It kind of seems like we’ve turned a corner — no?
The stock market is going up up up this week. On Monday, it racked up a 7% gain. Seven percent! In one day! A record! In case you’re not really a finance type: A “good” return on an investment for many folks is in the range of like 5% for a year. The stock market went up 7% in a single day. That is something that literally never happens. Just wanted to point that out, in case you’ve become numb to how unusual the times are right now.
Stocks went down on Tuesday but up again Wednesday, by a lot. Yesterday’s run-up was actually at least partly thanks to Bernie Sanders for bowing out of the Democratic race for the nomination; the market hates uncertainty, and knowing who the nominee will be, and that there won’t be a contested fight at the convention, makes investors feel better. The markets likely also responded to the positive on Wednesday because yes, there seems to be good news coming out about coronavirus. The indexes are still far off their peaks but if you look at investor mood this week, it seems like the worst may be behind us. People don’t buy stocks if they think the world is ending. In those times, they sell. This week, people are buying.
President Governor Cuomo also has been tentatively suggesting that New York has gotten things under control. For several days now, he’s been saying that New York City — the worst-hit area in all of the U.S. — is seeing the results of everyone’s efforts, and the statistics are trending positive. Fewer new infections; fewer hospital admissions. The sirens echoing through New York City aren’t quite as constant. Similar good news out of California yesterday too. Things seem to be stabilizing.
Heck, some hard-hit places like Washington State and California even have been sending equipment like ventilators to New York. Only a week ago, it was major doom-and-gloom numbers out of those two states and everyone panicking that they didn’t have enough ventilators, but now, they’re feeling like they’re out of the woods so much that they can ship out the critical equipment to others. That’s a good sign too right?
Wuhan China is also re-opening. They’re rolling back the controls and loosening restrictions in order to resume life as normal. This is a major good sign.
All of this seems like it’s saying that the crisis is passing, that we’re beating it as a society, that we all have made this temporary sacrifice but it’s working, and things are looking up.
Is it time to celebrate? Is it time to start planning our summer vacations? Life is going back to normal now, right?
Unfortunately, EssaySnark really thinks the answer to that is “no.” 🙁
We’ve got the PessimisticSnark hat on again today, and we’re not trying to freak you out or rain on the parade or make you all miserable again. We’re just trying to help you be realistic and see what’s coming based on facts.
Admittedly: ALL OF THIS is our reading of the situation, and all of it is subject to interpretation and revision. It would be WONDERFUL if we are shown to be wrong on this. But here’s what we see, and this is why we unfortunately do not believe this crisis will be ending anytime soon:
1. Testing is still completely insufficient. Nobody can identify the actual infection rate, and there are no standards or consistency to how the data is being collected . There is no national effort by the U.S. government to collect this, which means that the statisticians and public health experts are just guessing . Yes, they’re making educated guesses, but it’s guesswork, and whatever they come up with will be inevitably shadowed by the respective experts’ orientations and points of view — and who is paying them. The current U.S. administration has no problem with outright lying to people, and they have spent three years working diligently to get rid of people who will speak the truth, and instead collecting sycophants and propagandists within all levels and branches of government to advance their agenda. (“Gee, EssaySnark, how do you really feel?”)
Because the U.S. does not know actual infection rates or prevalence of the virus within the population, they are not able to put meaningful policies in place beyond the kneejerk “lock everybody down” response. Sure, we should be able to go off of infection rates in other countries — but every country is very, very different. Rate of spread in a authoritarian country like China cannot be extrapolated to a liberal Western democracy, because China reacted totally differently when the virus first happened. The Chinese have been comfortable wearing masks in public for years, given other viruses that have gone through their communities before. The Chinese government is unified and consistent, and the people tend to be willing to go along with those rules partly because it’s a collectivist culture, and partly because of how they are governed. It’s just different.
We also cannot go off the rates in countries like Italy because they have a) socialized medicine, and b) a much older population. So, on the one hand, they have much better data, and on the other hand, they have much worse impact because of the frailty of their citizenry.
