Coronavirus Daily Read List

https://delong.typepad.com/files/coronavirus-extrapolations.pdf

NEJM Group: Updates on the Covid-19 Pandemic http://m.n.nejm.org/nl/jsp/m.jsp?c=%40kxNtXckRDOq8oG0jJvAXsIzN4mPECIPhltxoTSdTU9k%3D&cid=DM89089_NEJM_COVID-19_Newsletter&bid=173498255: 'From the New England Journal of Medicine, NEJM Journal Watch, NEJM Catalyst, and other trusted sources...

Worldometer: Coronavirus Update (Live) https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/...

Financial Times: Coronavirus Tracked https://www.ft.com/coronavirus-latest...

CDPH: nCoV2019 Updates https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/ncov2019.aspx...

CDPH: News Releases 2020 https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OPA/Pages/New-Release-2020.aspx...

Josh Marshall: Epidemic Science & Health Twitter List https://twitter.com/i/lists/1233998285779632128...

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Ludwig Wittgenstein: Wittgenstein's Ladder https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wittgenstein%27s_ladder: 'My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright...

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The Pattern of Normal Politics, 1870-1914: An Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century, 1870-2016"

Il Quarto Stato

Left-wing avowedly socialist—parties in pre-World War I Europe wanted, for the present, only weak tea. The Socialist Party of Germany’s Erfurt and Gotha programs seek things like: universal male and female suffrage; the secret ballot, proportional representation and an end to gerrymandering; annual government budgets; elected local administrators and judges; the right to bear arms; free public schools and colleges; free legal assistance; abolition of the death penalty; free medical care including midwifery; public burial insurance; progressive income and property taxes; a progressive inheritance tax; a 36-hour minimum weekend; an occupational safety and health administration; equal status for domestic and agricultural workers; and a national takeover of unemployment and disability insurance “with decisive participation by the workers in its administration”. Rather white bread, no? Even their declared intention that:

the German Social Democratic Party… fights… every manner of exploitation and oppression, whether directed against a class, party, sex, or race...

would raise few eyebrows today, in western Europe at least.

But there was also:

  • “By every lawful means to bring about a free state and a socialistic society, to effect the destruction of the iron law of wages by doing away with the system of wage labor…”
  • “The transformation of the capitalist private ownership of the means of production—land and soil, pits and mines, raw materials, tools, machines, means of transportation—into social property and the transformation of the production of goods into socialist production carried on by and for society…”
  • “This… emancipation… [is] of the entire human race…. But it can only be the work of the working class, because all other classes… have as their common goal the preservation of the foundations of contemporary society…”

There was a tension here.

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Lecture: The Rise of Socialism, -350 to 1917

Let us talk about the rise of socialism, as background to the rise of really existing socialism—the system that lived behind what Winston Churchill called the Iron Curtain from 1917-1991, that shook the world, and that in the end turned out to be far, far, far from the brightest light on the tree of humanity’s good ideas.

Let us very briefly race through history—moral, intellectual, political, and social—from the year -350 to the year 1917, when Lenin and his Bolshevik Communist Party staged their coup in Russia.

There was a profound shift from the belief in “divine right” and “natural order” as the fundamental grounding for an unequal society to enlightenment values—that human institutions should be rationally designed on the basis of a rational understanding of human psychology in order to attain the greatest good of the greatest number, and thus that inequality is not given by the gods or by the requirements of nature, but rather is a thing to be allowed to the extent that it incentivizes cooperation and industry and thus enriches us all.

Back in the century of the -300s, Aristotle had taken it for granted that a good society was only possible if the society allowed for philosophy. And philosophy was only possible if you had a leisured upper class. And a leisured upper class was possible only with large scale-unfree labor—serfdom, or its harsher cousin slavery. Thus it was and thus it would always, be unless and until humans obtained the fantasy technologies of the mythical Golden Age...

https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0tIKCGGDU9duGkZ7XQ_5GkPdg


https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/lecture-rise-of-socialism--350-1917-text.pdf

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Lecture Notes: The Development of Underdevelopment and W. Arthur Lewis

3086 words https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/lecture-inequality-text.pdf

The large populations and low levels of material wealth and agricultural productivity in China and India checked the growth of wages. Workers could be cheaply imported and employed at wages not that far above the physical subsistence level. Low wage costs meant that commodities produced in countries open to Asian immigration were relatively cheap. And competition from the Malaysian rubber plantations checked growth and even pushed down wages of the Brazilian rubber tappers as well. The late nineteenth century saw living standards and wage rates become and remain relatively low (although higher than in China and India) throughout the regions that were to come to be called the third world. And as wages in economies that were to become the global periphery were checked, the prospects for having a rich-enough middle class to provide demand for a strong domestic industrial sector ebbed rapidly.

