The coronavirus crisis has just begun, yet President Trump has gone on a Twitter spree stating that the economy has to be restarted after the country’s temporary 15-day lockdown expires.
But how will people get back to work when the crisis is expected to worsen before it gets any better?
Today, public health experts from the WHO warned that the United States is close to becoming the new center for the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of cases is doubling every 1.75 days — that’s a much steeper rate of infection than that seen in countries like Italy or Spain, where staggering death tolls are reported each day.
“The rate of increase in domestic cases is now estimated to be in the range of 25 to 40% per day near to or eclipsing the alarming rates of case growth occurring in France and Italy,” researchers from the infectious disease analytics team from MITRE, a Bedford-based nonprofit, said in a new report.
“We believe that COVID-19 cases are currently underrepresented in large part due to our current limited testing capability and the multiday period of asymptomatic infectivity,” the authors stated.
Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said millions could die if non-essential businesses are ordered to resume amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“COVID has been spreading w/ exponential growth in the US for some time, and we’re just beginning to get an understanding of how extensively,” Inglesby wrote on Twitter on March 23. “Some hospitals have said publicly that within a week they will not have ventilators to treat everyone with COVID anymore.”
“Anyone advising the end of social distancing now, needs to fully understand what the country will look like if we do that. COVID would spread widely, rapidly, terribly, could kill potentially millions in the (year) ahead with huge social and economic impact across the country.”
Inglesby stressed that much more testing and faster diagnostics are urgently needed if the country is to have any remote chance of recovering in a timely manner from this crisis.
“In Asia they’ve slowed the disease by slowing social interaction. Left to its own, this disease spreads from 1 person to about 2.5 people, and then they do the same, and so on. For this disease to stop, we need to make it so that the avg person spreads it to <1 other person,” Inglesby tweeted. “These big social distancing measures take time to work. The impact of big interventions in Wuhan China took about 3 wks to start to reverse things. And then everyday after the situation got better. In the US, we’re about 7 to 10 days into this, depending on the state.”
“To drop all these measures now would be to accept that COVID pts will get sick in extraordinary numbers all over the country, far beyond what the US health care system could bear.”
The economic fallout of COVID-19 could be unprecedented. The stock market has collapsed and thousands of businesses have closed shop. The biggest trouble, however, might be unemployment. According to Goldman Sachs, nearly 2.25 million Americans filed for jobless aid during the last week alone — that’s slightly higher than the number of jobs gained during the entire year of 2019.
The country’s temporary lockdown is supposed to end on March 30th. In the meantime, sentiment in both the White House and Congress might change as the number of cases and fatalities rise sharply. The fact that this is supposed to be an election year makes things highly uncertain for the future.
Yes, there will inevitably grave economic consequences that we shall all feel for years to come. However, the country’s leaders will have to make a tough decision: sacrifice some of tomorrow’s wealth or save those most vulnerable today.
Tibi is a science journalist and co-founder of ZME Science. He writes mainly about emerging tech, physics, climate, and space. In his spare time, Tibi likes to make weird music on his computer and groom felines.