COVID-19 and the economy: Where do we go from here?

The COVID-19 story keeps developing. At first, everyone listened to epidemiologists telling us that a great deal of social distancing, and even the closing down of economies, would be helpful. After trying these things, we ended up with a huge number of people out of work and protests everywhere. We discovered the models that were provided were not very predictive. We are also finding that a V-shaped recovery is not possible.

Now, we need to figure out what actions to take next. How vigorously should we be fighting COVID-19? The story is more complex than most people understand. These are some of the issues I see:

[1] The share of COVID-19 cases that can be expected to end in death seems to be much lower than most people expect.

Most people assume that the ratios of deaths to cases by age group, computed using reported cases, such as those included in the Johns Hopkins Database, give a good indication of the chance of death a person faces if a person catches COVID-19. In fact, the cases reported to this database are far from representative of all cases; they tend to be the more severe cases. Cases with no symptoms, or only very slight symptoms, tend to be missed. The result is that ratios calculated directly from this database make people think their risk of death is far higher than it really is.

The US Center for Disease Control has published Planning Scenarios, based on information available on April 29, 2020.* Using this information, the CDC’s best estimate of the number of future deaths per 1000 cases with symptoms is as follows:

Ages 0 – 49    0.5 deaths per 1000 cases with symptoms

Ages 50-64    2.0 deaths per 1000 cases with symptoms

Ages 65+       13.0 deaths per 1000 cases with symptoms

The CDC’s best estimate is that 35% of cases have no symptoms at all. Thus, if we were to include these cases without symptoms in the chart above, the chart would become:

Ages 0-49   0.5 deaths per 1,538 cases (including those without symptoms), or 0.3 deaths per 1000 cases with or without symptoms

Ages 50-64  1.3 deaths per 1000 cases with or without symptoms

Ages 65+    8.5 deaths per 1000 cases with or without symptoms

A recent study of blood samples from 23 different parts of the world came to a similarly low estimate of the number of deaths per 1000 COVID-19 infections. It reported that among people who are less than 70 years old, the number of deaths per 1000 ranged from 0.0 to 2.3 per 1000, with a median of 0.4 deaths per 1000.

The same paper remarks,

COVID-19 seems to affect predominantly the frail, the disadvantaged, and the marginalized – as shown by high rates of infectious burden in nursing homes, homeless shelters, prisons, meat processing plants, and the strong racial/ethnic inequalities against minorities in terms of the cumulative death risk.

[2] There seem to be things we can do ourselves to reduce our personal chance of serious illness or death.

General good health is protective against getting a bad case of COVID-19. Thus, anything that we can do in terms of a good diet and exercise is likely helpful. Staying inside for weeks on end in the hope of preventing exposure to COVID-19 is probably not helpful.

Continued exposure to huge amounts of disinfectants and hand sanitizers is likely not to be helpful either. Our bodies depend on healthy microbiomes, and products such as these adversely affect our microbiomes. They kill good and bad bacteria alike and may leave harmful residues. It is easy to scale back our personal use of these products.

There are recent indications that vitamin D is likely to be protective in reducing both the incidence of COVID-19 and the disease’s severity. Web MD reports:

Several groups of researchers from different countries have found that the sickest patients often have the lowest levels of vitamin D, and that countries with higher death rates had larger numbers of people with vitamin D deficiency than countries with lower death rates.

Experts say healthy blood levels of vitamin D may give people with COVID-19 a survival advantage by helping them avoid cytokine storm, when the immune system overreacts and attacks your body’s own cells and tissues.

While we don’t know for certain that vitamin D is helpful, there is certainly enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that it would likely be worthwhile to raise vitamin D levels to the amount recommended by the National Institute of Health (30 nmol/L or higher). People with dark skin living in areas away from the equator might especially be helped by this strategy, since dark skin reduces vitamin D production.

Masks seem to be helpful in preventing the spread of infection. A person’s own immune system can handle some level of germs. If two people meeting together both wear masks, the combination of masks can perhaps reduce the level of germs to within the amount the immune system can handle. Our immune systems are built to handle a barrage of small attacks by virus and bacteria. Continued “practice” with relatively low combinations of good and bad bacteria (as occur with masks) will tend to build up our bodies’ natural defenses.

We see dentists and dental hygienists wearing face shields. These shields are readily available over the internet and can be worn with a mask or by themselves. We don’t yet know precisely how much protection they provide, but early models suggest that they can be helpful in two directions: (a) preventing the wearer’s droplets from harming others and (b) reducing the droplet exposure from others. Thus, they may be a worthwhile way to reduce exposure to the virus causing COVID-19, even when others are not wearing masks.

[3] The medical community’s ability to treat COVID-19 cases keeps improving.

There seem to be many small changes that are improving treatment of COVID-19. If patients are having trouble getting enough oxygen, having them lie on their stomachs seems to increase their blood oxygen levels. The cost of this change is pretty much zero, but it keeps people out of the ICU longer.

Originally, planners thought that ventilators would be needed for patients with COVID-19, since ventilators are often used on pneumonia patients. Experience has shown, however, that oxygen plus something like a CPAP machine often works better and is less expensive.**

The simple change of not sending recuperating patients to nursing home-type facilities for the last stages of care has proven helpful, as well. Many of these patients can still infect others, leading to infections in long-term care facilities. Tests to tell whether patients are truly over the disease do not seem to be very accurate.