As a result, the chain of causation went thus:

  • The openness of some places where tropical goods could be produced to migration from China and India pushed down their prices in world markets.
  • Low prices in the world markets meant low wages everywhere tropical goods were produced.
  • Low wages meant no prosperous middle-class anywhere tropical goods were produced.
  • No prosperous middle-class meant no mass domestic demand for manufactures.
  • No domestic demand for manufactures meant no chance of starting industrialization.
  • No chance of starting industrialization meant no building a community of engineering practice.
  • No community of engineering practice meant no taking the next step and advancing in industrialization.
  • No advancing in industrialization meant no walking onto the escalator to modernity and prosperity.

That, in a nutshell, is the story of the relative underdevelopment of the global south. It was not that globalization left the global south alone in the years before World War I. It was that globalization put it on a road that made its industrialization more difficult, even though the openness of world markets made it more prosperous in that pre-World war I half century seen rightly as a global El Dorado.


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Cases and Deaths from Coronavirus Doubling Every Three Days Is Very Bad News Indeed

I confess I am positively unmanned by the every-three-days doubling of reported cases and deaths here in the United States. I had thought that we would see true cases doubling every seven days. And back when reported cases started doubling every three days, I was encouraged, because I thought it meant that we were catching up on testing, and so getting closer to detecting the bulk of the symptomatic cases.

But now it looks like that was wrong: reported cases were doubling every three days because true cases were doubling every three days—that is what deaths tell us was happening to true cases up until three weeks ago. The lack of case curve-bending makes me think that testing is not improving. It makes me think that reported cases are doubling every three days because true cases are doubling every three days.

That means that the Trump administration has only 40% as much time to get its ass in gear as I thought it did.

And that means the chances it will are very very low indeed:

Coronavirus-deaths-2020-03-27

I must confess it had never occurred to me back when China shut down Wuhan that we would simply not test everyone who presented with symptoms—and then backtrace their contacts. It is really looking now as though China—even with its authoritarian blindness fumbling of the intitial response (see Zeynep Tufekci: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/02/coronavirus-and-blindness-authoritarianism/606922/ is going to be studied in the future as a positive model of public health in the 21st century, while the Trump Administration’s reaction—currently on track as the worst in the world in handling coronavirus <https://www.evernote.com/l/AAFzPq9AJoFHFr_nrTPi1QyseD8WSAe0y00B/image.png>—will be studied in the future as a negative example: Brad DeLong: The Trump Administration’s Epic COVID-19 Failure https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/03/the-trump-administrations-epic-covid-19-failure-project-syndicate.html: 'As officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and other public-health bodies surely must have recognized, asymptomatic transmission means that the standard method of quarantining symptomatic travelers when they cross national (or provincial) borders is insufficient. It also means that we have known for almost two months that we were playing a long game against the virus. With its spread more or less inevitable, the primary task was always to reduce the pace of community transmission as much as possible, so that health-care systems would not be overwhelmed before a vaccine could be developed, tested, and deployed. In the long game against a contagious virus, how to mitigate transmission is no secret. In Singapore, which has largely contained the outbreak within its borders, all travelers from abroad have been required to self-quarantine for 14 days, regardless of whether they have symptoms. In Japan, South Korea, and other countries, testing for COVID-19 has been conducted on a massive scale. These are the measures that responsible governments take. You test as many people as you can, and when you locate areas of community transmission, you lock them down. At the same time, you build a database of all those who have already developed immunity and thus may safely resume their normal routine...

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Daily Notes: 2020-03-29

There were 2027 reported deaths in the U.S. from the novel coronavirus as of late on Mar 28—if our reporting systems have not yet broken down.

