As a financial advisor, I deal in absolutes, data, numerical analysis, and logic. Clients are constantly asking me for my take on a wide variety of related subjects, and no subject has been more confusing to them than our nation’s convoluted and ever-changing response to the Chinese COVID-19 virus and its consequences to their finances. When our leaders and virology experts first recommended shutting down society, we didn’t know what we didn’t yet know—so we played it safe. That was February and March. The Vice President’s original “15 Days To Slow The Spread”, turned into an additional 30 days through the end of April. We are now in late May and we have a lot of data and science to support the reopening of the economy.
Let’s Take a Look at What We Now Know:
The good health of those in the “essential” economy is proof that the “non-essential” businesses never needed to shut down. Our postal carrier* touches every doorknob in our zip code every day, as well as our mail. The store manager at Market Basket across the street from my NH office, has been there 43 years. Grocery stores have been the petri dish of this virus—the one place every American in every community has had to go once a week for 3 months—yet he is still alive and never got sick. The same is true of our UPS and FedEx delivery drivers, the 60-something cashiers at Whole Foods, my auto mechanic, and countless other working Americans all over the country. Walmart (1.5 million employees), Amazon (750,000), Kroger (500,000), Target (350,000), and Costco (214,000) have over 3.3 million employees combined, each coming into contact with thousands of people per store every day. Very few of these companies have closed stores and only a small few have reported cases in the news. *[According to a USPS spokesman, 1,606 postal employees (0.25%) have contracted the virus among their 630,000 workers nationwide, according to this article in the Chicago Sun Times. Of those 1606 positive cases, only a handful have died.]
Japan has not engaged in expansive testing, contact tracing, or strict quarantine measures and yet is reporting a slow growth rate of infected persons and a death rate that is currently just 1/10th of world average, even though Japan has a higher population density than NYC and an older citizenry. Sweden never shut down their economy, didn’t close their schools, and allowed their citizens to simply use their good judgment, self-isolate if immune-compromised, and go on with their lives. While restaurants, like the rest of the Swedish economy, have seen reduced demand, bankruptcies are no higher than normal, small businesses have remained open albeit with social distancing, and life has gone on as before. In the U.S. the same can be said of the seven states who also never shut down.
As this op-ed from Thursday’s New York Post argues, the harm to the health of those suffering through the closed economy will be far worse than the deaths of people dying with, not from, the coronavirus. “It has been a long time since this country, let alone this city, really had to deal with the prospect of mass starvation. This isn’t about the stock market—it’s about parents putting their kids to bed hungry and hoping that tomorrow there will be something for them to eat if they get up at 4:30 a.m. and get in line at the food bank…”
Georgia reopened its economy three weeks ago to outcry from even the President, with most commentators predicting a spike in deaths that would be far worse than the first one. Instead, as the graphic here shows, the rolling 7-day average of Georgia’s coronavirus cases has dropped off dramatically, in spite of the political opposition that has proven false. This is now happening around the country, even as the governors and mayors in Michigan, New Jersey, California, and New York impose even stricter lock-downs on their revolting populations. Happily, the Constitution is still being adhered to by the courts, as exemplified by the Texas Supreme Court releasing a salon owner from jail for opening her salon too early. Apparently, many throughout the country agreed, as a GoFundMe account set up by a complete stranger sought to raise $10,000 toward her legal fees and raised over $500,000 in less than 36 hours, money she intends to donate to other small businesses struggling amid the shutdown.
Are Masks Actually Harmful When Improperly Worn?
All over the country, Americans are still abiding by outdated precautions. Contrary to all of the possibly harmful mask-wearing we see every day, the World Health Organization is now saying that “if you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with COVID-19.” Similarly, this past Wednesday our CDC quietly corrected itself by saying that the virus is not believed to be transmitted on surfaces: “Because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging…” Thankfully, we now no longer need to disinfect every grocery item, UPS package, and countertop, although fear and excess caution will likely continue and prevail.
Dr. Scott Atlas, Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and the former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center, has written an article saying the lockdowns are doing more harm than good, and arguing for population immunity. “…In NYC, with almost one-third of all U.S. deaths, the rate of death for all people ages 18 to 45 is 0.01 percent, or 13 per 100,000 in the population, one-eightieth of the rate for people age 75 and over. For people under 18, the rate of death is zero per 100,000. Of Empire State fatalities, almost two-thirds were over 70 years of age…” Dr Atlas joins many other doctors on Face Book and YouTube who have posted videos arguing for sanity and the application of decades of knowledge about virology and immunology, advocating the reopening of our economy, and against the excesses in the enforcement regimens now being implemented by certain governors. Even Dr. Fauci came out on Friday with a similar statement of concern.
On Thursday, the Labor Department announced another 2.44 million Americans filed unemployment claims, bringing the total to over 38.64 million of our fellow citizens out of work in just 9 weeks. The Atlanta Fed’s latest prediction for current quarter GDP is a mind-numbing -41.9%. These are governor-imposed Depression–like consequences, not “an inconvenience to be tolerated to save lives”, as some have alleged.
The Medical Consequences of Our Stay-at-Home Orders:
On the non-COVID medical front, doctors around the country are saying that “…about half of cancer patients have deferred chemotherapy. Approximately 80 percent of brain surgery cases were skipped. Perhaps half or more of acute stroke and heart-attack patients missed their only chances for early treatment, some dying and many now facing permanent disability. Transplants from living donors are down 85 percent from the same period last year. And that doesn’t include the skipped cancer screenings, avoided childhood vaccinations, missed biopsies of now-undiscovered cancers numbering thousands per week—and countless other serious disorders left undiagnosed…” Beyond these missed medical treatments, “safer at home” has been anything but for millions of other Americans, amid abusive domestic violence, alcoholism and drug abuse, child molestation, and desperation/depression/suicide. The “stay at home” orders of our governors were never intended to become 3 months of house arrest, yet for many panicked and still fearful Americans that’s effectively what they’ve become.
Enough already. It’s long past time to speak out against the injustices being imposed on so many in our country under the auspices of public health. There is no pandemic exception to the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution–not the whimsical, controlling decrees of any governor, is still the law of the land. The science is known, the data is in, logic—and yes, compassion for our neighbors—dictates that we must reopen now.