Last week, it was announced that treatment with an inexpensive common steroid could reduce deaths of people on ventilators by one-third. It could also reduce deaths of those requiring only oxygen treatment by 20%. Using this treatment should significantly reduce deaths, at little cost.

We can expect improvements in treatments to continue as doctors experiment with existing treatments, and as drug companies work on new solutions. Looking at cumulative historical mortality rates tends to overlook the huge learning curve that is taking place, allowing mortality rates to be lower.

[4] More doubts are being raised about quickly finding a vaccine that prevents COVID-19. 

The public would like to think that a vaccine solution is right around the corner. Vaccine promoters such as Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates would like to encourage this belief. Unfortunately, there are quite a few obstacles to getting a vaccine that actually works for any length of time:

(a) Antibodies for coronaviruses tend not to stay around for very long. A recent study suggests that even as soon as eight weeks, a significant share of COVID-19 patients (40% of those without symptoms; 12.9% of those with symptoms) had lost all immunity. A vaccine will likely face this same challenge.

(b) Vaccines may not work against mutations. Beijing is now fighting a new version of COVID-19 that seems to have been imported from Europe in food. Early indications are that people who caught the original Wuhan version of the COVID-19 virus will not be immune to the mutated version imported from Europe.

Vaccines that are currently under development use the Wuhan version of the virus. The catch is that the version of COVID-19 now circulating in the United States, Europe and perhaps elsewhere is mostly not the Wuhan type.

(c) There is a real concern that a vaccine against one version of COVID-19 will make a person’s response to a mutation of COVID-19 worse, rather than better. It has been known for many years that Dengue Fever has this characteristic; it is one of the reasons that there is no vaccine for Dengue Fever. The earlier SARS virus (which is closely related to the COVID-19 virus) has this same issue. Preliminary analysis suggests that the virus causing COVID-19 seems to have this characteristic, as well.

In sum, getting a vaccine that actually works against COVID-19 is likely to be a huge challenge. Instead of expecting a silver bullet in the form of a COVID-19 vaccine, we probably need to be looking for a lot of silver bee-bees that will hold down the impact of the illness. Hopefully, COVID-19 will someday disappear on its own, but we have no assurance of this outcome.

[5] The basic underlying issue that the world economy faces is overshoot, caused by too high a population relative to underlying resources.

When an economy is in overshoot, the big danger is collapse. The characteristics of overshoot leading to collapse include the following:

  • Very great wage disparity; too many people are very poor
  • Declining health, often due to poor nutrition, making people vulnerable to epidemics
  • Increasing use of debt, to make up for inadequate wages and profits
  • Falling commodity prices because too few people can afford these commodities and goods made from these commodities
  • Gluts of commodities, causing farmers to plow under crops and oil to be put into storage

Thus, pandemics are very much to be expected when an economy is in overshoot.

One example of collapse is that following the Black Death (1348-1350) epidemic in Europe. The collapse killed 60% of Europe’s population and dropped Britain’s population from close to 5 million to about 2 million.

Figure 1. Britain’s population, 1200 to 1700. Chart by Bloomberg using Federal Reserve of St. Louis data.

We might say that there was a U-shaped population recovery, which took about 300 years.

A later example that almost led to collapse was the period between 1914 and 1945. This was a period of shrinking international trade, indicating that something was truly wrong. On Figure 2 below, the WSJ calls its measure of international trade the “Trade Openness Index.” The period 1914-1945 is highlighted as being somewhat like today.

Figure 2. The Trade Openness Index is an index based on the average of world imports and exports, divided by world GDP. Chart by Wall Street Journal.

Many of the issues in the 1914-1945 timeframe were coal related. World War I took place when coal depletion became a problem in Britain. The issue at that time was wages that were too low for coal miners because the price of coal would not rise very high. Higher coal prices were needed to offset the impact of depletion, but high coal prices were not affordable by citizens.

The Pandemic of 1918-1919 killed far more people than either World War I or COVID-19.

World War II came about at the time coal depletion became a problem in Germany.

Figure 3. Figure by author describing peak coal timing compared to World War I and World War II.

The problem of inadequate energy resources finally ended when World War II ramped up demand through more debt and through more women entering the labor force for the first time. In response, the US began pumping oil out of the ground at a faster rate. Instead of depending on coal alone, the world began depending on a combination of oil and coal as energy resources. The ratio of population to energy resources was suddenly brought back into balance again, and collapse was averted!

[6] We are now in another period of overshoot of population relative to resources. The critical resource this time is oil. The alternatives we have aren’t suited to fulfilling our most basic need: the growing and transportation of food. They act as add-ons that are lost if oil is lost.

If we look back at Figure 2 above, it shows that since 2008, the world has again fallen into a period of shrinking imports and exports, which is a sign of “not enough energy resources to go around.” We are also experiencing many of the other characteristics of an overshoot economy that I mentioned in Section 5 above.

Figure 4 shows world energy consumption by type of energy through 2019, using recently published data by BP. The “Other” combination in Figure 4 includes nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, solar, and other smaller categories such as geothermal energy, wood pellets, and sawdust burned for fuel.

Figure 4. World energy consumption by fuel, based on BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Oil has been rising at a steady pace; coal consumption has been close to level since about 2012. Natural gas and “Other” seem to be rising a little faster in the most recent few years.