With a 1% death rate, and with 3 weeks between infection and death, that means that as of Mar 7 there were 202700 coronavirus cases in the United States.

Up through Mar 28 deaths have been doubling every three days, suggesting that before Mar 7 true cases were also doubling every three days:

  1. If that that pace has continued since, by Mar 31 we will have had 8 further doublings: 52 million cases, 1/6 of the population.
  2. If the curve bent to doubling every four days, by Mar 31 we will have had 6 further doublings: 13 million cases, 1/25 of the population, with an additional 30 million cases expected by April 7
  3. If the curve bent to doubling every six days, by Mar 31 we will have had 4 further doublings: 3.2 million cases, 1/100 of the population, with an additional 3.8 million cases expected by April 7
  4. If the curve bent to doubling every eight days, by Mar 31 we will have had 3 further doublings: 1.6 million cases, 1/200 of the population, with an additional 1.5 million cases expected by April 7
  5. If the curve bent to doubling every twelve days, by Mar 31 we will have had 2 further doublings: 800,000 cases, 1/400 of the population, with an additional 600,000 cases expected by April 7
  6. If the curve bent to doubling every twenty-four days, by Mar 31 we will have had 1 further doubling: 400,000 cases, 1/800 of the population, with an additional 200,000 cases expected by April 7

As of the morning of Mar 29, the U.S. had 125,000 reported cases

As of the evening of Mar 28, the U.S. had tested 650,000 people, with a 19% positive rate. Applying that to our six scenarios, in each scenario those we have tested are, respectively, 1, 5, 10, 20, 40, and 80 times more likely to have the disease than the average probability of having the disease.

Question: What is wrong with this analysis?

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Daily Notes: 2020-03-28

Charles Pardee is supposed to have compared making monetary policy by the Federal Reserve Board by driving at high speed a car with its windshield painted black, peering into the rear view mirror for your only information about the road ahead. Because we have no testing, only deaths, that is our situation now. We know that three weeks ago the natural log of cases was increasing by two every week. And we hope that the curve has been powerfully bent since then...

NOTES: U.S. Coronavirus Deaths https://www.icloud.com/numbers/0PB6Y9KF-SIgrQpyCsmkjm_Ww:

  • BEND THE CURVE, PEOPLE!!!!
  • 2227 deaths as of 2020-03-28
  • 2.001 is the log growth factor over the past week
  • 900,000 is what you get if you project that out over the next three weeks, to April 18:
    • The people who will die on or before Apr 18 will have caught the coronavirus by... now. They are baked in the cake: Unless the curve has already bent, they are toast.
  • 49,000,000 is what you get if you project that out over the next three weeks, to May 2:
    • The people who will die on or before May 2 will have caught the coronavirus by... Easter.
    • That number is too large: that tells us that the epidemic is running its course between now and Easter—unless the curve is bent, or has already been bent, substantially.
    • Our last time to act to stop spread is... now

 

NOTES: State-by-State Coronavirus https://www.icloud.com/numbers/0BQW1nH3Sk2kadzMnYOIFic_w:

  • Currently 5659 cases and 120 deaths in California: that's 145 reported cases per million—ranking 31st among states in the U.S...
  • If the death rate is 1%, then that means 300 true CA cases per million on Mar 6...
  • If it has been doubling every week, that means about 2400 true cases per million now, and the same number of new cases expected next week...

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Nick Rowe: Relative Supply Shocks, Unobtainium, Walras' Law, and the Coronavirus https://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian_initi/2020/03/relative-supply-shocks-unobtainium-walras-law-and-the-coronavirus.html: 'A temporary 100% output cut in 50% of the sectors (what the Coronavirus does) is very different from a 50% output cut in 100% of the sectors (what our intuitions might expect from supply shocks in aggregate macro models).... Here's the intuition.... Unobtainium is a very desirable good.... Someone actually invents a way to produce unobtainium. They can't produce it just yet, but everyone knows they will produce it, and sell it at an affordable price, a few months from now. What happens when they hear the news? Everybody... wants to save up to half their income, so they can spend it on unobtainium in a couple of months time.... That is pretty much what's happening with the Coronavirus, in the real world. Half the goods we used to buy are temporarily unobtainium. But we expect to buy them in a couple of months.... High intertemporal substitution can beat low cross-section substitution.... That's why we need temporarily looser monetary and fiscal policy. (Plus, we also need fiscal policy to redistribute between people differentially affected by the Coronavirus, but that's another story.) Think that's (basically) right...

