead to a total collapse and we are probably looking at an ELE (Extinction Level Event).

    Why do I prefer the quarantine approach…because I believe it gives us a few more weeks of quasi-BAU, then a “let-her-rip” approach.

    The Virus is HIGHLY contagious…without doing anything, everybody gets it within a few weeks/months (tip of the hat to Al Bartlett, and how humans cannot wrap their heads around how the exponential function works). Now we know that in 80% of the cases, they will get through it without needing any kind of medical attention. The problem is that 20% will, and moreover 1 in 6 that get Covid-19 will need access to a ventilator (and not for a few days as is usually the case, but anywhere between 10 to 21 days give or take…3 to 6 times the amount of use needed in normal times). But with the speed of transmission, it means that all these people needing medical attention, will all need it pretty much in the same time frame. So let’s see, 20% of 8 billion is 1.6 billion needing medical attention and of those, 1.3 billion needing access to a ventilator, all in the span of a few weeks/months. By the way, feel free to halve all those numbers, the outcome is the same, that’s how huge those numbers are….hospitals across the world will collapse from the sheer number of people flocking there. As for the 0.5% to 1% death rate, such as recorded on the Diamond Princess COMPLETELY underestimates the actual death rate IMO. Why? Because, the patients on Diamond Princess had access to hospital care. In the case where hundreds of millions need a ventilator, only a fraction will get one. So millions that WOULD have lived had they had access to a ventilator die before ever seeing one. For that reason, I believe the 0.5% to 1% death rate is in a perfect limitless world, where everyone needing a ventilator gets one, till the person heals. The actual death rate is probably many multiples more, as only a minuscule fraction of the 1 out of 6 (feel free to put that number at 1 in 15, it’s still huge) needing a ventilator will actually get one. The result is you have all hospitals across the world collapsing (from Ghana to Germany and everywhere in between, Third-World, First-World, it does not matter) and millions dying all over the place…at home, in the streets, etc..without anyone picking up the dead bodies (just think of the logistics). If you don’t believe me, I ask you: what would Italy look like right now WITHOUT the quarantine in place across the country…

    At least now, we are still fully stocked at grocery stores and the masses are not freaking out…yet…if you had let the virus burn, in no time people would be freaking out because they would start seeing the death statistics balloon rapidly across the world. Do you seriously still want to work, go to stores, go to restaurants, travel, etc.. when you hear in the news that millions are dying?

    Anyway, it does not matter if you agree or not, because both options lead to the same result: total utter collapse of Industrial Civ, and pretty much in the same time frame. Quarantine just seems a gentler way to go about it (not working, spending time with family) and buying us a few weeks, tops. Carpe Diem to all! And stay safe as long as possible!

    • Hide-away says:

      Yes ITEOTWAWKI that’s how I see it as well. There is no real way out of this mess except perhaps a vaccine associated with a long quarantine. It is really the only choice.

      I don’t think the ‘let it rip’ crowd, and it is a crowd, have thought it through properly. If people see the hospitals flooded with sick people, or worse closed because the doctors are sick as well, then why would they turn up for work where there are sick people?

      People would change their behavior overnight in a world full of sick and dying people (even if only 50% get very sick). Everything would collapse, there would be no order to society whatsoever. People are not going to behave normally, nor rationally in a world of sudden chaos. Every supply line, including the grid would go down AND it would be across the world at the same time!

      No-one is coming to the rescue, everyone is in the same boat (China claim not to be, but they are not back to ‘normal’ either).

      The only real hope we have is a vaccine, if one can be produced in a relatively short time, but even then so much is broken, that the ‘system’ will never be the same again.

      Buying time is better than nothing, at least we get to see a more orderly collapse.

      Civilization has an order to it, ‘let it rip’ tears out the order, if the government doesn’t care, then why should the citizens with the ‘rules’. Do we want a fast collapse or a slow one?

      I choose a slow one.