The closest we can compare to is South Korea or Germany, and both of those countries have governments who are effective at beating this: In the case of South Korea, they had prepared for exactly this contingency before and were able to deploy smart measures throughout their healthcare system and society right away. In the case of both South Korea and Germany, they instituted testing right away. They had a well-managed public-health response almost from the get-go.
America does not have that. We still don’t have that to this day, now almost three full months into the crisis.
So what else is different, or wrong, and why does EssaySnark think that Americans are in for an extended season of difficulty around this pandemic?
Going back to how they’re releasing controls in Wuhan: We are convinced that the U.S. is going to start doing that soon, and they’ll do it too early. States like Florida that only just this week — THIS WEEK!! — implemented any stay-at-home order are likely to want to lift those restrictions right away, because of political pressure, because some people think that saving the economy is more important than saving lives. And then there will be mass infections, and many people will die.
When that happens, the pendulum will swing back the other way, and there will be more lockdowns.
There’s another problem that you’ve likely heard about, but that nobody knows how it will go:
2. Who says this virus is seasonal?
There were many comparisons of coronavirus to the flu, from the very beginning, and for some reason, people have latched onto this idea that coronavirus will die out in the summer, based on its ability to survive in heat and humidity.
Who said that that is true? Who knows for sure that that will happen? Obviously EssaySnark is not in the field of virology — we’re in essayology — but from what we’ve been researching, there is literally no evidence that coronavirus outbreaks will be seasonal. There’s only assumptions and wishful thinking. Unfortunately, some accumulating evidence seems to be pointing now to it not being seasonal. That’s borne out by the increasing rates in Australia, which is currently in summer. Assuming that it’s going to go dormant in the summer and then only come back in the fall is putting your head in the sand. UPDATE 7/12/20: Hate to be all “toldja so” but… yeah.
As we laid out a week ago in one of our “what’s going to happen?” posts, we need a vaccine, and we need the ability to test ongoing immunity. There’s been advances on both of those fronts recently, and vaccine trials are actively underway. But these trials will require over a year to be completed. The candidate drugs are not yet known to be safe, and definitely they’re not yet known to be effective. And, it’s tough to do such trial: You give someone a vaccine, and then what: You expose them to the virus to see if they get sick??? No, you can’t do that; it’s not ethical. Some researchers choose to expose themselves, because they’re so motivated for their work and eager to prove out their discovery, but it’s not how medicine is done. Instead, you give a proven-healthy person the vaccine, and you wait. Do they get sick? No? Good. Now wait some more. It’s not sufficient if this single person who got vaccinated never gets sick; you need this test to run on lots of people in the population, and track everyone, to see what the rates are of them picking up the virus from the general population. And all of that takes significant time. So yes, you may have heard that there are trials underway to test these vaccines, but that’s only the first step of a very long process. (You also likely heard that there are trials happening of a malaria drug that’s supposed to be a “game changer” in the treatment of coronavirus but there is literally no reproducible data yet showing that this drug helps, and it has very serious side effects that make it dangerous for use in some cases. We have literally no confidence at all in that hype.)
The way we go back to “normal” life is either hospital capacity catches up with demand, and we decide as a society that we’re going to be OK with a certain number of people getting sick and dying because it’s more important to us that we get to go about our daily lives; OR we stay in home lockdown until a vaccine is available. Sure, there are some other possibilities being explored using stages or phases, and yes, we do believe that some parts of the economy will reopen somehow on a limited basis. But our current experience of homebound life is going to be status quo for some time.
3. If we lift the lockdown too soon, the virus is just going to come roaring back. That’s what happened in 1918 with the Spanish Flu (so-named not because it originated in Spain, but because the Spanish government released actual numbers of those infected and dead from it, where other governments did not). If we keep the current social distancing practices in place, then one estimate is that this first wave will subside by June. Even if they’re right, there will still be 97% of the population who has never had the disease, who is susceptible to getting it later.
“Dang, EssaySnark. You’ve got me all messed up in the head again.”