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Lizzie Burden: Trump’s Crusade to Reopen the Economy ‘May See Extra 5M Deaths’ and a Second Fiscal Bailout https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2020/03/28/trumps-crusade-reopen-economy-may-see-extra-5m-deaths-second/: 'Economists know the shutdown can’t last forever. As Padhraic Garvey, head of research Americas at ING, said: “Individuals have been told to literally go home because there’s no work for them. They have families to support and at a certain point, the pendulum has to swing back to supporting them.” Nonetheless, there is consensus among economists that there is no trade-off between health and economics—yet. Jonathan Portes... “Immediately we... should be trying to control the health consequences as much as possible. After that, the aim is to make sure that fall in GDP doesn’t have long-term economic damage.... In six months’ time you may ask whether to keep some restrictions at some economic cost because a vaccine might come along, or say we should live with it as long as it’s contained and controlled and just deal with localised outbreaks and accept the negative health consequences. That’d be a reasonable public health debate to have in six months—but not now”...

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Daily Notes: 2020-03-27

NOTES: U.S. Coronavirus Deaths https://www.icloud.com/numbers/0PB6Y9KF-SIgrQpyCsmkjm_Ww:

  • BEND THE CURVE, PEOPLE!!!!
  • 1696 deaths as of 2020-03-27
  • 1.895 is the log growth factor over the past week
  • 500,000 is what you get if you project that out over the next three weeks, to April 17:
    • The people who will die on or before Apr 17 will have caught the coronavirus by... now. They are baked in the cake: Unless the curve has already bent, they are toast.
  • 22,000,000 is what you get if you project that out over the next three weeks, to May 1:
    • The people who will die on or before May 1 will have caught the coronavirus by... Easter.
    • That number is too large: that tells us that the epidemic is running its course between now and Easter—unless the curve is bent, or has already been bent.
    • Our last time to act to stop spread is... now

 

NOTES: State-by-State Coronavirus https://www.icloud.com/numbers/0BQW1nH3Sk2kadzMnYOIFic_w:

  • Currently 4791 cases and 106 deaths in California: that's 121 reported cases per million—ranking 31st among states in the U.S...
  • If the death rate is 1%, then that means 265 true CA cases per million on Mar 6...
  • If it has been doubling every week, that means about 2100 true cases per million now, and the same number of new cases expected next week...

 

  • Currently 46,000 cases and 600 deaths in New York: that's 2400 reported cases per million—ranking 1st among states in the U.S...
  • If the death rate is 1%, then that means 3100 NY cases per million on Mar 6...
  • If it has been doubling every week, that means about 25000 true cases per million now, and the same number of new cases expected next week...

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Comment of the Day: Joe Barsugli https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/03/dealing-with-coronavirus-the-hunker-down-and-the-jubilee.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a4f57f77200d#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a4f57f77200d: 'I agree with Jubilee, but Hunker Down has some problems. While I agree with the broad outline, we simply don't know how much hunkering down is needed to "reach a level that reduces the caseload to what the medical system can currently handle, but should not be pushed far beyond that point." I'm not sure you can fine-tune it. European experience seems to indicate that half-measures are much less than half-effective. Better to hit it hard with all you've got up front and hope you start to see results in 10-12 days. If the current measures prove adequate, then they have to be run for several cycles. China was extreme in its measures and beat the virus back in 6+ weeks. Lightening up too much too soon would lead to a second wave before we are ready to handle it...