      • Tango Oscar says:

        It’s too late for a vaccine. They couldn’t invent it, test it, make it, & distribute it in time. That ship has sailed because the system won’t hold together long enough for it to happen. I think the global system will entirely collapse by June. A vaccine couldn’t get through this process until October or maybe December and that would be faster than anything we’ve ever done. The ONLY hope we have at this point is some sort of combo of drugs or antivirals that kills it in a few days. If that doesn’t happen in the next few weeks, that’s it. We’re finished.

        • ITEOTWAWKI says:

          Exactly….I have been telling friends (who think I am a freak, I think the joke will be on them), that we won’t get to “la Saint-Jean-Baptiste” which is June 24 and the patron saint of my province, Quebec (with huge holiday celebrations, which won’t happen this year whether I am right or wrong with my timeline)…great posts these last few days Tango BTW 🙂

          • Tango Oscar says:

            Thanks. I hate to admit it but I’m enjoying this on some level. I’ve really enjoyed looking at the different approaches politicians, governments, and banks have been taking. The Federal Reserve, in particular, is partaking in actions that scream emergency. I tried explaining it to a few folks on Facebook the other day. One of them goes “The Federal Reserve, what’s that? Like the gold in Fort Knox or something?” Unfortunately that’s the comprehension level of most folks of the enormity of the crisis just on the financial side of it. They simply have no idea how bad it is.

          • Xabier says:

            I wonder if there won’t be a rebellion in the summer against the lock-downs: after all, we generally endure about 7 months of winter and do nothing except dream of those few precious weeks of warmth and open-air relaxation.

      • War says:

        Wrong, a vaccine is not the only solution. There are treatments that are very effective that are not being deployed since much of the world relies on a sick-care model. Conventional health care is a basket case and doesn’t address the roots of disease. Natural immunity is the solution and we’re probably getting close now since this thing was around for some time before the draconian measures came in.
        Also the deadliness of this disease has been overstated (due to never having an accurate total number of infected anywhere) and testing kits themselves are questionable in terms of giving false positives with other coronaviruses.
        The response to this thing is due to have a disproportionate effect on emerging markets (the third world) and will trigger starvation. Many are at risk, far more from the economic impacts due to unnecessary shutdown cascading to collapse.
        also just saw this
        As of 19 March 2020, COVID-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious diseases (HCID) in the UK.
        The fear is worse than the disease and it will all pass.

        • Tango Oscar says:

          Oh it will all pass, will it? It’s good to see people still engaging in recreational drug use in these times.

          • War says:

            Good one! No inclination for that stuff at the moment but I should clarify, the virus will pass…the larger picture of decline is in place, until we evolve, downsize, and create radically different ways of living….and it will be very, very challenging.

            • Tango Oscar says:

              We have no idea if the virus will pass or not. You HOPE the virus passes but we have no idea what’s going to happen. All we can do is look to history and observe the actions of the systems that are breaking down for context clues as to how this will play out. Even if the virus just magically disappeared in a few weeks, a virtual impossibility, the economic collapse that is happening right now could very well still drag the entire system down with it. The enormity of the financial packages that are being tossed around like salad dressing is a crisis in and of itself. We’ll probably also be dealing with war from the remaining super powers, maybe even nuclear. Buckle up.

      • Xabier says:

        The principle problem is that we have forgotten how to live with high mortality rates, which didn’t deter people from getting on with life or destroy society in the past: not so very long ago, 20% of pregnancies killed the mother,and it was customary for women to make their wills before childbirth. In the 18th century they celebrated getting that rate down from 33%! We need to toughen up a bit.

        • Xabier says:

          We’ve also forgotten how to live with corpses: a fascinating aspect of most ancient cultures is the proximity of death and the dead.

          Burying mum and dad under the floor of one’s house; mummifying them in some way and bringing them out on special occasions; the heads of your enemies hanging by the door and on the roof.

          Or even in the 20th century, sleeping in a room with a dead relation in it: not uncommon until after WW2 for poor workers living in tiny cottages.

      • Craig says:

        But if 90% of those dying are old, it changes how young people will react. When i was a kid, getting measles was good as you didnt want to get it when you were old. However polio was a different matter.

