Media coverage out of Sacramento and Orange Counties showed large crowds, many of them outside without masks and social distancing. We know that people from past protests have gotten sick and spread the virus further.
The problem is that if we do prematurely lift regulations we are flying blind. While more testing has been announced, we don’t know who is carrying the virus without symptoms, and that could result in another spike of the virus—probably more shutdowns, and a prolonging of the agony.
A severe spike in cases and deaths could make the economy worse and prolong the period of shutdown.
In the month of April, 60,000 people in the US died, even with much of the country sheltering in place and social distancing. Open things up and the number of deaths from the virus will skyrocket.
At this point, the hard core folks will argue about their constitutional rights, about government conspiracies, and about herd immunity.
As we reported yesterday, the constitutional argument really isn’t there. States like California have government codes that allow the governors to do that. The courts have granted them that power. Yes, people have gone to court, but we have already seen this week judges failing to impose an order in Michigan and Huntington Beach, CA, that would prevent governors from exercising these emergency powers.
You can argue all you want about constitutional rights, but experts like Joseph Tully will tell you it’s a balancing act, and as long as there is a reasonable basis for the stay-at-home orders, the government has the right to do it.
I will not get into the crazy conspiracies, other than to say it is alarming the number of people on both the far left as well as the far right that believe in them. They believe this is a hoax. They believe that the government is manufacturing this crisis for some nefarious end.
That gets us to herd immunity theories.
The real problem here is numbers. Without vaccines, it is hard to imagine herd immunity without catastrophe.
According to Ira Longini, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida, right now as of April 30, somewhere between 3.4 percent and 6.3 percent of the U.S. population had been infected with the virus.
He told the LA Times, that herd immunity “would require at least half of the population to have immunity to the virus, and ideally more like 60% to 70%.”
“The entire concept of herd immunity assumes something about COVID-19 we don’t know is true,” said Summer Johnson McGee, dean of the University of New Haven’s School of Health Sciences. “It’s a dangerous policy to float when we don’t have the immunological information that we need.”
Even if it is possible, take the number of cases, multiply it and the number of deaths by 10, and you have somewhere around 600,000—and probably still not herd immunity.
What about Sweden, you ask.
Even President Trump questions their decision.
“Despite reports to the contrary, Sweden is paying heavily for its decision not to lock down. . . . The United States made the correct decision!” Trump tweeted.
As of May 1, about 26 percent of Sweden’s residents were infected. That puts it above—but not by that much—New York’s 21 percent infection rate.
How has Sweden faired? Well they have 2586 deaths. If you look at it on the surface, you might see that as a victory. The problem is that they have just 2 million residents. So that a much higher mortality rate than anyone else. Neighboring countries like Denmark has 452 deaths or 78 per million, and Norway has 210 deaths or 39 per million.
But what about the economy? CNC reported on Thursday, “Data released from the country’s central bank and a leading Swedish think tank show that the economy will be just as badly hit as its European neighbors.” Moreover, “Sweden’s central bank, the Riksbank, gave two possible scenarios for the economic outlook in 2020, both are bleak.”
No help there.
“We’re on a sort of plateau,” Anders Tegnell, the country’s chief epidemiologist, who crafted its policy, told Swedish news outlet TT, as reported by Bloomberg on April 19, 2020.
But that turned out to be false hope. At the time, the country had 14,662 infections. That number is now 21,092.
“[Herd immunity] will help us achieve our goal, which is slowing down the spread as much as possible,” Tengell told CNN on April 29, 2020.
The problem—they are nowhere near even a theoretical herd immunity that requires 70 to 90 percent of the population developing an immunity. Not to mention controversial questions about positive retests.
Most experts do not believe herd immunity can be employed without vaccination, because it would result in mass fatality. The positive cases in Sweden, for instance, would have to go far higher to get anywhere near herd immunity and that would result in the deaths approaching 10,000 in a nation of just 2 million people.
The bottom line is that the economy will probably not be helped by prematurely opening, herd immunity is not a viable option and would result in far more deaths, and now we are about to see if the result of partial openings leads to spikes in US cases.
—David M. Greenwald reporting