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 viruses 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.

Notes:

*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.

 

 

 

This entry was posted in Financial Implications and tagged , , , , , by Gail Tverberg. Bookmark the permalink.

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.

2,824 thoughts on “COVID-19 and the economy: Where do we go from here?

  1. During the COVID-19 mass ritual, consider replacing your hand sanitizer with another talisman; one that is less likely to be toxic or perhaps fatal:

    “[7-2-2020] FDA is warning consumers and health care providers that the agency has seen a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products that are labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but that have tested positive for methanol contamination. Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested and can be life-threatening when ingested.

    The agency is aware of adults and children ingesting hand sanitizer products contaminated with methanol that has led to recent adverse events including blindness, hospitalizations and death.

    Methanol is not an acceptable active ingredient for hand sanitizers and must not be used due to its toxic effects. FDA’s investigation of methanol in certain hand sanitizers is ongoing. The agency will provide additional information as it becomes available.

    Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol and are experiencing symptoms should seek immediate treatment for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning. Substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death. Although all persons using these products on their hands are at risk for methanol poisoning, young children who accidently ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute, are most at risk.“

    https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitizers-methanol

  2. From Zerohedge: Oil Set To Plunge As OPEC Seeks To Boost Output By 2 Million Barrels

    According to the [Bloomberg] report, alliance members will meet via zoom on Wednesday to debate the group’s current and future production, which include plans to restore some 2 million in production following the record production cut in April which saw Saudi Arabia push for a 9.7 million b/d in production stoppages as the pandemic led to a collapse of oil demand. More from BBG:

    “The JMMC will consider whether the 23-nation alliance should keep 9.6 million barrels of daily output off the market for another month, or restore some supplies as originally planned, tapering the cutback to 7.7 million barrels.”

    “As the demand recovery gains traction, members are leaning toward the latter option, according to several national delegates who asked not to be identified. Shipping schedules for August are already being set, so the course is more or less locked in, one said.”

    While all this sounds great in principle, in practice it will likely send the price of oil crashing because just as there was a massive uphill battle in April to get everyone on the same page (and even that did not stop oil from hitting a record negative price on April 20), so now that production quotas are being eased, the result will be a furious scramble to outproduce everyone else, as OPEC’s most characteristic feature is exposed for the entire world to see: cheating.

    • We shall see—-
      OPEC for sure is going to be producing flat out–
      (with diminished results).
      The States are going to be way down.
      Of course, we will be using less.

      • China, the world’s Number One importer, has been stockpiling oil like crazzzy, since they know a good deal when they see one, and oil has been On Sale lately at under $40.

        but their capacity is almost full, and they will be cutting back on buying.

        this will push demand down, just as OPEC increases supply.

        this won’t be the first time that OPEC pushed prices lower by overproducing.

        • Falling demand, as businesses lay off more workers, will also have an impact. There is a limit to how long countries can keep paying wages to non-workers. Low income countries, especially, have virtually no wage continuation programs.

    • Looks to me like the Saudis are once again trying to put some of its competitors out of business, with ultra-low oil prices, the aim being for much higher prices in the medium-long term. Can’t see this working though, not with a goosed global economy. Once tens of millions in the USA and UK come off furlough (and elsewhere), and find themselves jobless, if anything oil consumption will drop again, you would think.

  3. https://www.bbc.com/news/53193835

    ‘Coronavirus: Why surviving the virus may be just the beginning’

    “The assault Covid-19 mounts on the most severely ill means patients are ventilated for longer, and require a deeper level of sedation, than the typical ICU patient. That has produced “a lot of delirium, confusion and agitation”, explains Dr Kulwant Dhadwal, a consultant who runs the intensive care unit at London’s Royal Free Hospital.”

    “Even when that process is a success, it is only the beginning of a long process of physical and psychological recovery. But because of Covid, and the number of people that it has affected, the need is pressing. It has become a national priority – to support people to get better.”

    • that is a good article.

      the 0.26% deaths are bad enough (5x the average flu), but the damaged health of some survivors is also bad.

      it seems that much of the damage is caused by ventilators, not by the virus itself.

      one major missing piece of data is what % suffer significant health damage.

      that number of course would be harder to quantify than the 0.26 IFR, but a scientific estimate would have been a good inclusion in this article.

      anyway, less health damaged survivors is another good thing on the way since the worst is over.

      the pandemic is winding down.

      • the pandemic is winding down

        Here on Earth, it is at an all time high.
        This is just the beginning.
        Vaccine or herd immunity are a long way off—
        And we don’t even now the details on that.

