A new online tool called RestartNOW! charts a pathway to restart the economy in stages, quickly and safely, right down to the county level. It provides myriad information regarding economic, social, and health impacts of the virus and those same impacts accruing from the shutdown. Currently available for 18 of the 50 states, this tool needs to be developed for every state.
As the virus hit the United States, health experts and academics used computer models to predict a rapid spike in hospitalizations in urban areas. To protect those hospitals from being overwhelmed, they called for social shutdowns to “flatten the curve” of hospitalizations. It was not to reduce the total number of eventual infections, but to slow the spread so hospitals would not be overwhelmed.
Now, many weeks later, the data is becoming clear: We had no way of knowing this would happen, but there have been no truly overwhelmed hospitals anywhere in the country beyond a few close to it in New York City. Of course, some of this may have been the result of the shutdown. Still, the effectiveness of this strategy is increasingly being called into question as more and more tests are conducted.
More People Safely Through the Disease than Thought
A recent survey from Stanford University, for example, found that the infection rate in Santa Clara County, California, could be as much as 50-85 times larger than the measured rate. If true, that would bring the U.S. COVID-19 Case Fatality Rate (CFR) into line with a typical influenza season (0.1 percent), as opposed to the current rate, which exceeds five out of every 100 of those diagnosed with the illness.
Chicago’s Roseland Community Hospital conducts 400-600 tests per day and has found that between 30 and 50 percent tested positive, but most had gotten over it. In Bonn, Germany, a study of 1,000 people found that 15 percent were infected, suggesting a CFR of 0.37 percent, less than one-fifth of Germany’s estimated rate. A smaller test conducted in Sweden found that 11 percent of those tested were positive.
Professor Yitzhak Ben Israel of Tel Aviv University has studied infection rates in the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy, Israel, Switzerland, France, Germany, and Spain. He found that regardless of whether a nation chose the shutdown model or remained open, infection rates remained essentially the same, with cases peaking in about six weeks then declining thereafter. This seem to be what has happened so far in the United States.
The total number of deaths from this disease has now surpassed 70,000 as of May 7. There is some question, however, as to whether COVID-19 deaths are being counted accurately. Federal coronavirus task force leader Dr. Deborah Birx has said that all deaths from whatever cause are being counted as COVID deaths if the patient tested positive for the disease.
Shutdowns Also Kill People
Still, the cure may ultimately be more deadly than the disease. The engine of our economy is small business. Business owners are having their American Dream shattered by these extended shutdowns. The Federal Reserve is spending a million dollars a minute from our children’s future to prop up business revenue.
The entire economy is at risk. We are losing jobs to the tune of nearly 1 million every day. Since mid-March, some 33 million people have filed claims for unemployment.
This creates an immense human toll, the other side of the equation that is not being appropriately considered. The unprecedented economic revitalization during the first three years of the Trump administration is seriously threatened. The U.S. economy will struggle to recover for months or even years.
Unemployment causes stress, health problems, and suicides. According to RestartNOW!, there are counties where the number of suicide deaths resulting from the shutdown have exceeded the number of COVID-19 cases, never mind COVID deaths.
Many hospitals are laying staff off because there are so many open beds. At the same time, people with critical need for surgeries and other procedures are staying home because their treatments are considered “elective.”
A friend recently suffered heart failure and went to the hospital to receive a stint. He was sent home because it was not COVID-19 related. He said to me, “So Jim, I sit at home waiting to die, while abortion clinics are open for business and marijuana dispensaries are considered ‘essential services.’ This is insane!”
RestartNOW! Takes a More Holistic Look
The economy needs to be reopened, carefully but expeditiously. RestartNOW! provides a methodology to do this. It uses sound data from a myriad of credible government and private sources and a solid analytical framework.
It was developed by NAVIGO, Inc., a risk management firm contracted with the U.S. Department of Defense and numerous international clients. In developing this analytical framework, NAVIGO worked with EMSI, a company with expertise in both epidemiology and economics, and BCG Henderson Institute’s Center for Macroeconomic Analysis.
The RestartNOW! model evaluates counties on a wide variety of risk factors, including drug addiction and suicide. Residents of published states can learn how much economic and societal damage is being done to their county and state each day through coronavirus shutdowns.
For example, RestartNOW calculates that Maryland alone is losing more than $700 million and 8,500 jobs per day and has lost $36 billion and 389,000 jobs since the shutdown began, a 14 percent decline. Texas has lost $105 billion and 1.5 million jobs since the shutdown began. Furthermore, most of this loss has occurred in those counties at lowest risk for opening up.
Maryland‘s low and medium-risk counties comprise more than 80 percent of the state and are the counties losing the majority of the almost $38 billion in shutdown dollars lost to-date. These counties comprise many farmers and small entrepreneurs. They should not be going out of business because the other 17 percent of the state has a high-risk profile.
The shutdowns were initiated by governors without an adequate cost-benefit analysis for the businesses and citizens. Low-risk counties are in every state and have been disproportionately harmed by the statewide mandates.
We are a nation founded on individual rights, and those rights carry responsibilities. Most of us will take prudent measures to protect ourselves and our loved ones without the heavy hand of government arbitrarily dictating what we can and cannot do.