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Comment of the Day: Rad Geek https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/03/rad-geek-_the-infovores-dilemma_-in-circumstances-that-lead-to-a-high-risk-of-groupthink-and-overreach-its-a-r.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a51a750f200b#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a51a750f200b: 'Rad Geek said in reply to Ebenezer Scrooge: "A really expert journo collects an awful lot of signal with very little added noise, even if the originals are mentally accessible and noise-free .... a general-purpose journo in a specialized beat is trouble, even if the journo is smart and fair. ... A good lawyer or journo can manipulate symbolic knowledge far better than those who have the tacit knowledge..." I don't think we disagree about the features that make a really expert journalist very valuable on a well-defined beat. Sure: and under ordinary conditions in an informational ecosystem, that's sometimes a pretty good reason to read newspaper reports more than you read abstracts, etc. But what I'm concerned about is what happens in extraordinary conditions in the informational ecosystem, when—for example—the sheer volume, rapid-fire turn-around times, and tremendously wide scope of issues involved mean that a lot more "general-purpose" journos are suddenly put onto specialized beats, or onto writing generalist stories that really essentially involve complicated issues from a specialized beat. (Call that the demand-side worry.)...

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Yet Another Rant on Coronavirus & Trump

Dore-black-easter

Could "reopening America for business" on Easter backfire? Oh, yes it could. Oh, it definitely could backfire: BIGTIME.

The experience so far is that, in a society not undertaking social distancing, coronavirus cases double in a little less than five days—grow 100-fold in a month. If, say, the virus has been largely suppressed and only 10000 in the U.S. have it Easter week, then after the u.S. is opened up 1 million will have it on May 15, and then 100 million on June 15, at which point the epidemic will have pretty much run its course. But from May 1 to June 15 hospitals will have been overwhelmed. The likely death rate will have been not 1% but 6%. 5 million additional Americans will have died.

In return we will have produced an extra $1 trillion of stuff.

That's a tradeoff of $200K per life, which is not a good tradeoff to aim at making.

And, while it could be better, it could be much worse...

The right way to do it is to lockdown while we test, test, test, test, test:

  • Test a random-sample panel of 10000 Americans weekly to get a handle on the progress of the disease.
  • Test everyone for antibodies.
  • Let those who have had the disease and so are no immune go back to work—after testing to make sure that they are immune.
    • Indeed, draft those who have recovered to be hospital orderlies and nurses.
  • Make decisions based on knowledge of where the epidemic is in the community, and tune quarantine, social distancing, and shutdown measures to those appropriate given where the epidemic is.

But we do not know where the epidemic is.

And because we are not testing on a sufficient scale, we will not know when and if the virus is truly on the run until a month after the peak, when deaths start dropping. And even then we will not know how much the virus is on the run.

And removing social distancing before the virus is thoroughly on the run means that the virus comes roaring back.

Once the virus is thoroughly on the run, then normal public health measures can handle it:

  • Test, test, test.
  • Test patients presenting with symptoms.
  • Trace and test their contacts. Do what Japan and Singapore did—close to the epicenter in Wuhan, yet still with true caseloads lower than one in ten thousand.
  • Test those crossing borders, symptomatic or not.
  • Test those moving from city to city via air.
  • Test a random sample on the interstates, to see how much virus is leaking from place to place that way.
  • Test a random sample of the population to see whether and how much the disease was established, and then test another one.

Wherever community transmission becomes reestablished, apply the Wuhan lockdown for at least three weeks, so the caseload could be diminished enough so that contact tracing could be resumed.

Build up a database of those who tested positive and are presumably now immune so that they can be on the frontlines of treatment and contact with those possibly newly infected, and reopen the economy by putting them in the jobs that have high human contact and thus high virus transmission rates.

Jim Stock at Harvard has lots of good ideas and has thought a lot about how to do the Hunker Down. He is actually the person I would be asking how to do this—very smart, and has thought hard over the past month about it.

My view, however, is that right now we are scr--ed AF.

It is the end of March. The United States has tested only 500,000 people. There is no nationwide random sample time series. An awful lot of symptomatic people were not tested, and were instead sent back into the community. By the metric of the speed of growth of reported cases since the establishment of the virus dated to the hundredth first-reported case, the U.S. has performed worst of any country: worse than Italy, worse than Spain, worse (we think) than Iran. The 105,000 cases reported as of the evening of Fr Mar 27 are just the tip of the iceberg. From 1700 currently reported deaths so far in the United States, we might guess that there were between 60 and 170 thousand cases active at the start of March, which have grown to between 600 thousand and 2.5 million new cases, with perhaps the same number coming in the next week.

But we really do not know where we are.