          • I would guess no vaccine.

            Herd Immunity Threshold, which supposedly is about 15%, is almost here.

            recent info suggests that up to 70% of us already have some immunity to coronaviruses, since we’ve lived with them our whole lives: common cold etc.

            • my “no, you are wrong” reply was to D I.

              is that clear in this new layout?

            • Herd Immunity Threshold, which supposedly is about 15%, is almost here.

              It is actually 70-80%.
              And it probably, like other covid viruses, has a short duration.
              We just don’t know.

        • no, you are wrong.

          it is true and factual that the daily positive cases are at their highest right now.

          but that is because there was no expanded testing in March and April like there is now.

          NY was peaking at what? 1,000 daily deaths, and yet the facts we see about their peak cases was 11,000 in April.

          there is no reasonable interpretation that NY was having 1,000 daily deaths with 11,000 daily cases.

          as you KNOW, the CDC says the IFR is 0.26%.

          do the math.

          1,000 daily deaths divided by 0.26% IFR equates to 400,000 daily cases (there are NY issues that surely mean this number is somewhat less).

          do the math.

          now, we know NY missssmananged the crisis by sending patients into nursing homes and thus increasing their death totals, but that does not explain the 1,000 divided by 11,000 problem.

          the IFR is 0.26%.

          NY was experiencing more than 100,000 infections per day which went untested because most people do not get sick from this virus.

          Farr’s Law is proving correct once again.

          do you have a problem with Farr’s Law?

          • my “no, you are wrong” is a reply to Duncann.

            is that clear with this new layout?

          • NYC has 23,267 deaths so far. If the IFR is 0.26% that would mean 8 million infected already. NYC has a population of 8 million. So 100% infected to get herd immunity?

            They are still getting cases and deaths, although down considerably from the peak. So are they past herd immunity by your calculations or not?

            • There was a steep learning curve. The doctors didn’t know what they were doing in NYC. 97% of the patients over age 65 who were put on respirators died, according to one study.

            • the CDC claims the IFR is 0.26%.

              yes, NYC didn’t know what they were doing, just like everywhere else at that time.

              an estimate of 2x excess deaths is reasonable for NYC, so in that area the death rate would be higher.

              after the May/June protests, there was no spike in NYC cases, unlike other major cities that have not reached the Herd Immunity Threshold.

              Farr’s Law says that after the HIT is reached, it won’t be long until the virus is gone.

              in a world of global travel, I would be surprised if the virus is ever 100% gone, and no way am I going to ever go visit NYC again.

              finally, the pandemic is not going away everywhere evenly and all at the same time.

              but NY should be past a pandemic label. What is the (small tiny) number of NY daily cases and deaths?

            • Yes, we have gotten a better at treating the infected now. I was just making the point that your current numbers don’t really work.

              Even if the deaths should have been 50% of what they were, that would be half of all NYC infected. So is the IFR higher or is the HIT lower?

              I guess we’ll see when this is all over, if we still have access to the internet at that time.

    • Reading between the lines, it is pretty obvious that these bad side effects are iatrogenic, caused by the treatment rather than the disease. The UK’s hopelessly dysfunctional socialist healthcare system strikes again.

      • I didn’t know the word “iatrogenic” but that looks like a large part of the problem.

        especially ventilators.

        also, what is missing here are the health consequences of the most up-to-date treatments for severe cases.

        the USA seems to have made some good strides forward in reducing deaths, so I would think that the newest best treatments would mean less health damage to survivors also.

        there is missing info here.

      • That is hopeful, I hope you are correct.

        It is still the practice of medicine.

        Dennis L.

  4. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/11/us-coronavirus-cases-continue-record-surge.html

    “The country reported a record 66,627 new cases on Friday, the second day in a row new cases have exceeded 60,000. The rise in cases is due partly to expanded testing that is uncovering more infections.”

    if this expanded testing was done in March and April, the daily positive results would have been 200,000 to 300,000.

    the falling daily deaths, well below 1,000 now in the USA, tell us that there are less daily cases now, which results in a lower number of severe cases, which results in that lower daily death number.

    this is good.

    for one thing, a higher % of infections are in a lower average age group.

    this is good.

    not so good for the 0.26% who will die, or the small % who will have health damage due to surviving a severe case.

    but the virus can’t be stopped, so a faster spread has a benefit.

    it is that the USA will reach the Herd Immunity Threshold sooner thanks to the faster spread among younger people, who also will statistically be far less prone to health problems or death from the virus.

    this is good.

    the HIT will be reached, and then the chance of a high risk person catching the virus will be near zero.

