An Exit Plan is a Good Start...
An exit plan is a good start, but if you are a government you may actually have to do something to make it happen.
Let’s pick on North Carolina for a moment. They have a nice informative website; (https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/covid19/covid-19-nc-case-...) where they lay out some metrics related to “re-opening” the state. One of these is having 30 days of “PPE” (another buzzword like “ventilators” that one gets the impression the few of those using the term really know what it means) on hand included “N-95” masks (ditto.) Unfortunately, as of this writing (April 30, 2020) North Carolina as a stockpile of 0 days of N-95 masks on hand.
All well and good, but look at this article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2020/03/30/i-spent-a-day-in-th...
If you didn’t click the link, or can’t access it for some reason, the author hung out for a day with an equipment sales broker and this is what he found out; approximately 300 million “N-95” masks were sold that day—but NONE to US states and hospitals. They all went overseas. Why? Because none of the government entities had any mechanism in place to empower anyone working there to pull the trigger on a sale. They all dithered and complained about the price, or needed further authorization, etcetera, etcetera. If you’ve spent five minutes or more of your life dealing with a government bureaucracy, you know the drill.
Speaking of price, things cost what they cost. The best way to make sure there is enough of something is to let the market set that cost. When a lot of people want something, the price goes up, and then more people start manufacturing or distributing it, and then the supply increases and the price stabilizes. Governments, always with the best intentions, have tried and tried to set artificially low prices for basic necessities, or impose central planning on prices, always with at best the creation of inefficiencies and at worst with disastrous shortages.
Luckily, it appears that supply and demand for PPE has been business as usual. Oh, a few powerless chumps have been arrested or shamed for their garages full of hand sanitizer, but that’s just political theater. The big players are being left alone.
But getting back to North Carolina. The point here is; What exactly, if anything, is North Carolina doing to meet this self-imposed goal? Are they actually trying to acquire these masks, or requiring hospitals in the state to do so?
Or have they just thrown up their hands and said “Eh, magic, we guess?”
This is a problem, because inactivity or incapacity here comes with a significant cost. These are the people who have been quick to step up and assume control of our lives and financial future. These are the leaders that people who have put their lives into running small, local businesses are relying on to allow them to continue to be employed and be able to feed and clothe their families. If the government of North Carolina is just promulgating nice sounding talking points, with no intention of actually having any mechanism for making them happen ASAP, then that’s a problem.
So, what is North Carolina actually doing?
This an important question. It’s one of a number of important questions that need answering.
Questions like: What works and what doesn’t work when it comes to restrictive measures? How many community cases of mild or symptomless infection are out there? How many actual cases are there? What is the real death rate? Should people under 60 even worry? How can we best protect the ones over 75, whom are at more risk from respiratory viruses? Are masks helpful, or do they actually make things worse? How helpful or effective is “immunity” for this virus? And so on.
Make no mistake, coronavirus can be a serious infection, especially in the elderly. We should do something when a respiratory virus starts spreading in a population, but unfortunately, in the United States, we still do not know what that something should be.
And just as the various restrictions were put in place not by scientists but by panicked politicians seeing votes flying out the window; public fear, rather than validated information seems to be driving backing off from them.
And scared crowds do not make the best decisions.
North Carolina, for one, is dealing with a milder outbreak, and many cases recently have been localized in group settings, such as prisons and nursing homes. Almost all deaths have been in the elderly, which is not to imply that they are not meaningful, but that the viral behavior is predictable. For what it is worth, the various think tanks that like to issue various predictions feel that North Carolina is one of the states most ready to “open,” certainly much more ready than Georgia.
Yet, public opinion, “informed” by histrionic media reports, politically motivated statements, urban legends, Facebook, a lack of context to interpret the statistics that are given, and bloviating “experts” with their speculations about the future, or their wildly changing predictions, is still driving the train. That’s because the public, or at least some of it, votes.
So, frankly, a lot of plans the politicians are putting forward to “open” their states are based on two ideas about what’s going to be happening in November 2020. Some pols are betting that people will be more salty about being unemployed or having lost their businesses than remembering some virus thing that was months ago, and others are worried that they will be blamed for opening up things too soon if someone’s Grandma dies and they will lose votes that way. And all politicians are also people (It’s true!) so they are just as susceptible to the unscientific fearmongering all around them as anyone else. Time will tell which pols have the right of it, election-wise, of course.
Right now, politicians need to stop worrying about November, and start thinking about today. If they are going to set up plans to restart their economies where they work, they need to also have mechanisms in place to make those plans a reality. North Carolina, unfortunately, is not the only place with this problem.