We appreciate why some people have been pushing the happy-news stories recently. All the positives helps the economy because it makes people less freaked out, and potentially might prompt some people to spend a little money (online shopping is apparently about as good as alcohol in tamping down some of the anxiety — though EssaySnark does not recommend you do either to excess! everything in moderation, Grasshopper). The media has been accused of hyping up the bad aspects of coronavirus and being very doom-and-gloom. And yeah, doom-and-gloom gets clicks. But it’s also warranted right now. People are dying in large numbers.
Fewer people are dying right now than was projected, because everybody is doing the right thing and staying home.
If we decide that we’re bored, or tired, and just sick of these restrictions, and enough of us start going out again, to the park, to the beach, making an extra trip to the supermarket for stuff we don’t really need, well, guess what? The virus is going to hop aboard that train too.
If some idiot governor decides that his state has been in lockdown long enough and decides to lift the shelter-in-place orders prematurely, guess what? Everyone will go out again because he said it was OK to do so, and the infection rate will go back through the roof.
You might be wondering, what about New Zealand? Wasn’t there news that they’re totally on top of this thing and infection rates are so far down that it might actually disappear?
Yes, that’s true, and: New Zealand is an island (a large one, but an island nonetheless); New Zealand closed its borders on March 17; New Zealand ordered a near-total shutdown of its society at the same time; New Zealand’s government has put people first and is not politicizing anything about this event. It is actually possible that New Zealand could eradicate coronavirus from within its population. The problem, of course, is that eventually, they will be opening their borders again. And when that happens, the virus will come back. But, their swift and strong action in locking everyone down super early means that there are people alive in New Zealand today who would not be if they had not done that.
We’re in a sensitive time right now. We’re all in the midst of an incredibly challenging experience that is unlike what any of us have ever gone through. There is tremendous stress and anxiety. Everyone just wants to know when things will go back to normal. It’s the uncertainty that is so difficult.
Some people in government seem to think that offering a hint that perhaps the crisis is starting to ease is the right message to convey to the public, as it gives people hope. But hope for what? Isn’t it worse to have hope, and then have it all crash down again?
It seems to us snarky types here in Snarkville that a better attitude is to be forthright, and honest, and real. What exactly is the situation? What is this threat that we’re up against? It is currently politically untenable to say that it might go on for the rest of the year.
But if we let up on these efforts sooner than that, are we OK as a society with having all of this happen again?
Yes, Wuhan is reopening — after 11 weeks of lockdown. The earliest communities in the U.S. locked down on like March 16th or something. We’re only in our fourth week, people. And we’re not nearly as “locked down” as Wuhan was. Reopening the U.S. on the same schedule does not seem realistic, when we’re not doing the same things here that the Chinese did in response to the threat.
Hopefully the virus has not come too close to you yet — but at some point, it will. At some point, there will be people you know who get sick, and people you know will die. The actions we’re taking today can literally make a difference in whether more of us make it, or not.
There are ways for society to continue even if we are all living in our pajamas for days on end. The financial pain that’s happening and will worsen is also very real. It may feel really difficult to stick to the shelter-in-place when the sun comes out, and your dog hasn’t been able to run around in ages, and you’re feeling cooped up and you miss your buddies and you’re bored spitless. It may seem like not a big deal if you go out and enjoy some freedom for awhile; it’s just you. You’re just one person.
But it’s one of those times when what all of us do — every single person — individually, it totally matters.
They say that’s the case with stuff like global warming and pollution also. But here is an experience where we can actually perceive it.
The numbers are going down. Good job, people! Collectively, we are doing the right thing.
Let’s find a way to keep doing it.
It totally sucks, but we’ll make it through. And it’s worth it. We are literally preventing people from dying this way.
Coronavirus and the MBA
- Coronavirus: Round 2 decisions
- Coronavirus and scholarship opportunities
- Coronavirus: Admitted to the Class of 2022 and decisions to attend
- Coronavirus: What if you decide not to go?
- Coronavirus: Standardized testing and Round 3 apps
- Coronavirus: What if you’re graduating this Spring?
Wow! You made it to the end?!??