    I won’t discontinue using a mask and social distancing myself, because I’m not certain that my local area has reached the HIT.

    but for sure Farr’s Law is once again proving to be true, as this pandemic decreases almost as fast as it increased.

    the pandemic is winding down.

    • https://www.axios.com/florida-coronavirus-case-record-2991255d-5b29-42e0-9c67-39b26c1e541c.html

      “Florida reported 15,299 confirmed coronavirus cases on Sunday — a new single-day record for any state, according to its health department.

      The big picture: The figure shatters both Florida’s previous record of 11,458 new cases and the single-state record of 11,694 set by California last week, according to AP. It also surpasses New York’s daily peak of 11,571 new cases in April…”

      this is true but very highly misleading.

      if NY in April had tested at the same elevated testing level that is happening now, their daily rate would have been up near 100,000.

      but NY didn’t test at that high level, for one reason because most infected persons don’t actually get very sick.

      the pandemic is winding down (but not evenly, everywhere, and all at the same time).

    • Deaths in the USA have gone up from from a 7 day moving average of 516/d in early July to the current 740/d (as of yesterday).

      A 50% increase in the average deaths in a short period of time is NOT evidence of a pandemic winding down. It is evidence of the opposite.

      Just because people want to believe it’s all over, does not make it so. I’d love this scourge to be over, just like everyone else, but I live in the real world where actual numbers are believable.

      The Case Fatality Rate is currently 7% for the world, compared to Influenza which is usually around 0.1%. This virus is far worse that the flu. Any IFR is currently just a wild guess, but statistically the IFR is not going to be 1/70th of the CFR.

      Worldwide there have been over 264,000,000 tests for Covid with just over 13,000,000 positive cases. That is only one case in every 20 tests, with 19 out of 20 being negative for Covid. Statistically you are not going to be missing a huge percentage of cases. However some will be missed especially in countries with poorer heath care systems.

      I’m sure the passengers of the Titanic were thinking the worst was over after they passed the iceberg and remained afloat….

      • Covid deaths are going to be nothing compared to the deaths caused by the inept and hysterical response to this years flu. Distraction writ large. Go figure where your attention is best directed.The Titanic is a great analogy; lock the sheople in steerage until those in the know exit stage left; calm them with stories of experts in control, and keep the band playing.
        Surely this is obvious by now…..

      • I suspect that many of the Covid case fatality rate represents deaths due to lots of different conditions which have been bogusly welded together through massive propaganda.

        I also suspect that the Titanic didn’t really sink but was whisked away in the night as part of a massive insurance scam, only to reappear after WWI under another name. There is also a theory that the owners swapped the Titanic for its sister vessel, the Olympic, and sank that instead—again for insurance purposes.

        My ravings apart, I think you could well be right that the pandemic has a way to yet. If it’s real, it would appear to have staying power. And if it’s fake, the people pushing it obviously have reasons for doing so and are unlikely to stop until their aims are achieved.

        Also, ,many people—possibly a majority of people—seem to be convinced it is real and are so scared, or at least so cautious, that they have changed their behavior to avoid situations where they perceive a high risk of picking up the bug. So even if the pandemic was officially declared over, normality would not return in a hurry, if ever.

        • There have been a lot of confusing pronouncements. Once people have been scared by the first one, they don’t know which of the following ones they should listen to. Should they be washing their hands all of the time, and washing everything that comes into the house with Lysol, for example? If people are older and have several other conditions that might tend to make their conditions worse, they want to do as much as possible.

          • Here in the UK we are, even now, getting completely contradictory statements by Govt. ministers about masks, and also variations in policy between the constituent countries, Wales, (Freedom! Freedom!) Scotland and dear old screwed up England.

            And maybe different again in Northern Ireland, but who can be bothered to find out about that, life is far too short…..

            Experts in the psychology of sheep training -can’t recall what their pseudo-profession is called – say it’s not good. It certainly isn’t!

            • Do you remember an earlier thread where we discussed the experimental puppy who retreated into catatonia after inconsistent and irrational negative stimuli?

            • Catatonia? Sounds like as nice a place to retreat to as anywhere.

              Didn’t George Orwell write an homage to to the place? 🙂

              On another note, it feels like society here in Japan has gone retreated into collective catatonia. When I go to town, I am impressed by the lack of bustle. The number of people on the streets and in the shops and restaurants seems like a half to a quarter of what it was before we entered “the new normal”.

