My friend Dave Rosenberg, who practices independently at Rosenberg Research, notes that when and how to reopen the US economy is a difficult call – which depends on many medical variables.
“If I had to guess, we would see a partial reopening in some areas starting in May. I feel one very important metric here is health care capacity (hospital bed, ICU, ventilator). “
I believe that easing of business restrictions and movement will largely depend on local conditions. Viral outbreaks spread in ways that we don’t fully understand. Avoiding so many people from circulation seems to have helped, but this closure is not sustainable for an indefinite period of time.
The first priority is to keep the health system ready for the worst; Dave and I agreed. We cannot allow more of this “extraordinary” situation like Italy and New York.
Instead, we need the facilities, equipment, supplies and staff available to treat a number of (still-high) corona virus patients … plus all other medical needs that have been ruled out.
Some people suggest that we isolate the most vulnerable people: those over 60 years old, and / or with the immune system, lungs or other problems. That might help, but it won’t be simple.
You are still talking about a large part of the population, plus younger caregivers who will be in contact with them, plus family caregivers. It also doesn’t last long.
Michael Roizen of the Cleveland Clinic helped prepare papers for Ohio and other states about how to think about reopening their country. He included this graph about the death rate in Ohio; obviously the risk of death increases dramatically with age.
But that changes when you consider other health problems. High blood pressure, smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise, all contribute to an increase in morbidity. So you can be younger and still in the high risk category because of your health.
The US still needs to sharpen up improve testing before we can ease the restrictions. It is getting better, and some private laboratories are even reporting overcapacity now because they have worked through the initial savings. But we need more confidence, maybe millions of tests a day.
We just have to bite the bullet and make it happen.
With the caveat that local schedules will vary, I think Dave is right that we can start reopening in May. But notice how carefully Dave said it (my emphasis):
“A in part reopen some area early in May. “
We will not all emerge from our holes, blink in the sun, and continue happily into spring. I hope the process drags on, it might be interrupted in some places if the case just starts to grow again.
Some governors talk about allowing restaurants to open with 50% capacity. How will it work for their cash flow? Not to work yet?
The government cannot just order the economy to be reopened. Consumers and businesses must agree, and all will make their own choices. Like everything else, it will be a cost-benefit analysis.
In the near future, it will look very different. Masks will be mandatory in some places and socially expected in other places. Most people will live close to home. Even if you want to get on a plane or train, you risk being trapped in someone else’s plague and not being able to go home.
Is the benefit of going to a restaurant worth the risk of going out in a public place, near strangers who might be infected? Maybe so, but fewer people want it as long as this virus is still a threat.
Life will not be as “normal” as we knew only a few months ago until we had an effective vaccine and most people are inoculated. That’s at least eight more months, maybe longer.
We will not just take the place we left behind. Social distance is not suitable with the type of economy that we always know.
As long as it still exists, the old economy is gone.
What will the economy look like over the next six months and in the post-vaccine world? I gathered thought leaders at my first virtual live conference that can help you separate signals from noise. It lasts for five days between 11 and 21 May. Learn more here.
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