If we divide by world population, the trend in world energy consumption per capita by type is as follows:

Figure 5. World Per Capita Energy Consumption based on BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy

Many people would like to think that the various energy sources are substitutable, but this is not really the case, as we approach limits of a finite world.

One catch is that there are very few stand-alone energy resources. Most energy resources only work within a framework provided by other energy sources. Wood that is picked up from the forest floor can work as a stand-alone energy source. Wind can almost be used as a stand-alone energy source, if it is used to power a simple sail boat or a wooden windmill. Water can almost be used as a stand-alone energy source, if it can be made to turn a wooden water wheel.

Coal, when its use was ramped up, enabled the production of both concrete and steel. It allowed modern hydroelectric dams to be built. It allowed steam engines to operate. It truly could be used as a stand-alone energy source. The main obstacle to the extraction of coal was keeping the cost of extraction low enough, so that, even with transportation, buyers could afford to purchase the coal.

Oil, similarly, can be a stand-alone energy solution because it is very flexible, dense, and easily transported. Or it can be paired with other types of less-expensive energy, to make it go further. We can see our dependence on oil by how level energy consumption per capita is in Figure 5 since the early 1980s. Growth in population seems to depend upon the amount of oil available.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the economy is a self-organizing system. If there isn’t enough of the energy products upon which the economy primarily depends, the system tends to change in very strange ways. Countries become more quarrelsome. People decide to have fewer children or they become more susceptible to pandemics, bringing population more in line with energy resources.

The problem with natural gas and with the electricity products that I have lumped together as “Other” is that they are not really stand-alone products. They cannot grow food or build roads. They cannot power international jets. They cannot build wind turbines or solar panels. They cannot put natural gas pipelines in place. They can only exist in a complex environment which includes oil and perhaps coal (or other cheaper energy products).

We are kidding ourselves if we think we can transition to modern fuels that are low in carbon emissions. Without high prices, oil and coal that are in the ground will tend to stay in the ground permanently. This is the serious obstacle that we are up against. Without oil and coal, natural gas and electricity products will quickly become unusable.

[7] A major problem with COVID-19 related shutdowns is the fact that they lead to very low commodity prices, including oil prices. 

Figure 6. Inflation-adjusted monthly average oil prices through May 2020. Amounts are Brent Spot Oil Prices, as published by the EIA. Inflation adjustment is made using the CPI-Urban Index.

Oil is the primary type of energy used in growing and transporting food. It is used in many essential processes, including in the production of electricity. If its production is to continue, its price must be both high enough for oil producers and low enough for consumers.

The problem that we have been encountering since 2008 (the start of the latest cutback in trade in Figure 2) is that oil prices have been falling too low for producers. Now, in 2020, oil production is beginning to fall. This is happening because producing companies cannot afford to extract oil at current prices; governments of oil exporting countries cannot collect enough taxes at current prices. They hope that by reducing oil supply, prices will rise again.

If extraordinarily low oil prices persist, a calamity similar to the one that “Peak Oilers” have worried about will certainly occur: Oil supply will begin dropping. In fact, the drop will likely be much more rapid than most Peak Oilers have imagined, because the drop will be caused by low prices, rather than the high prices that they imagined would occur.

Amounts which are today shown as “proven reserves” can be expected to disappear because they will not be economic to extract. Governments of oil exporting countries seem likely to be overthrown because tax revenue from oil is their major source of revenue for programs such as food subsidies and jobs programs. When this disappears, governments of oil exporters are forced to cut back, lowering the standard of living of their citizens.

[8] What our strategy should be from now on is not entirely clear.

Of course, one path is straight into collapse, as happened after the Black Death of 1348-1352 (Figure 1). In fact, the carrying capacity of Britain might still be about 2 million. Its current population is about 68 million, so this would represent a population reduction of about 97%.

Other countries would experience substantial population reductions as well. The population decline would reflect many causes of death besides direct deaths from COVID-19; they would reflect the impacts of collapsing governments, inadequate food supply, polluted water supplies, and untreated diseases of many kinds.

If a large share of the population stays hidden in their homes trying to avoid COVID, it seems to me that we are most certainly heading straight into collapse. Supply lines for many kinds of goods and services will be broken. Oil prices and food prices will stay very low. Farmers will plow under crops, trying to raise prices. Gluts of oil will continue to be a problem.

If we try to transition to renewables, this leads directly to collapse as well, as far as I can see. They are not robust enough to stand on their own. Prices of oil and other commodities will fall too low and gluts will occur. Renewables will only last as long as (a) the overall systems can be kept in good repair and (b) governments can support continued subsidies.

The only approach that seems to keep the system going a little longer would seem to be to try to muddle along, despite COVID-19. Open up economies, even if the number of COVID-19 cases is higher and keeps rising. Tell people about the approaches they can use to limit their exposure to the virus, and how they can make their immune systems stronger. Get people started raising their vitamin D levels, so that they perhaps have a better chance of fighting the disease if they get COVID-19.

With this approach, we keep as many people working for as long as possible. Life will go on as close to normal, for as long as it can. We can perhaps put off collapse for a bit longer. We don’t have a lot of options open to us, but this one seems to be the best of a lot of poor options.


*The CDC estimates are estimates of future deaths per 1000 cases. Thus, they probably reflect the learning curve that has already taken place. It is unlikely that they reflect the benefit of the new steroid treatment mentioned in Section 3, because this finding occurred after April 29.