We have not imposed the Wuhan lockdown.

If we had imposed the Wuhan lockdown, then three weeks after the lockdown had been imposed, the Hunker Down could start to be relaxed. Then, if we had enough testing capacity, we could start to relax knowing how much and where we could do so without the virus roaring back. Public health could then do its normal job: testing a random sample, testing all those symptomatic, tracing contacts, quarantining, and so keeping the spread slow enough that the health care system is not overwhelmed and that the bulk of the cases come next year or the year after or even later, by which time our virologists will have worked miracles.

But Trump, Mnuchin, Kudlow, & co. appear to want to draw to an inside straight and make the existential bet that transmission will melt away with the coming of spring and the warming up of the country. It might. 10%.

I have not found any economist who will say in private that that is not a very bad idea from a cost-benefit risk point of view.

And then, in two months, we are going to want to restart all the businesses that were functioning as of March 15. Nobody should go bankrupt as a result of anything that happened between March 15 and May 15 this year. That should be the proper goal of economic policy: to create a moment of Jubilee in the middle of this spring.

How would I do it, if I were running economic policy? Medical tests, treatment, tests, food, utilities, plus everything we can do that does not require human-to-human contact within six feet—that should be the extent of our economy for the next three weeks. All else should be shut down. And then, in a month, everyone should go to the job they had on March 15. And if the financing isn't there to run your business on May 15—if you are bankrupt?

That is what the Jubilee is for: the government assumes your debts.

But what if people are worried about the now-higher government debt? That is good reason to impose a highly-progressive tax on income and wealth both to reassure investors that the long-term finances of the government are sound, and to recoup some of the unearned increment that will be captured over the next month by those who turn the lockdown into a source of financial advantage.

That is what the U.S. should do. That is not what the U.S. will do. For one thing, we do not have and are not making enough tests.

With respect to the "China" questions:

  • The U.S. has passed China in reported number of cases.
  • In two weeks, the U.S. is going to pass China in reported coronavirus deaths.
  • Unless China loses (or has already lost control of the virus and is suppressing the news), for the next 50 years China's rulers will say:
    • Our society handled this much better than yours did.
    • Look to us rather than the U.S. for models and as your partners.
  • The U.S. has lost all global leverage over China—unless they are suppressing very bad virus news, and I see only a 10% chance that they are.
  • When the U.S. economy reopens, U.S.-China negotiations are likely to take the form of us saying "please allow us to buy your stuff on whatever terms you offer".

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Someone who wishes me ill sends me this from Niall Ferguson, published on Mar 16. Two weeks from Mar 16 is Mar 30, three days from now. By then the U.S. is likely to have 180,000 reported cases and 3400 coronavirus deaths. I guess the big lesson is: mommas, don't let your kids grow up ignorant of exponentials... Niall Ferguson (2020-03-16): Opinion: The First Coronavirus Error Was Complacency https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-first-coronavirus-error-was-complacency/: 'In the panic of the pandemic, we are making a lot of category errors.... If the whole of U.S. goes the way of Italy then, adjusting for population, within two weeks there will 95,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 7,000 dead...

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Neil Ferguson: UK Has Enough Intensive Care Units For Coronavirus, Expert Predicts https://www.newscientist.com/article/2238578-uk-has-enough-intensive-care-units-for-coronavirus-expert-predicts/: '[Neil Ferguson] said the UK should have the testing capacity “within a few weeks” to copy what South Korea has done and aggressively test and trace the general population. New data from the rest of Europe suggests that the outbreak is running faster than expected, said Ferguson. As a result, epidemiologists have revised their estimate of the reproduction number (R0) of the virus. This measure of how many other people a carrier usually infects is now believed to be just over three, he said, up from 2.5. “That adds more evidence to support the more intensive social distancing measures,” he said. His comments come as a team at the University of Oxford released provisional findings of a different model that they say shows that up to half the UK population could already have been infected... It assumes that most people who contract the virus don’t show symptoms and that very few need to go to hospital. “I don’t think that’s consistent with the observed data,” Ferguson told the committee...

