23 May 2020 – Saturday – #69

Even though Catalonia disclosed to Spain’s central government 635 deaths it hadn’t properly classified as Covid-19 deaths, Spain has allowed both Barcelona and Madrid to advance to Phase 1 on Monday. There are cars honking their horns along Avinguda Diagonal as I write this. I believe the honking is a celebration of Phase 1, not a traffic jam.

Phase 1 allows movement inside a province where healthcare zones are at the same phase, opening of restaurants and hotels, operation of businesses under 400 square meters, and meetings of not more than 10 people. Restaurants and businesses have occupancy restrictions. And no buffets!

While Phase 1 brings free movement, exercise periods continue from 6a – 10a in the morning and 8p – 11p at night. Or maybe not. It does appear we have to avoid exercise when the elders exercise from 10a – noon and from 7p – 8p.

If you don’t like the rules, find another news site.

Covid-19 Phases by Catalan sanitary district beginning 25 May 2020.

I really am trying to get all this right. Checking through the Catalan News, though, it appears that even though Girona and Barcelona are both in the same Province and both in Phase 1, residents of Barcelona cannot leave the city. So much for my day trip to Girona. Also, Barcelona keeps changing rules for using its beaches. As long as you’re walking on the beach and not lying on the sand, you should be good.

But, really, who knows? I got a haircut, so now, as long as I can grow tomatoes on the terrace and invite fewer than ten friends over for a BBQ, I’ll be happy. If Brad can get back from San Francisco for a BBQ, even better. The thing is to avoid the €600 fine.

If Spanish policy seems unclear, imagine living in the schizophrenic US where Covid-19 deaths are expected to surpass 100,000 this Memorial Day weekend. On the one hand, some are celebrating Georgia’s apparent successful reopening. On the other, a new (non peer-reviewed) study says 24 states in the US have conditions ripe for Covid-19 outbreaks.

It is a snapshot of a transitional moment in the pandemic and captures the patchwork nature across the country of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Some states have had little viral spread or “crushed the curve” to a great degree and have some wiggle room to reopen their economies without generating a new epidemic-level surge in cases. Others are nowhere near containing the virus.

The Telegraph, “Study: Texas leads the country at coronavirus spread,” 22 May 2020.

US Covid-19 policy is driven by the need to re-elect Trump. The US is going to have a Covid-19 vaccine by election day whether it works or not. Also, the US will go back to church, whether it’s healthy or not—Trump is losing evangelical support and needs God’s help to win. Both these policies seem to me like recipes for disaster.

US Covid-19 policy is also driven by free market economics. That couldn’t be a recipe for disaster, could it?

Well, remember the miracle Moderna vaccine tests results announced last Monday? The results that were delivered all of six days ago without any backup data? Turns out Moderna’s management does actually knows what it’s doing, after all. They exercised options and cleared US$30 million to their benefit after their announcement.

It’s not that free markets don’t work, it’s that they work better for some people than others. Which makes the cynic in me wonder, can free market economics deliver a Covid-19 vaccine? Luckily, Brad found the Twitter thread on this very topic!

Twitter thread on the economics of Covid-19 vaccines.

While the large market potential for a Covid-19 vaccine is driving significant R&D investment, that R&D is mostly in business propositions less risky than a vaccine. This is where a smart government could step in to fund the risky R&D needed for vaccines through an organization like, say, I don’t know, maybe the World Health Organization.

However, besides deciding to withdraw the US funding commitment to WHO, Dr. Trump has decided that there won’t be a need for a second shutdown if Covid-19 reappears. That’s great because it will give the US an opportunity to repeat Sweden’s Covid-19 experiment.

So how’s that going?

Swedish Covid-19 per capita mortality rate versus its Scandinavian neighbors.

It’s not just that Sweden’s Covid-19 mortality is much worse than neighboring Norway, Denmark, and Finland, it’s that Sweden’s economy isn’t performing any better than its neighbors, either. The whole point of Sweden’s “lockdown lite” policy was to keep its economy chugging along while it established herd immunity to Covid-19. But Sweden is nowhere near the 60% or infection rate needed for herd immunity. With a 7.3% infection rate, Stockholm has about the same herd immunity as Barcelona.

The one thing that is working during Covid-19 is dis- and misinformation. In fact, it seems the only thing both liberals and conservatives agree on, actually, is that there is a lot of Covid-19 misinformation. The problem is that what conservatives see as liberal misinformation is what liberals see as truth, and vice versa.

I’m seeing this in my social feeds. People establish their conservative cred with anti-Fauci, anti-Gates, pro-Sweden posts. People establish their liberal cred with anti-Trump, pro-lockdown, pro-science posts. I’ll take the news above about Georgia’s apparent success at reopening as an example.

Georgia’s successful reopening should be good news, but it’s loaded politically because Georgia’s Republican governor has pushed Trump’s agenda. People who presumably are liberal dismissed the post because the state’s reporting has been less than stellar, even though Yahoo claims to have confirmed the numbers. On the other hand, the poster was applauding the result without looking at the larger context: does it matter if one state succeeds while others appear to be failing.

One issue that didn’t come up in the discussion was how people in Georgia changed their behavior after the state reopened. No one mentioned that maybe Governor Kemp ordered the state to reopen and most of its citizens continued to shelter-in-place. I’m not saying that happened. I am pointing out that people responding to the post got locked into a point of view without thinking through all the possibilities. Clever sound bites and memes are easier.

It’s one reason I’m writing long-form about Covid-19. It helps me think through issues. I hope it’s helping you, too. Pass it on!

2 thoughts on “23 May 2020 – Saturday – #69

  1. Steve, Thanks for writing this blog! I appreciate the intelligence and analysis that you bring to each post. The world also feels a bit smaller hearing from you from so far away. Take care!


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