**I have been told that disease spread can be a problem when using CPAP machines, however. Using ventilators at very low pressure settings seems also to be a solution.




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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909 Responses to COVID-19 and the economy: Where do we go from here?

  1. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The Wirecard scandal is the most serious indictment of European finance since the global banking crisis. In terms of frauds, the collapse of the German payments business is one of the most damaging ever for the reputation of the European financial system.

    “It has revealed a pattern of negligence (or worse) among leading banks, auditors, rating agencies, investors and regulators that is simply breathtaking…

    “Another remarkable aspect of the Wirecard story is how many separate red flags it raised. One of the simplest was that the company didn’t generate cash. The income claimed was not reflected in its cashflow, a classic symptom common to most frauds, including Enron.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “Wirecard’s UK subsidiary, Wirecard Card Solutions (WCS), said it was “working hard” to restore operations after the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on Friday ordered the firm to freeze regulated activities.”

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        “Is fraud the new bankruptcy? Shares in fallen German fintech giant Wirecard jumped 138% during Monday trade, in what appears to be the latest irrational market pump for stock that could soon be worthless.”

      • EY said: “We’ve established that third parties, with a deliberate aim to deceive, provided EY with false documentation in connection with its 2019 Wirecard audit. The extent and sophistication of these suggest a large-scale international fraud at Wirecard.”

        So now we have two major companies in Germany with huge frauds. First Volkswagen, with their claim of cars with better fuel economy than was actually the case, and then Wirecard, with its deception.

        Maybe Germany is trying to do things that can’t be done. Clearly, the company that is providing the services that Wirecard has been providing needs to receive a higher stream of revenue than it has been getting. How is this going to be fixed? It is a little like mandating fuel economy that can’t really happen.

  2. Harry McGibbs says:

    “If the US Federal Reserve Board does what markets are expecting, indeed demanding, and implements yield curve control, it will create something quite unprecedented: The world’s most powerful central bank will control not just the volume of money in the world’s largest economy, but also its price.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “The US Federal Reserve is prepared to spend at least $24bn to purchase corporate bonds issued by oil and gas companies as part of a broader effort to support US corporations’ access to financial markets amid a severe recession.”

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        “Major sovereign bond yields, which have been low for years, are expected to be close to current levels for the next 12 months, as the global economy struggles to recover from the impact of COVID-19, a Reuters poll found.

        “With expectations for weak economic growth intensifying, major central banks are likely to expand their bloated balance sheets, increasing their sway over bond markets.”

        • It seems like there are a lot of implicit expectations to this. Basically, every part of the system will continue to work as it does today. Even if Italy’s debt gets downgraded to “junk,” it won’t really matter. The EU will continue to operate as it does today (will have enough funding, for example).

      • Rodster says:

        “amid a severe recession.”

        You gotta love BS. The media keeps pumping out the word recession. The global eCONomy is collapsing and it’s being labeled as a “recession” and that’s after 3 months and just one lockdown. Let’s see what the July numbers show because commonsense tells me this isn’t a “Recession” and the BLS is lying about their unemployment numbers because they ain’t 13.5% but really more like 34% unemployment in the US.

        • Xabier says:

          Of course, these economic journalists are idiots, but it’s also rather like family doctors in pre-antibiotic times:

          ‘Just rest up a bit old chap, maybe go somewhere nice for change of air, have plenty of eggs and cream, some steak, have a glass of port every evening, and you’ll be fine.’

          What else is there to say when the case is terminal? It does no good to state the truth.

          However, it’s known that those who are soon to die realise their case, whatever they are told. Many can feel what is in the air, whatever the media tell them.

      • Robert Firth says:

        What is the point of buying bonds from companies that will probably never make a profit again? I suppose, to continue the illusion of prosperity a little longer.

        • Xabier says:

          Totem Pole Economics: ritual activities without any sense that maintain the illusion of effective individual and social agency?

      • Whatever it takes, it sounds like!

  3. Herbie Ficklestein says:

    Not ready for Peak Oil…hmmm…will we ever be ready!?😎

    The World Isn’t Ready for Peak Oil
    The coronavirus crisis is revealing the instability a sudden move away from petroleum would bring—but also giving us the chance to help countries make the necessary transition.
    AMOS HOCHSTEIN the Atlantic
    JUNE 28, 2020
    The resulting instability, from the Middle East to Africa to the Americas, raises a flurry of immediate national-security concerns. But the current crisis also offers a stark preview of the challenges the world will face if it negotiates a climate accord without also moving to stabilize the more than a dozen countries that depend on oil exports as their primary source for generating government revenue.
    In Iraq, for example, oil revenues account for 90 percent of the government’s budgetary income and two-thirds of its economy. This year’s falling oil prices have already reduced the country’s revenues by half.
    Before the outbreak, Iraq’s unemployment rate hovered around 50 percent, and Baghdad faced a wave of youth-led protests that ultimately led to the ouster of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. But with dwindling revenues, the new government will be hamstrung in its efforts to improve economic conditions. To make matters worse, among Iraqis who are employed, 30 percent work in some capacity for the government. The World Bank estimates that Iraq will need oil prices to return to $58 a barrel just to meet its wage and pension obligations.