              And this is a country of over 125 million that has recorded only 997 COVID-19 deaths and 21,868 cases so far. That’s less than eight deaths per million of the population. And over half the deaths have been in people aged over 80 and over 80% of them are over 70.

              Despite these figures, most people have decided this bug represents a clear and present danger to them. Interestingly, in Japan, there are 15~20,000 new cases of tuberculosis reported each year, making the chance of contracting that nasty disease comparable to the chance of catching COVID-19. But you could throw bricks all day in the most crowded part of Shinjuku and not hit a single person who is worried about catching TB.

              Perception is everything. PR trumps reality absolutely. Specialists are now writing articles and doing interviews with the press telling people to calm down and stressing that the precautions required when visiting hospitals are not the same as those required in the supermarket, but to little avail The Over-the-Teevee People have spoken and the masses do so want to believe the worst.

      • We know we are missing a fairly high percentage of total cases, simply because there are so many asymptomatic cases. When studies are done after the fact, in the US the indicate that 10% to 14% of cases have been found. This would imply that 84% to 90% of cases are missed. In less developed countries, it would not be surprising if 95% or even 98% of cases are missed.

        • I agree.

          in NY in March and April, official daily cases peaked at about 11,000.

          as you say, this implies that NY missed up to about 99,000 cases PER DAY.

          the FL peak of 15,000 is much more accurate because of expanded testing.

          the real NY number in March and April is much higher than FL is right now.

      • “Deaths in the USA have gone up from from a 7 day moving average of 516/d in early July to the current 740/d (as of yesterday).
        A 50% increase in the average deaths in a short period of time is NOT evidence of a pandemic winding down. It is evidence of the opposite.”

        the peak in early May was 2,700 deaths per day.

        839 on July 10th.
        729 on July 11th.
        482 on July 12th.

        so it’s once again broken below the 7 day moving average.

        what is the trend since early May?

      • “Worldwide there have been over 264,000,000 tests for Covid with just over 13,000,000 positive cases. That is only one case in every 20 tests, with 19 out of 20 being negative for Covid. Statistically you are not going to be missing a huge percentage of cases.”

        true.

        at this present time.

        in NY in March and April, testing was very limited, almost exclusively to very sick people.

        about 90% who were infected were never tested because they never got very sick.

        the NY “official” peak of 11,000 daily cases does not reflect the reality of the cases back then.

        NY had to be peaking at something like 100,000 cases per day. That’s how they were getting 1,000+ deaths per day.

        compare that to the expanded testing in FL now of 15,000 positive cases per day, which as you say statistically FL is not missing many NOW.

        NY in March and April was many times above FL in July for actual cases.

  5. No hopium in this week’s missive from Chris Martenson : https://www.peakprosperity.com/a-serious-message-from-chris-martenson

    “So my advice is to brace for impact. There’s nothing any of us can do to affect national monetary policy or stop the major unraveling trends already set in motion, but we can do our best to step outside harm’s way and tend the welfare of ourselves and those we care about as the system falters.

    We are facing unprecedented challenges that are accelerating at a faster rate than at any other time in human history. Every day we have left to prepare prudently is a gift. Use the time wisely.”

    Whether or not you believe the pandemic is real, the mishandling of it has caused economic/societal damage that will bite us not too far down the track. More black swans to come.

    Personally I’m really hoping for a stairstep descent. Our rural setting will mitigate many of the effects of that, but we’ll be just as screwed as everyone else if it’s off the edge of the cliff lemming-style into Mad Max land.

    NSW has reintroduced some lockdowns after new infection clusters appeared. Oh No! It’s the dreaded second wave!

    The focus on scaring the sheeple has now moved from counting deaths (minute nos) to cases instead. Kudos to the architects of the plan, it’s working and the sheeple are nodding their heads anxiously.

    Will we be counting cases and locking down for the flu next year?

    • As I read Chris Martenson’s post, it is about how politicians, if they just done the right thing, could have substantially mitigated the problem. Instead, they have made the rich richer and the poor poorer. I would argue that that is the way the physics of the situation works, when there is not enough to go around.

      • Can politicians really do anything? Does what they do make any difference? Maybe not, moving digits around changes nothing, the skim probably isn’t that great in the overall scheme of things.

        Around DJI 10,000 or so, Chris had an emergency sell on the stock market – how did that work out?

        To have any idea of what can happen one needs a ton of data, reasoning is hopeless and probably always was, we make models which are more or less approximate. My example is the three body problem, one can get to the moon, basically as long as one makes mid course corrections. Amazon, Google probably have some of the best answers because they have some of the best people, the brightest people with the best capital and the best algorithms to search the data. They get the data people pay to search. Very cool business model, smart cookies.

