The economy and virus are too intertwined to separate.
April was the first full month on lockdown, and the economy free-fell. Several parts have bottomed, oil for one. There are no more restaurants and bars to close, nor gyms, stadiums, schools, or universities. Hotels and airplanes will not get any emptier. All of that is rock-bottom.
A few segments are tentatively reopening in most places: dentists, hair and beauty emporia. A little retail and manufacturing. Real estate is open for showings and in some places enjoys a strong rebound, although not yet listings or sales.
April into early May set bottom, but is not sustainable. Chair Powell: “Among people working in February, almost 40% of those in households making less than $40,000 a year had lost a job in March.” April was worse, maybe May the bottom.
Dr. Fauci, a fine person, physician, and public servant, takes an incredible and lunatic pounding every day in the White House. (Trump today: testing causes the virus -- if we tested less we would have fewer cases.) But the good doctor has an absolute view of policy: early economic reopening will create “needless suffering and death.”
The NYT this week in a different story: those of us who live in affluent neighborhoods have a life expectancy of 91 years. Those in poor areas: 72 years. The longer we stay shut down, most of us secure behind our virtual desktops and iphones, the rest are condemned to lose their credit, life savings, means of making a living, hopes, and health.
Before the virus the US had the most expensive health care in the world by nearly double -- 18% of GDP versus near 10% among our peer nations. Our results were no better than the others before the virus or now in its presence. In their well-intended zeal to shut down the virus, the shutdowners prescribe large doses of fear. Among the effects: ask any medic about hospital non-virus census, the missing coronaries and strokes and what-not still occurring but patients too afraid to go to a hospital. Same for those with chronic issues needing treatment. “Needless suffering and death,” indeed.
How do we balance the need to suppress the virus and simultaneously revive the economy?
1. “Re-opening” is a misnomer. It won’t do any good to open doors if nobody goes inside. Economic activity requires risk-taking. So take a little. Start with one. Any one which might help someone desperate -- a landscaper, a house-cleaner, an outdoor restaurant. I had two dental affairs in work in February, and both dentists re-opened this week, offices and staffs fairly armored. I know without asking that the docs did not have a financial need, but opened for the sake of their employees and patients.
2. Risk is hard to evaluate when the media are having a wonderful time scaring the bejabbers out of us. In the last week new scare campaign ran on Yahoo, Fox, Independent, NYPost, PopularMechanics and many others: Chunks of China's Powerful Rocket Fall Back to Earth, Narrowly Missing NYC! The Long March debris fell on Africa, the Ivory Coast and apparently didn’t hurt anybody there, either. Narrow miss.
3. Zeal for absolute safety from the virus prevents good policy. One uniquely clear aspect of Covid-19: it is life-threatening to the elderly who are already health-impaired. In Colorado’s newest data, similar to everywhere, 55% of casualties have been over 80, and 92% over 60 -- and at least 80% of those with one or more comorbidities. When asked about age distribution as a policy factor, Fauci stated his opposition to “cavalier thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects” of Covid-19. My family has one unlucky kid, and we’ve spent a lot of time at childrens’ hospitals. Go there and look around. Nobody is completely immune to anything.
4. The folk history of the 1918 “Spanish” flu (which it was not) says it caused heavy casualties among youth. It’s hard to tell exactly, at the end of four years of the Great War, much of Europe malnourished, perhaps 20 million young men packed into barracks, tents, trains, and troopships on the way home, mostly country boys not exposed to city viruses. Whether so or not, did we shut down the US economy? Hardly. We soldiered on.
5. Covid-19 is a disease of dense living, not just contact. From Malaysia’s mills to Nebraska’s slaughterhouses, the jobs may be less conduits for the virus than the shabby tenement housing for migrants everywhere, or cultural imperatives to closeness. Sweden’s model is working well for Sweden, depending on your appetite for risk. Although Stockholm’s density would rank second in the US right behind NYC, today’s data surprise for me: 56.6% of Sweden’s households are single-occupant (US 27%).
6. Age again. Perhaps the single-largest waste in US medical care is the effort to keep us alive forever, especially heroics near the end. No other nation has that culture. In virus treatment, some statistics show the triumph of reality: Northwell Health is NY’s largest hospital chain, 70,000 employees. Northwell reported a couple of weeks ago that of all virus patients put on ventilators, 88% never came off. The virus is pulling forward deaths which were soon to arrive in due course. If the virus is largely over in a couple of years, annual deaths for the next several years will fall below pre-virus levels.
7. Fauci gave to Congress an exhaustive description of the means by which one NFL player could give the virus to another. Pre-season camps open by August 1st, two-and-a-half months from now. A world-class athlete 20-something years old may be the person least at risk to the virus. Only one player this year will be over 40, and he should know better. By August could we not test 100 people per team each week -- players, coaches, trainers, referees, yard-marker-holders -- and have some fun? Escape Ouchy Fauci’s hair shirt?
8. The WHO was intimidated by China to silence, and late or mealy-mouthed everywhere else. We do need a world health organization, but not this one. Making up for lost time, this week two WHO docs got the chirps. Dr. Swaminathan, the WHO chief scientist: "I would say in a four to five-year timeframe, we could be looking at controlling this." Dr. Ryan: “This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away.”
At first I thought, who needs this? Everyone is already too frightened to breathe, and worse when someone else does. On the other hand, if we absolutely and positively must restore risk-taking, might as well know the worst case and put it behind us. What, spend the rest of our lives holding our breath?
Go spend some money. Buy a tune-up, or tires, or a whole car. Shop, briefly and at social distance. Live big: have one beer at the highest-ceiling, best-ventilated, mask-and-distance bar you can find.

The Mother’s Day scene in this Castle Rock CO restaurant went global-viral. Maskless nitwits on top of each other, the owner now without a license. Missed however, the Denver Post’s reaction poll is probably a fair national reaction to our predicament and division:


Here is the updated CO age distribution. The number of cases is imaginary, as testing did not begin until March 10, nor rise above 1,500/day until the end of April. But the casualties are accurate, each death re-examined for cause:

Accurate case data does not exist, but virus casualties follow infection by about two weeks. We shut down the state in mid-March and cases peaked in two weeks, as evidenced by the casualty peak two weeks after that. The slow decline in casualties since the peak is entirely attributed to nursing homes (199 of them, now) and food plants:

Testing here is nearing the volume for revelation and tracking. However, at only 3,000/day the results are skewed high-side by concentration at and near hot spots. Under 5% positives gets close to fizzle:

Serology testing for antibodies began in CO just three weeks ago. But, the daily volume averaging 150/day in the last two weeks is enough to sample the entire state. Three weaknesses: testing is on a requested basis, presumably weighted to those who thought they had the virus before any testing; serology tests are considered unreliable and heavy on the false-positive side; and results are delayed into batches. However, the red bars showing positive results have every day fallen in a cluster near 8%. Total cases of infection confirmed to date: 20,838. If only 5% of CO has already had the virus, the actul total is 290,000, and insignificant mortality for all but the old and ill.