    ……..Some version of this story is playing out across multiple continents. According to the International Monetary Fund, Algeria, which depends on oil revenue for about 40 percent of its budget, will need oil prices to reach $109 a barrel in order to break even. In Libya, where the petroleum sector accounts for 60 percent of GDP, the break-even price is $100. Meanwhile, in our own neighborhood, oil accounts for a third of Mexico’s tax revenue and a quarter of Ecuador’s. If prices settle in the $30 to $40 range, the consequences could easily cascade, creating new regional instability in many parts of the world.

    Doubt we as civilized societies can hold it all🤑 together

    • GBV says:

      And if prices “settle” at $20 per barrel…?



    • Duncan Idaho says:

      The World Isn’t Ready for Peak Oil
      We are not at peak oil globally.
      That happened in November of 2018.
      It is disappearing in the rear view mirror.

    • Of course, this is only the oil exporter part of the problem. The rest of the world can say goodbye to pretty much all aspects of its economy today. No food becomes a problem, quickly. We certainly do not have an electric work-around for the food problem.

      • GBV says:

        “Let them eat tungsten-filled gold bars”

        Or was it “cake”?
        One of the two anyway…

        I certainly had a food problem today. Went to the local grocery store to buy a *new flavour* of ice cream (Ontario Peach… yum!), but they were out of stock. Damn store wouldn’t even give me a rain cheque because… covid-19.

        Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been to Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and I can say, without hyperbole, that this was a million times worse than all of them put together 😐


      • Robert Firth says:

        The people of Easter Island found an effective low tech work around for their food problem.

  4. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Concerns about the financial repercussions of the coronavirus crisis have largely faded since the first few hectic weeks. That’s a problem, because authorities should be doing much more to prepare for what could be a destabilizing wave of losses…

    “At some point… the question will be not whether borrowers can keep borrowing, but whether they can afford the obligations they’ve taken on.”

  5. Tim Groves says:

    This morning’s newspaper told me that the number of deaths worldwide attributed to COVID-19 has risen to 500,000.
    Whether this is an underestimate or an overestimate is debatable. But it’s as close to an official figure as we have at present.

    How does this pandemic compare with some of the flu ones of the last century? I looked at Encyclopedia Britannica and it told me:

    “The 1968 flu pandemic, also called Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1968 or Hong Kong flu of 1968, global outbreak of influenza that originated in China in July 1968 and lasted until 1969–70. The outbreak was the third influenza pandemic to occur in the 20th century; it followed the 1957 flu pandemic and the influenza pandemic of 1918–19. The 1968 flu pandemic resulted in an estimated one million to four million deaths, far fewer than the 1918–19 pandemic, which caused between 25 million and 50 million deaths.”

    So up to the present, COVID-19 has caused around an eighth to a half as many fatalities as the 1968 Hong Kong flu pandemic, when the world population was about half of its current size, and about a hundredth as many fatalities as the 1918/19 flue pandemic, when the world population was about a quarter of its current size.

    Britannica also told me:

    “The 1968 flu pandemic caused illness of varying degrees of severity in different populations. For example, whereas illness was diffuse and affected only small numbers of people in Japan, it was widespread and deadly in the United States. Infection caused upper respiratory symptoms typical of influenza and produced symptoms of chills, fever, and muscle pain and weakness. These symptoms usually persisted for between four and six days. The highest levels of mortality were associated with the most susceptible groups, namely infants and the elderly.”

    Lastly, the CDC Website told me:

    “The 1968 pandemic was caused by an influenza A (H3N2) virus comprised of two genes from an avian influenza A virus, including a new H3 hemagglutinin, but also contained the N2 neuraminidase from the 1957 H2N2 virus. It was first noted in the United States in September 1968. The estimated number of deaths was 1 million worldwide and about 100,000 in the United States. Most excess deaths were in people 65 years and older. ”

    On that basis, COVID-19 in the US is up there with the 1968 flu and likely to greatly outperform it as a culler of the herd in time.

    I find it interesting that both the 1968 flu and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemics struck much more harshly in the US than in Japan—these two baseball-crazy nations separated by a an ocean of differences in culture, customs, habits, mores and styles of behavior. I’m not sure why this should have been the case as the urban Japanese are crowded together in tight quarters and breathing each other’s air to a greater extent than the Americans are. At a guess, I would put it down to all the raw fish they consume and the significantly lower BMI of the Japanese then and now.

    • GBV says:

      Perhaps the people of 1918 and 1968 were more intelligent and less cowardly?

      But, to be fair, they probably didn’t live in the world of the Internet, science as a dogma / religion (instead of, well, science), and the 24-7 fear-mongering news cycle…


      • Duncan Idaho says:

        You had to be there in 1968.
        Tet offensive, King and Kennedy assassinated, Chicago Democratic Convention, Student protests, etc.
        I was 18- and the most drafted class of the VN War.
        And in The Bay.

    • Xabier says:

      In 1968, people had experienced the stress of WW2, so a little flu was not going to upset them too much: and they were also more used to deaths in the mid-60’s, rather than 70-80’s as we tend to expect as a ‘timely’ end. Also, as many point out, a much more sensible media environment.

    • Yes, there is a huge difference in the likelihood of this pandemic leading to death, compared to earlier ones. The big difference this time seems to be that world leaders somehow believe that we have the ability to stop the pandemic. Unfortunately, we don’t. All we can do is disrupt our current economy.