    • 09876 says:

      It would certainly be unfortunate if one was ventilated, survived, and had to live with a lung capacity of half. Thats the breaks. Good luck everyone.

    • Xabier says:

      Between the devil and the deep blue sea…..

    • Yorchichan says:

      The choice was never only between “let her rip” or lockdown. If what we have been told about the dangers of covid-19 is true, the obvious way to proceed from the outset was to isolate the vulnerable and let everybody else carry on as normal. That way neither the hospitals would have been overwhelmed nor the economy destroyed.

      • ITEOTWAWKI says:

        The logistics of that are absolutely mind-boggling though…and there would be push-back from the over 60 crowd (or 70, 75, 80 depending on the cutoff), and everyone with pre-existing conditions of any age…and this would not be for a couple of weeks, but 12 to 18 months till we get a vaccine rolled out. Moreover, these people number in the billions in the world..they are not necessarily in their prime years, but they still contribute to the global economy…and what about the caretakers, ambulance workers etc..that will need to go see these people…you only need one to get it…and away we go again…there is no solution…all 8 billion of us are at the same movie theater, the fire has broken out and all emergency exits are shut tight..

        • Yorchichan says:

          Sure there would be difficulties. It would be impossible for somebody in a care home to self isolate, for example. However, given how contagious coronavirus appears to be, it would not take as long as 12 to 18 months for herd immunity to develop.

          As for vaccines, I’d rather every human on the planet died a slow and agonizing death rather than one animal be harmed in the devlopement of a vaccine.

          Must go. Got a fare…

          • Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

            a person leaving a hospital? 😉

            • Yorchichan says:

              That was the next job. Most jobs left at the moment are shoppers, nurses or care workers, and jobs are so few and far between that I sit at home whilst waiting for a job. Unfortunately, I live near the hospital so I am often first in line for hospital jobs.

        • DJ says:

          Those doing the dying is very rarely producing anything.

          It would not last very long, only until most unisolated have been infected.

          Now we’re doing kind of the opposite.

          • ITEOTWAWKI says:

            Maybe, but they do contribute to the global economy (taking trips, buying stuff, etc..). And you have to isolate the old people and people with pre-existing conditions that are in their productive years (who knows how many people in the US and all over the world under the age of 50 have pre-existing conditions)…

            • Dan says:

              There are about 135 million Americans (pop 325 million) with preexisting conditions.
              Looked it up last night not going to do it again to link but y’all can.

          • Yorchichan says:

            Any species that sacrifices the young and the healthy for the sake of the old and the sick deserves to go extinct. Is it because those who rule us are in the latter categories, I wonder.

      • Chrome Mags says:

        “If what we have been told about the dangers of covid-19 is true, the obvious way to proceed from the outset was to isolate the vulnerable and let everybody else carry on as normal.”

        Exactly – a hybrid solution.

      • Xabier says:

        The hospitals have so little capacity that they would be overwhelmed whatever the policy: a bit like all the restaurants in a street being full -a poor indicator of general levels prosperity, as only a small % of the total population have to be wealthy enough in order to pack them out.

      • Ed says:

        Yorchichan, this is why I come to OFW I can unclench my teeth and breathe again. Than you for sane analysis.

  4. Ed says:

    Here 100 miles north of NYC, wife and son work at local hospital. So far, ONE case.

    • Hide-away says:

      Don’t go South

    • Mosey says:

      In my county there are officially 11 positive cases. Officially, one is in our hospital. Unofficially they are treating 5 positive cases with another 15 which theyare are positives…waiting on test results. I have good friends and spouse who are nurses and I believe them over the official stats the government deigns to give us. I expect you have a similar dynamic in your hospital. What positions do you wife and son hold? My spouse and friends are IMCU and critical care nurses…one is a certified first level caregiver for covid 19.
      However it is best to stay positive, so let’s go with the one official case both our hospitals are reporting…

  5. ITEOTWAWKI says:

    Cat = Humans
    Finger = Coronavirus
    Game is played every time you lift quarantine anywhere

  6. Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

    “I think there’s going to be so much pent-up desire to get out and do something, produce and spend that the economy is going to roar back by fall,” Rogers said.

