March 19, 2020
There is no publicaly known rational basis for continuing the current national response to the Wuhan virus beyond this weekend, so either government knows something we don't, or it's all politics, panic, and stupidity from here.
The last week (March 13th through 20th) saw three big developments:
- a number of highly qualified groups published analyses showing that both death and hospitalization rates due to this virus are negligible from a national management perspective however important they may be to affected individuals;
For example, researchers at the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine just offered a very detailed analysis of the spread and severity of illness on the Diamond Princess cruise ship: 3,711 people on board in what looks like an ideal petri dish for the disease of whom 619 eventually tested positive, and 8 died. Extrapolated to the American population their numbers suggest that letting this virus loose in United States would have barely noticeable effects: far below those of seasonal flu.
- numerous highly qualified and credible groups announced significant progress with respect to both vaccines and treatment protocols against this disease;
For example, the vaccine candidate from Moderna is now in active human trials while Dr. James M. Todaro et al just offered a preview of one of several very positive reviews of the use of quinine in combination with an antibiotic as both a preventive and treatment.
- several visible and usually aggressive dogs resolutely failed to bark.
For example, obvious at risk populations like California's homeless are neither dying nor falling ill at above normal rates - and neither are prison inmates.
So why continue the state of emergency?
There are really only two possibilities:
- either those in charge know something significant we don't; or,
- the process, once started, developed a momentum of its own as some major players found benefit in it while others became increasingly afraid to take personal responsibility for either actions or advocacy that could later turn out to be wrong in fact and would certainly be perceived now as contrary to correct opinion.
The case for terrifying secret knowledge is easy to make: consider, for example, the deaths in in Italy and Iran or the reality that the Chinese communists would never have willingly suffered the loss of face associated with the Wuhan lock down over a few thousand dead peasants.
Fortunately, it's equally easy to destroy: no one believes that Washington's permanent bureaucracy could keep such a secret for longer than few hours - and there are simpler explanations for what happened in China, Italy, and Iran. We know, for example, that the virus propagates along human networks -i.e. largely through personal contact- and that most of those who count in both China and Iran are among the oldest, most medically vulnerable, and socially predatory members of the two populations. Assume, therefore, a high level delegation from Beijing visiting the bio-weapons lab in Wuhan on its way first to Iran and then home, and you have the basis for a story explaining what we see happening there. The story in Italy is different, of course, but equally easy to understand: the area has a significant and highly active Chinese population; the affected are almost all old, medically challenged, and poor; the public health system is among the weakest in Europe, and the use program funding in socialized healthcare provides a strong incentive to classify any death as caused by the covid-19 virus.
The alternative, that this is a panic being fanned and exploited by the left wing alliance of media, billionaires, and professional democrats is easier to support but much harder to debunk.
The politically visible left, for example, is making no obvious effort to conceal its deep contempt for normal people in their eagerness to hype the panic as a means of burying the Trump administration under an avalanche of economic and social destruction.
So what's going to happen next? Again, I see just two extremal choices:
- the thing plays out on its own over a month or two as Americans slowly start to realize that the threat doesn't remotely justify the response and countries like Canada eventually follow suit; or,
- the president's allies set a trillion dollar trap for the short sellers now bringing down Wall Street and he springs it with a press conference announcing major progress in both prevention and treatment, waivers on applicable FDA and related regulations, the re-establishment of the short seller uptick rule, and major de-escalations in public health, financial, and border control counter-action.
Either way, however, it's all over but the politics.