      • GBV says:

        Mind-blowing question of the day:

        Is it that world leaders believe they can stop the pandemic, or that they only believe they can get re-elected by us simple-minded proletariat morons if they say (and act) like they can stop the pandemic?


  6. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The UK economy shrank more than first thought between January and March, contracting 2.2% in the joint largest fall since 1979, official figures show… There was a significant economic impact in March, as the coronavirus pandemic began to have an effect.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “Weekly spend in UK food service in April 2020 was just over £200 million, compared to April 2019’s weekly spend level of around £1 billion. The report from NPD Group found that although lockdown officially started on 23 March, many people were already avoiding eating out.”

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        “Burger chain Byron is scrambling to find a buyer who can stave off impending financial collapse, save 1,200 jobs, and reopen its 52 restaurants in the UK by mid-next month. The company has filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators…”

        • Harry McGibbs says:

          “More than 300,000 planned new homes [UK] may remain on the drawing board over the next five years, deepening the UK’s housing crisis…

          “Construction of the cheapest social housing could fall to a “catastrophic” low of 4,300 units annually – the smallest number since the second world war. Shelter said this would not even be enough to clear the waiting list for a social home in Wakefield, never mind the rest of the country.”

          • Robert Firth says:

            “Social housing”, by the way, is British socialist speech for “housing you pay for and they live in”. “They” being people who vote socialist.

            • Minority Of One says:

              A lot of poverty in the UK today, maybe most of it, is within families where one or both adults / parents work (20% of UK couples have no children) but they get paid so little they cannot afford very many luxuries in life, like owning their own home, holidays, and in some cases, enough food. That is why the UK govt, a couple of weeks ago, was forced to bring back free school meals for those that qualified. For a lot of children it is the only decent meal they get on a regular basis. And the size of the pie is rapidly shrinking.

              And with so many people who were formerly in decently paid jobs now or soon-to-be unemployed, I should expect the housing market will be flooded with properties for sale. Now seems to be a dodgy time to build new houses on a large scale. But I stand to be persuaded otherwise.

            • Seems to be like the US in terms of many families with one or both parent working being in poverty.

              In the US, the vast majority of these people would be currently renting the housing (often an apartment) that they live in. The big problem would be missed rent payments. Some would move back in with relatively.

              In the US, there has recently been a big difference between demand for housing to purchase (high) vs. housing for sale (low). The new demand for housing for purchase arises from changes in family status: need space for a home office, mother is moving back in from assisted living center, adult child is moving back in. Or families wanting to move out of metropolitan city centers, if the breadwinner can work from home. There have been relatively few homes for sale, because people don’t want unknown people walking through their homes, probably leaving germs of various kinds.

            • Kim says:

              It isn’t called that to differentiate it from anti-social housing?

            • Xabier says:

              Another meaning of social housing, in the UK, is:

              ‘Subsidised housing let to immigrant tenants who then sub-let ( and over-fill it ) to illegal immigrants and pocket the cash.

          • Could the UK buy previously built apartment homes that are no longer needed, as more people move out of their apartments, into social housing? Is there any point in building more? Is UK’s population really increasing today, with fewer immigrants?

            • Xabier says:

              The University of Cambridge has been building no less than 3,000 apartments, just on my door-step, mostly for Chinese graduate students, part of their expansion programme, competing in the global education market.

              Unfortunately, the tenants one can get for ‘social housing’ are not at all desirable and would likely trash the place – those sort of people have so many drug and behavioural issues, etc.

              Oddly enough, someone said to me last year that the new development would be the ‘slum of the future’. They may well be right.

            • Minority Of One says:

              The UK population was until the start of this year still rising, and forecast to keep rising, entirely due to net immigration. I don’t know what has been happening this year but with flights almost non-existent, population might end up falling slightly.
              There is no shortage of apartments for sale, certainly not here in Aberdeen and I suspect outside of London / the SE of England. As for social housing, its heydays were the 1940s-1970s. Then Thatcher became PM and there has been a perpetual shortage ever since.

          • Kim says:

            The always-intriguing predicts the current UK population of 66 million to drop to 15 million by 2025.

            That would be interesting to watch…from afar. But it might solve the housing problem.

            • Jarle says:

              Based on what, a (big) wave of suicides from “sheltering at home”?

            • Minority Of One says:

              Do you have a link? With that many dead I doubt many of them could be buried / cremated without the use of giant pits, and disease for the survivors would be rampant, presumably.

            • Kim says:

              Here is a link to the forecasts.

              I bring it up only for a morbid laugh. It is a strange site but it has been around forever – it has some connection to the Mil-Ind complex – and provides no rationales for its predictions.

              The intriguing factor is in predictions such as that China’s population will remain basically unchanged into 2025 but that of the USA will drop from 326 million to 99 million. Okay, I can foresee the USA drop – absolutely possible if the lockdowns continue – but why does China, or for that matter Russia, Brazil, India or Indonesia get a pass on whatever affects the USA?

              I want to see these numbers explained, but alas, no explanation is available.

            • Tim Groves says:

              This is just a scenario. It isn’t something I could prove beyond reasonable doubt.

              Apart from things that happen spontaneously such as earthquakes, many of our most important news events are scripted well in advance. So anyone who has access to the script and knows how to read it can forecast the future.