        We are making guesses, they are terrible, the world has not ended. Chris may be right this time, but things have to go to heck by more than 50% to get to where he was wrong the last time.

        Dennis L.

  6. Stock market will go down when there is a viable vaccine. Easy Fed money will disappear. I think u.s looses it s reserve status. The states are a one trick pony

    • According to the article,

      The current pandemic has shone a terrifying spotlight on human vulnerability and has shown up our human arrogance and our delusional sense of superiority and dominance over the natural world. The world has been shut down by a minute virus (0,000065mm in diameter), and we are at a loss about the way forward. Our current predicament offers an opportunity to “build back better”, and to acknowledge our interdependence with one another as well as the natural world.

      Building back better requires more energy, however. We don’t have more cheap to produce energy, however. This is our underlying problem.

      • The ‘build back better’ meme is about as meaningless as the ‘end of conspicuous consumption’ meme that did the rounds in 2008-9.

        How seriously that was discussed! And what did what see in the next 9 years?

      • The “interdependence with one another” on a global scale is also a problem. “Building back better” would mean less of that, and would also mean less efficiency and more redundancy.

      • My hypothesis:

        The “build back” will be done by the system within the constraints of the system. They system is too large for “policy” to affect, it is maybe the same illusion told at worship that one way or the other is the path to eternal life. It gives hope which is better than nihilism and all that nonsense. Personally, a path is to find something that works for the individual at a given time, provides some basis(capital) for a tomorrow and leave the rest to the system, knowing the system knows best – seems to me that is little different from God.

        The world has not been shut down by a little virus, the sun rises each day, most of us draw a breath each day.

        It has worked in the past, it should work going forward.

        Dennis L.

      • @Gail
        Demolitions and the shrinking of urban areas is the future. Less to maintain, less energy intensive.

    • Gail, we all know that most of these writers have to end on a positive, unrealistic note. However, since the fantasy of living in harmony with nature is not likely to occur in time to preserve a viable planet, let alone occur at all as regards the human predilection toward parasitic destruction, choosing to remain child-free should be applauded and rewarded.

      Here’s a quote from a Population Matters friend of mine:

      With the earth groaning under the weight of 7+ billion people, most wanting to consume as much as possible, I think the last thing any ecologically literate person would do is add to the burden. Ah, but it’s so important that my special genes have a connection to the future, isn’t it? Never mind that that future is going to be a nightmare on stilts.

      • While others nitpick the article word for word, overlooking the primary message, I’ll sit back and appreciate the fact that Mark Tomlinson, a mainstream believer in sustainable development, actually brought up the overpopulation subject at all, ha ha!

        Meanwhile: “Madness, mayhem, erotic vandalism, devastation of innumerable souls — while we scream and perish, History licks a finger and turns the page.” Thomas Ligotti

      • Think of yourself as a dinosaur, “life” did not end, the world did not end, it changed and supposedly so did the dinosaurs, they are called birds and they flew away singing every day.

        Think of it this way(I know it is not true, but a good story none the less). We filled our cars with the end products of those generous dinosaurs, we are running out of dinosaurs, who is to say there won’t be something else?

        Dennis L.

  7. Talented author, Vanessa Blakeslee uses a recent journey through the Permian as a platform for examining our double-edged relationship with fossil fuels:

    “Everyone is to blame, and no one is to blame… we passed another refinery, I thought, how I hate this, and its ghastliness, toxins, death. But also, please keep running. Fill our tanks with diesel and gas, deliver medicines to our hospitals, and food to our stores…”

    https://www.thesmartset.com/our-permian-paradox/?fbclid=IwAR3tDfm24go34Lifjiu54kLB54tjVst4AIPotjLX7vdTOVGrHhzlzxXfeQA

    • Right! Even if there are many things we don’t like about fossil fuels, we really need to keep the fossil fuels for the many wonders they bring.

    • Is Vanessa Blakeslee still a moderator for FB’s Near-Term Human Extinction Support Group, which is brimming with goofiness from Guy McPherson’s disciples?

      It’s unfortunate that she mentioned Carl Sagan, the well-rewarded pseudo-scientist creepily connected with the U.S. Air Force, NASA, etc. Remember when he worked on a secret project to nuke the moon?! Anyway, his lack of mathematical expertise concerning the exponential function was apparent when he decided to have five kids, two well after overpopulation had become a public topic. Formal “education” does not equal wisdom.

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