The Pandemic and the Economy

Bill Neinast

Just a personal note to begin.  Jeannine and I live in a large retirement facility in Williamson County near Austin.  We have about 125 neighbors.  No one is ill, but we are all in lock down.

No visitors, not even family, are allowed.  The movie, gym, salon, pool, computer room, game room, and dining room are closed.  All transportation and meetings are cancelled.  We call in our menu and the meals are delivered to our apartments.

Well it is about time something like this was done.  Consider these statistics. “The CDC estimates that over 31 million Americans have already gotten the flu, approximately 300,000 hospitalized, and between 12,000 to 30,000 have already died.”

Did you catch the defining word in those statistics?  This is what is going on today with the common flu.  It is repeated yearly in roughly the same figures.

Now consider this excerpt of an article from Town Hall, an on-line news site.  The author is  Douglas MacKinnon, -a former White House and Pentagon official and author of the book:  The Forty Days – A Vision of Christ’s Lost Weeks.

“As I write this, the total number of cases of the COVID-19 is still a minute fraction of the Swine flu pandemic which hit our nation and the world in 2009 and 2010.  Back then, when it ran its course, the Swine flu was in 70 countries, infected approximately 1.5 billion people, and killed anywhere between 300,000 to 700,000.

“Here in the United States, over 60 million were infected, approximately 300,000 hospitalized, and upwards of 18,000 Americans lost their lives.”

The earlier quote about the current “common flu” epidemic is also from the MacKinnon article.

Do not forget the camel flu.  You might call it MERS.  That was the Middle East Respiratory Disease, also a coronavirus.  

According to Wikipedia, symptoms of MERS included fever, cough, diarrhea and shortness of breath. The disease is typically more severe in those with other health problems. Mortality is about one-third of diagnosed cases. 

MERS is also a coronavirus and its symptoms are the same as those for COVID-19.  The results of severe damage of the lungs and possible death are also identical.

So why have we not reacted to the common flu and MERS the way we are panicking over COVID-19?  The death rate from the flu is currently greater than from COVID-19.  The long term effects of COVID-19—the severe damage to the lungs in some cases—may be worse than the flu.  The death rate, however, seems to be lower.

The answer might be media inspired panic.  

Whatever the cause, however, the much more serious panic it is breeding is economic.  The so called experts believe that COVID-19 will be under control in a matter of a few weeks or months.  The economic havoc it is wreaking will go on for several years.

The temporary holds on evictions in some states is merely prolonging and growing the problem.  If a family cannot pay its rent today, how will they be able to pay it after a month or two or three of unemployment?

How many of the restaurants and bars that closed and furloughed or fired their employees will be able to reopen and continue like nothing happened?  Where will the money come from for the restaurant and bar owners to pay their employees’ back wages and for delivered supplies?

Many of the furloughed workers live from pay check to paycheck.  When one or more of the wage earners in a household is furloughed, which bills are going to be paid?

So here’s the perspective.

The panic mode we are in at the moment is a mere prelude to the pandemonium that will sweep the country in just a few weeks.  In todays’s atmosphere, the generous handout of several thousand dollars to every family with limited income might last a month, maybe two, at most. Then what?  Will there be another government gift?

An unknown number of shuttered businesses will not be able to recover or reopen.  Who will care for the former employees of those closed businesses?

These are just some of the looming problems.

The efforts to contain this virus is inflicting tremendously more damage and suffering than letting the virus run its course.



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