              Hence the long list of things that happened first in the Simpsons and later in real life. Hence the so-called Illuminati card game released by Steve Jackson in 1982.

              If this is the case, then the Deagel people could have looked at the script and seen that the Elders were planning to crash the West and take living standards in the industrialized world down to “sustainable” Third World levels.

              Incidentally, this is what the Globalists have been signaling that they want to do for almost forty years now.

      • Cases in Italy were clearly on their way up by March 1. Iran’s cases are up by then as well. The US started shutdown on March 13. I can see why many UK citizens might have stopped eating out by March 1.

      • Xabier says:

        Eating out in the UK, at anything above the ‘Subway’ level – I still don’t know how people, other than drunk students, can possibly stomach their crap, but they are always full! – is just such fantastically poor value for money at the mass -market, mid-price range.

        Given the gathering recession of 2019, the UK restaurant trade was going to hit the buffers, with or without COVID.

        • Bei Dawei says:

          I ate 2 feet of meatball sandwich once, in my student days. (Subway was having a two-for-one sale.)

        • Kim says:

          Yes, eating out and already-cooked food in general is tremendously poor value for money.

        • Robert Firth says:

          Xabier, that is why when I lived in the UK I ate out very little. If you were lucky enough to find a Sichuan restaurant, you had a fair chance of getting an edible meal, but otherwise… The one gem that saved us was a family run takeout in Highworth. British husband who made the fish and chips (with quality fresh oil) and Chinese wife who cooked traditional cuisine for the ang moh. Enjoy at home over an episode of Doctor Who. As a bonus, the newspapers that wrapped the fish were an excellent barometer of current political trends.

  7. Harry McGibbs says:

    “OPEC further restricted its oil production in June compared to May as it aims to withhold a record volume of supply from the market together with its non-OPEC allies led by Russia, according to tanker-tracking company Petro-Logistics.

    “However, the cartel still produced more than its collective quota.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell said on Tuesday it will write down the value of its assets by up to $22 billion in the second quarter, after revising down its long-term outlook for oil and gas prices.”

      • Write down assets = devalue oil in the ground

        In my opinion, there is a double problem:

        (1) Less oil is profitable to extract, and
        (2) The oil that is extracted will sell for less.

        This is the big reserve write-down problem oil companies face. Peak oilers have counted on this oil being available.

        • Robert Firth says:

          Thank you, Gail, an excellent summary. Yes, oil companies counted oil in the ground as an “asset”, and valued it at current prices. But that oil was of lower quality, harder to extract, and more expensive to refine. It was worth a lot less than the supposed book value. And now the chickens (or Chinese bats?) are coming home to roost.

        • GBV says:

          I wonder if collapsing demand for oil will somewhat counterbalance the reduction of (profitable) reserves that can be extracted?

          A lot of the peak oil themed videos I’ve watched over the years always mention that energy companies / analysts claim we have X number of years left of energy source Y at current levels of consumption, at which point the video asks the (fair) question, “but what if demand / consumption continues to increase? Not many (save for Gail and a few other voices in the wilderness) saw the possibility of both extractable reserves and demand falling at the same time…

          Hopefully everything we’ve witnessed as of late will encourage people to rethink their assumptions about economics, energy, human behaviour and the future… though I guess I would be wise not to hold my breath 😐


          • Collapsing demand will lead to huge debt defaults and a collapsing economy. Indeed, oil demand may head to zero; this is equivalent to no one being able to afford food. It would also be possible to get to collapsing oil demand through broken supply lines. For example, truck drivers might stop driving their trucks because with partially empty trucks, they are not making enough money to cover their cost of operating the vehicles, including debt repayment, insurance, maintenance, and fuel costs. The food is being grown; it doesn’t get to its required destination.

            I don’t think I would celebrate a change such as this. You don’t want falling demand.

            • GBV says:

              “this is equivalent to no one being able to afford food.”

              What I think you meant to say is, “this is equivalent to no one being able to afford industrial civilization-produced food.” Not all food / energy is produced courtesy of fossil fuels, JIT supply chains, chemical fertilizers, etc. (though, I suspect you’d be right if you said the vast majority of it is).

              But, no, wasn’t exactly suggesting we celebrate the situation (though I’m still of the mind that there might be something positive on the other side of collapse that perhaps a few of us may even get to witness) – just pointing out that so few saw it playing out this way, and that despite everything that has happened, so many more still cling to the hopium of an eleventh-hour deus ex machina saviour to propel us into a techno-utopic future.


            • The world’s current population certainly could not live on foods that are produced and transported through today’s industrial civilization, unfortunately.

            • Bei Dawei says:

              Again, I recommend Paul Hanley’s book “Eleven” (referring to the projected human population circa 2100):

              Hanley writes on agriculture and food from a Baha’i perspective. Baha’is foresee a period of calamity and adjustment before the rise of a truly global civilization, without extremes of wealth or poverty.

            • Bei Dawei says:

              (sigh) I meant to write that the projected human population for 2100 is 11 billion, not 11, period! Nobody is *that* much a doomster!

              I see that Hanley is offering a virtual course through the Wilmette Institute. I’ve taken their courses before, and recommend them (even though I’m not a Baha’i). It’s 50 bucks US, but if you write and plead poverty they’ll probably let you in under the ropes::


    • This is the report by the group that counts the ships carrying oil away from the gulf. The OPEC report on oil production will not be out until July 14.