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Heather Boushey: The Economist as Anesthetist: Putting the Economy Under and Bringing the Economy Back Up https://twitter.com/HBoushey/status/1242570985297117184: 'In response to the #coronavirus crisis, the nationwide economic shutdown has put the economy “on ice” so that it can be ramped back up after the health crisis is addressed. Concerns about falling into a deep and protracted #coronavirus recession are exacerbated by historically high economic inequality, which makes the United States particularly vulnerable to economic shocks. Policymakers should keep income flowing by helping small businesses pay their bills, ensuring any corporate assistance helps workers, boosting unemployment insurance, and providing #paidleave. The U.S. is one of only three industrialized countries that does not ensure every worker has access to paid time off when they are sick. We also need additional fiscal stimulus to ensure a recession does not turn into a full-scale economic depression. That means direct payments to families and more support for SNAP, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. We need to remember that the economy isn’t something that happens to us—it’s the direct result of choices that policymakers make. The only entity with the power to mobilize resources and not further exacerbate rising inequality at such a large scale is the government...

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Claudia Sahm, Joel Slemrod, and Matthew Shapiro have the baton on the effects of direct payments to people in cushioning the fall in aggregate demand during a recession. There are good reasons to fear that this supply shock induced recession will be different. But at the moment it is the best we got: Claudia Sahm: 'Research on payments to people in recessions... https://twitter.com/Claudia_Sahm/status/1243504127407243266 here are our past papers (with Joel Slemrod [and Matthew Shapiro]): 2008 payments: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~shapiro/papers/w15421.pdf. 2008 payments vs 2009-10 Making Work Pay tax credits: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~shapiro/papers/aejep2012.pdf. 2011-12 payroll tax cut: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~shapiro/papers/PayrollTaxes_SSS.pdf...

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In a good world, Jim Stock would already be back in the Eisenhower old executive office building chairing the Council of Economic Advisors during this crisis. He is vastly more thoughtful, more confident, and more up to speed on the issues and the trade-offs that we face, economically, during this public health crisis. However, we are not in a good world. We are in a very bad one. Already, the United States his response to the coronavirus is the worst in the world. And it only looks as though the gap between us and other countries is going to grow over the next months: Jim Stock: Coronavirus: Data Gaps and the Policy Response https://www.jimstock.org/2020/03/coronavirus-data-gaps-and-policy.html: 'Social distancing and business shutdowns... [affect] the case transmission rate β.... [One] policy design question is how to achieve that case transmission rate while minimizing economic cost. A second... is the optimal... β, trading off... economic cost[s]... against... deaths.... [We] lack... data.... Tests have been rationed.... The fraction of tests that are positive do not estimate the population rate of infection.... The COVID-19 asymptomatic rate... estimates in the epidemiological literature range from 0.18 to 0.86. However, the asymptomatic rate could be estimated accurately and quickly by testing a random sample of the overall population. The policy response and its economic consequences hinge critically on the asymptomatic rate. As we illustrate using two policy paths for β, without better knowledge of this knowable parameter, policymakers could make needlessly conservative decisions which would have vast economic costs...