    “For example, the travel industry — folks, after being cooped up in their house with this home restriction I think are going to be dying to go to the beach, and get on a plane and travel around the world,”

    is this The Onion?

    no, it’s not…

    • Xabier says:

      We should be grateful to this gentleman for trying so hard to keep us entertained.

      But perhaps The Onion people should take out a contract on him, and lla the others hwo make satire so difficult these days…..

    • Jason says:

      No jobs? Let them take vacations.

    • Too many missing links to keep the world economy going.

      • Artleads says:

        Wouldn’t you say, keep the world economy going for long enough? Obviously, keeping the the world economy going, just going, means infinite growth on a finite planet. We’re somewhat clear that this cannot be done. Meanwhile, there are essential industries needed to support a degree of civilization. And I would think that 1) identifying those essential industries, and 2) tracking the supply chain and socioeconomic arrangements to allow for those industries would be the next step.

    • Slow Paul says:

      The roaring 2020’s…

  7. Herbie R Ficklestein says:

    We’ve only just begun

    Ah, the Good Old Days of BAU…we didn’t know how good we had it!
    We Have Lost It All’: The Shock Felt by Millions of Unemployed Americans
    Sabrina Tavernise, Audra D.S. Burch, Sarah Mervosh and Campbell Robertson
    The New York TimesMarch 28, 2020, 10:15 AM EDT
    For the millions of Americans who found themselves without a job in recent weeks, the sharp and painful change brought a profound sense of disorientation. They were going about their lives, bartending, cleaning, managing events, waiting tables, loading luggage and teaching yoga. And then suddenly they were in free fall, grabbing at any financial help they could find, which in many states this week remained locked away behind crashing websites and overloaded phone lines.
    “Everything has changed in a matter of minutes — seconds,” said Tamara Holtey, 29, an accountant for an industrial services company in the Houston area, who was on a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico, as the coronavirus outbreak intensified in the United States and was laid off on her second day back at
    Now she spends her days applying for jobs online from her home in Alvin, Texas, while she and her wife weigh whether to delay paying their mortgage for a month or two — only to have to pay more
    On Tuesday last week, he was going to work, helping passengers in the customs area of the Miami airport. The next day, he was laid off without severance or benefits. Five days later, he moved back in with his 59-year-old mother, loading his bed and his clothes into the back of his friend’s pickup truck.
    Now he is staring at his bank account — totaling about $3,100 — and waiting on hold for hours at a time with the unemployment office, while cursing at its crashing website.
    “I’m feeling scared,” said Palma, who is 41 and nervous about the $15,000 in medical debt he has from two recent hospital stays. “I don’t know what’s the ending. But I know I’m not in good shape.”
    For the millions of Americans who found themselves without a job in recent weeks, the sharp and painful change brought a profound sense of disorientation. They were going about their lives, bartending, cleaning, managing events, waiting tables, loading luggage and teaching yoga. And then suddenly they were in free fall, grabbing at any financial help they could find, which in many states this week remained locked away behind crashing websites and overloaded phone lines.
    “Everything has changed in a matter of minutes — seconds,” said Tamara Holtey, 29, an accountant for an industrial services company in the Houston area, who was on a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico, as the coronavirus outbreak intensified in the United States and was laid off on her second day back at work.
    Now she spends her days applying for jobs online from her home in Alvin, Texas, while she and her wife weigh whether to delay paying their mortgage for a month or two — only to have to pay more in interest.
    “It’s just a constant thought in my head: Am I going to lose my house? Am I going to lose everything?” she said. They had been talking about starting to have children, but “that’s on pause now.”
    In 17 interviews with people in eight states across the country, Americans who lost their jobs said they were in shock and struggling to grasp the magnitude of the economy’s shutdown, an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Unlike the last economic earthquake, the financial crisis of 2008, this time there was no getting back out there to look for work, not when people were being told to stay inside. What is more, the layoffs affected not just them, but their spouses, their parents, their siblings and their roommates — even their bosses.
    “I don’t think anyone expected it to be like this,” said Mark Kasanic, 48, a server at a brasserie in Cleveland who was one of roughly 300 workers that a locally owned restaurant company laid off last week. Now he is home-schooling his children, ages 5 and 7, one with special needs.
    Julian Bruell was one of those who had to deliver the bad news to hourly employees like Kasanic. Bruell, 30, who helps run the company with his father, said that only about 30 employees are left running takeout and delivery at two of its five restaurants. He has not been earning a salary, his goal being to keep the business afloat through the crisis.
    “If it’s going to July this may not be sustainable,” he said. “I just want us to have a future.”
    On Thursday, he was planning to file for unemployment himself.
    In many states, that has been its own wild odyssey. Kasanic said he had spent hours dialing and redialing four Ohio numbers: three wound through a maze of messages that ended with a dead line and a fourth was always busy. His strategy now is to call at four in the morning.
    “Getting through is nearly impossible,” he said. “I probably tried calling over 100 times to try to get a hold of somebody.”
    Going online has not been any easier.
    “I’ve gone on their website and the site would crash or pages would disappear,” he said.
    He still has not gotten through. But he is trying.
    Many described a feeling of sudden economic helplessness that did not match how they saw themselves. In the space of two weeks, Olivia Fernandes, 26, and her husband, Fabio, both fitness instructors in Miami, went from earning $77,000 a year to frantically trying to file for unemployment online.