  8. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for global air freight markets in May showing a slight improvement in the air cargo market.

    “But capacity remains unable to meet demand as a result of the loss of belly cargo operations on passenger aircraft that have been parked.”

    • “Global capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometers (ACTKs), shrank by 34.7% in May (-32.2% for international operations) compared to the previous year, a slight deceleration from the 41.6% year-on-year drop in April.”

      No wonder capacity remains unable to meet demand!

      • Xabier says:

        This is why tourism (hiss, boo! ‘Only 10% of the economy’, etc. ) is so important – those cargo holds in the jets.

        • Sort of like internet gaming holding down the costs of the internet, so that businesses can afford to use it for their purposes. We don’t understand all of the dependencies.

          • Xabier says:

            Even the brightest people can’t entirely grasp these issues and all the ramifications of inter-dependency: like Tim Morgan, who thinks we can happily let tourist jets go away.

            And as CTG pointed out recently, the local effects of an ‘inessential’ restaurant closing can be significant. Or even a nail parlour.

            Nothing that exists now is truly ‘ inessential’ and a mere luxury: all part of the debt-complex.

  9. Kim says:

    Dr Fauci waits for the cameras to stop rolling and then straightaway removes his mask. LOL!

    It’s a reeaally deadly virus everyone! Be very, very scared! Boo!

    • Herbie Ficklestein says:

      Interesting…..To be honest it is difficult at times to breathe freely with it on and my aged parent is always trying to remove it to breathe, even in well ventilated, air conditioner doctors offices. Obviously, it’s a poly to pretend that they will curtail the spread.
      Never mind the psychological effect on the public of control and being watched.
      Severe fines for not abiding by the rules.
      Except those that are powerful enough to flaunt the rules

      • If the authorities would allow face shields instead, this might work as well or better and be more acceptable to older people. These are the clear shields that a person sees doctors and dental assistants wearing. Even without a mask underneath, they seem to provide significant protection. Models seem to suggest that they are helpful, but I haven’t seen any real-life tests.

    • Do as I say, not as I do.

    • Robert Firth says:

      Dr Fauci is deservedly the world expert on Covid. After all, he helped the Chinese create it. But whether he tells the truth about his creation, that is a horse of a very different colour.

  10. Herbie Ficklestein says:

    This should solve the problem, after all it’s an Election year!
    House passes new coronavirus relief bill for renters and homeowners, as Democrats urge Republicans to negotiate further aid (Rosie Perper)
    June 30, 2020, 3:20 AM EDT
    Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via Getty Images
    The House of Representatives on Monday passed legislation in order to protect Americans impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic from evictions and foreclosures.
    The bill, sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters of California, passed by a vote of 232-180 split down party lines. Only one Democrat, Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, voted against the measure.
    Waters said the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020 contains several provisions that were included in the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion stimulus bill that passed the House in May.
    The bill allocates $100 billion towards emergency rental assistance, establishes a $75 billion fund for homeowners, and extends an eviction and foreclosure moratorium. It now heads to the Senate for further action.
    ….America was facing an affordable housing crisis before this pandemic hit,” Waters added. “With so many families struggling as a result of the pandemic, we are now on the precipice of an eviction and homelessness crisis like we’ve never seen in our lifetimes
    ……..The legislation now heads to the Senate for further action.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Senate Republicans to start negotiations on a new coronavirus relief bill, though they have signaled that they would not support the Democrat-led measure.
    Read the original article on Business Insider

    • Dan says:

      Well I just got off the phone with local (county) tax appraisal office. They have increased my property taxes by 10% from last year (based on their appraised value).

      Of course I asked and wanted to know how they figured my property went up 10% in value from last year.They said it was across the board for everybody and for me to go pound sand. I live in Texas.

      Looks like I’m going to be putting my house up for sale and I’m going to leave it up for sale until I get an offer of what they have appraised it for and if I don’t and they come looking for more next year I’ll tell them they can pound sand.

      F’ing ridiculous.

      • Kim says:

        My sympathies. 10% is brutal but I suppose the school needs a new football stadium, and they surely had to provide after-school dinners for children whose parent(s) live in food deserts and don’t have the privilege of being able to fry an egg, boil a vegetable, or prepare a tuna salad sandwich. And then of course, that 10% of extra funding is going to require more administrators to manage it, including the HR department’s new BLM liaison officer…

        I remember my daughter’s primary school received some funds and had a vote of parents whether to hire a music teacher or an aboriginal liaison officer. Guess what they got? A school painted all over with grotesque yellow black and red “rainbow serpents” and another all-day huddle around the cardboard wine cask in the staff room refridgerator (I assure you that wine in the staff room fridge is 100% normal in Australian schools).

        So get out of the way, because if you are at the shooting range and you’re the only person not pulling on a trigger, it may just be that you are the target.

        • Robert Firth says:

          Ah, Kim, what memories that brings. Yes, public sector bureaucracies are expert at wasting money. When funding increases, they need more administrators to manage it. When funding decreases, they need more administrators to help them make the tough choices. And luxuries such as football stadiums, olympic sized swimming pools, and repulsive modern art are of course crucial to morale.

          By the way, “A Gurls Wurld” episode 13 revolves around a most elegant example of Aboriginal dot painting. You might want to check it out.

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