So, good news this week with the whole coronavirus situation. Up until April 2nd, the numbers here in Florida were quite alarming. The number of daily cases kept increasing every day. The number of people tested positive seemed to double every three days. Doing some back-of-the-napkin, I figured that, at that rate, before the end of April, the entire state would have tested positive and there would be no one left to test.
But then things slowed down. For the past couple of weeks, the rate of new cases has no longer been increasing. It appears that all of the drastic measures we have taken with social distancing have resulted in flattening the curve. Please note, that while the country was making noise about Florida being late to adopt restrictions, the three counties in South Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach) shut everything down in the middle of March, pretty much in line with New York City.
All events were canceled. Concerts, sporting events, any gathering of any number of people. All of the restaurants were closed for dining; those that couldn’t live on a greatly reduced delivery or take-out business had to shut down. Some went out of business. Businesses tied to the travel or hospitality industries were hard hit; I know of several that companies that outright failed as a result. Others had massive layoffs.
Service industries were shut down as well. You can’t even get a haircut anymore. This means even more companies failed, more people lost their jobs.
The cities have closed the parks and the beaches. Some put in curfews. Personal liberties have been severely curtailed. People are miserable.
The economic impact has been disastrous and will be long-lasting. Instantly, the country has been plunged into a recession. There won’t be a V-shaped recovery; there’s no way all of these people will suddenly get their jobs back. In many cases, there won’t be any jobs to go back to. And with everyone hunkered down, people are spending less, causing a greatly reduced demand for goods and services, which makes the economy even worse.
The government has been spending money like they’re in a socialist’s fever dream. People have been getting hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Unemployment benefits are boosted. The government has been giving countless small companies millions of dollars in forgivable loans. In addition, the Fed has been printing money like crazy and lowering interest rates to near zero. The scale of government intervention has no precedent. There will be massive long-term side effects as a result of this, most of which no one is thinking about right now.
Thankfully, all this sacrifice is paying off. The curve is flattening. Just look at the charts.
From here, you can see the cases per day has definitely leveled off. This is even more interesting when you consider that only recently has the number of testing kits available increased. So even with more testing, the number of testing positive has decreased.
Still, the number of people tested has always been a problematic statistic. We may never know the real number of people infected because even today, the general populace can’t get tested unless they are presenting symptoms to a qualified medical professional. But there is another statistic that is more reliable: the number of deaths per day attributed to the virus.
Here, we can see that the number of deaths has peaked a week ago. Also, the number of deaths per day looks like it’s in decline, which is really good news. So while our economy has been trashed, the government has been saddled with massive debt, and our personal liberties have been harshly restricted, at least we saved lives.
There’s just one problem.
Those charts up there? They’re not from Florida. They’re from Sweden.
And Sweden, as you probably know, is the one country that decided not to adopt extreme quarantine measures. In Sweden, you can still dine in a restaurant. In Sweden, you can visit friends. In Sweden, stores are still open. (Hell, I bet they still have toilet paper there.) They didn’t trash their economy. They didn’t plunge their governments into massive debts.
So why are they experiencing the same flattening the curve that we are?
What have we done?
Were all these heroic measures in vain? Did our trips to the grocery store infect everyone anyway?
The massive recession we have now entered, could it have been much less? The trillions in debt from government payout, the trillions in quantitative easing, the unlimited bond-buying facility… how can this not lead to the devaluation of the dollar and inflation?
Every day as I see Sweden’s situation improve, I get more frustrated with what we’ve done to our country here.