    But we have an EMERGENCY on our hands…drove to my nearby park today alone with my little tiny dog, Cricket, which I do EVERYDAY for YEARS and was halted to turn away because of the virus.
    Our we overreacting!? Was I violating social distancing?!

  8. Xabier says:

    The ‘no egg boxes’ story must be the tip of an iceberg: surely all packaging processes must break down at some point? It feels as though it might be quite soon.

    • Dennis L. says:

      Thanks, didn’t think of that one.

      It is with great regret I am starting to accept Gail’s guess that things will more or less stop in a few months.

      Many talk of a garden, it takes great skill and much more land than one might think, maybe an acre and that assumes no crop failures – they do fail you know.

      This is not going to be any fun at all.

      Dennis L.

      • ITEOTWAWKI says:

        About growing your own food without any modern world inputs….fast forward to the 25 minute mark to see the immediate challenges with growing your own food with the whole system having collapsed….

      • Marco Bruciati says:

        I accepted collaps in 2013 After study 3 years. Now i am ready. I had big depressione but now i am ready

        • Kowalainen says:

          No, you are not.

          In the face of starvation, disease and relentless hard labor there is not one single person living in IC that is prepared.

      • Mark says:

        Yea, I got some last words……

    • Grace says:

      No baby chicks, as well!

      I am a long-time reader but have never posted before. Started at the Oil Drum in 2005, bought farm land in 2007 in an out of the way place, started a business with husband and daughter, have gardened every year. Have always appreciated the knowledge and exchange of ideas here. I probably won’t post much, but – much thanks to all!! Grace

      • Apparently when times are tough, people want chickens. Chick sales go up during stock market downturns and in presidential election years.

        Murray McMurray Hatchery, of Webster City, Iowa, ships day-old poultry through the Postal Service, and is almost completely sold out of chicks for the next four weeks.

        “People are panic-buying chickens like they did toilet paper,” said Tom Watkins, the vice president of the company.

        I stopped by Home Depot myself to get some tomato and other food plants to set out. When we are worried, we think about food. The Home Depot parking lot was very full of vehicles, but with a big store, the number of customers was not obvious.

      • Congrats to great timing.

  9. Kowalainen says:

    For the doomer crowd, time to let the credit cards rip:

    After careful research in the subject. Buy a air purifier with HEPA filter and air ionizer functionality for your homes and office spaces.

    You might feel the urge to argue with me, but then you’d be wrong.

  10. Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

    a thought for us Americans…

    if/when we find out the exact day when we all are getting our $1,200…

    perhaps we should do all of our shopping (ie stock up) the day before…

    • Bingo.
      But in the greater scheme of things, possibly you can front run most of the other humanoids and various events, but in the end something eventually gets you. That’s how nature works.

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