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Let me endorse this as a thoughtful assessment of how important it is to keep the economy from sending anybody a "you are bankrupt: shut down" signal by the economy in this public health crisis. Instead, every business and every workers should be being sent a "you are, at most, on pause: be ready to resume" signal by the economy. How to make sure that signal is sent requires fiscal stimulus an order of magnitude greater than the $2.2 trillion currently in the headlines. For one thing, it requires tolerance of inflation, as prices of medical equipment and necessities rise and as social distancing temporarily reduces productivity elsewhere in the economy: Peter R. Orszag: Social Distancing Makes Sense Only With Huge Fiscal Stimulus https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-03-22/social-distancing-makes-sense-only-with-huge-fiscal-stimulus: 'Mandating social distancing in response to the Covid-19 crisis requires socializing the economic costs of doing so. We as a society can’t reasonably require social distancing, with the massive economic consequences it entails, and believe that most of those costs should be privately borne. We therefore need to either abandon social distancing (thereby overwhelming health systems and sparking untold deaths) or enact much larger stimulus measures. And by much larger I mean far larger even than the eye-popping figures the Trump administration is now pursuing.... The disruption is so vast... that government failure to act will result in an avalanche of bankruptcies and extended unemployment that will, in turn, inflict lasting damage on businesses and families, even after the health crisis passes... not being able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. It is why government intervention cannot be limited to the sectors most directly affected (airlines and hotels, for example) and must take new forms beyond the conventional tools (such as rebates to individuals). While many existing stimulus measures are necessary and helpful... they are terribly inadequate... The dilemmas we face will continue until an effective anti-viral or therapeutic can be found that allows us to contract the disease without suffering significant harm. In the meantime, even if current efforts are successful at attenuating the spread of the disease over the next several weeks, social distancing will need to be re-imposed in cycles. Given the plausible timetable for developing a vaccine, and unless we get very lucky and the virus itself mutates in a less harmful direction, these cycles could continue for well more than a year.... This is a fiscal risk worth taking.... [To] those who argue that the cost is too high or that a stunning increase in the deficit is too risky [I say:] If you don’t like the fiscal cost but you favor social distancing, what you’re really saying is that you are willing to accept millions of bankruptcies and the ripping apart of corporate and social fabrics across the world.... The economic harm comes mostly from the sudden stop... The demographics of those suffering from coronavirus and those suffering from the economic virus are quite different.... Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman have proposed that governments simply pay companies to cushion the shock: “In the context of this pandemic, we need a new form of social insurance, one that directly targets and works through businesses,” they wrote earlier this month. “The most direct way to provide this insurance is to have the government act as a buyer of last resort. If the government fully replaces the demand that evaporates, each business can keep paying its workers and maintain its capital stock, as if it was operating under business as usual.” And Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times has suggested a universal loan program, with a zero interest rate and extended repayment terms. One thing is clear about stimulus measures in this crisis: Bigger is better...

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This is by a substantial margin the best thing I have seen on the coronavirus, and where we are with respect to it. My confidence that the Trump administration and the Republican senatorial majority are up to the task of organizing this is too low to measure: Richard Danzig and Marc Lipsitch: Prepare Now for the Long War Against Coronavirus https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-03-20/prepare-now-for-the-long-war-against-coronavirus: 'It’s essential to clearly envision the problems we’ll face over the next 12 to 18 months and mobilize to respond right away. Here are five priority problems and the actions we should take now.... Minimizing errors and uncertainties about and maximizing confidence in our judgments about cure will soon become as important as present efforts at disease detection. People who recover from Covid-19 probably can work in hospitals, emergency response settings and ordinary jobs without fear of infection.... We need to identify these people and assess how soon after their recovery they become unlikely to infect others.... Assuring that someone has immunity against this new virus requires tests that are distinct from the PCR tests of nose and throat swabs now being used to identify infections. We need to develop and distribute antibody tests.... Problem: If current efforts at social distancing succeed in spacing out infections, we face many months of demand for treatment.... It’s essential to reduce demand for hospitalization by establishing methods to support lengthy treatment at home... telemedicine, house calls by nurse practitioners, on-line instruction for home care-givers, and support for safe travel... the production of enormous quantities of ventilators, personal protective equipment for health care workers and other medical supplies, and to ramp up our capacity for viral testing.... Pervasive illness affecting most of the U.S. population over the course of a year will threaten not just health care systems but other critical infrastructure as well.... People responsible for food production and delivery, power distribution, telecommunication, drinking water, transportation, cyber services and police need to ramp up efforts to protect and maintain these systems, and to detect and report any fragilities and failures. The Defense Department should be engaged to backstop these systems.... It is essential to ensure that the U.S. can hold a national election in November safely, securely and democratically, even if contagion persists and social distancing is still necessary.... This problem might be best addressed by enlisting a private, non-partisan entity (for example, a major foundation) to offer expert advice to Congress and to state and federal officials. With a sense of urgency and more than half a year to plan, voting by mail or via the internet—or other alternatives—could be made to work everywhere.... A long school shutdown and widespread illness will mean missed education, the loss of school nutrition for needy kids, difficulties for teachers separated from their workplace, and psychological effects.... The 50 states can address these issues individually, or they can, more effectively, band together to devise high-quality approaches... We can win... by treating it as both an emergency and a long-term challenge. We are rich, ingenious and resolute enough to prevail. But this virus has already shown we cannot wait until the moment of need to get organized...

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