The American people want to know their leaders are working on a more sustainable anti-virus policy.
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You know how I feel. Two weeks ago, I said we needed to flatten the curve, not the economy. I warned that the cure could be worse than the disease because poverty kills, despair kills.
Of course, the coronavirus is deadly, but so is this shutdown. You just won’t see its victims in a neat little box on cable news.
We need to honor the victims of the virus and families who’ve lost loved ones. It’s totally wrong for anyone to dismiss or minimize the pain and suffering from the coronavirus pandemic or to ignore the federal or state guidelines. But it’s just as wrong to dismiss or minimize the pain and suffering from the coronavirus shutdown.
Well, we did try to capture that toll in a neat little box on cable news. Already confirmed, at least 9.9 million Americans have lost their job. That doesn’t even include the self-employed, the trillions in rescue money. That will have to be paid for at some point.
If you divide the current total between every taxpayer, it’s an average of $45,000.00. Of course, it will be much more –the current package will only last a few weeks. Hundreds of thousands of businesses going under, many more in September and October, when the real crunch comes … more on that in a moment.
Then the projected toll based on what happened in the Great Recession and the Great Depression. Although, this shutdown is looking like it will be worse than both of those combined, a mental health crisis in America, mass poverty — which inexorably leads to lower life expectancy — past experience predicts that more human life will be lost from a prolonged shutdown than the models predict will be lost from this virus.
Those models were presented to President Trump last Sunday and all of us on Tuesday. They’re the reason the shutdown was extended through the 30th of April. What they didn’t tell you was this — from the man who created the main model.
Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics: Did our models assume that the social distancing stays in place right through the end of May to get the trajectory that we see and, you know, we hope that that, you know, could be as few as 80,000 deaths or even less.
They said the shutdown will last until April the 30th. But it seems like it’s actually June 1st, at least. Since these models are driving one of the most significant policy decisions in the history of this country, it’s reasonable to investigate them.
If you lose your job and your family is relying on it for a roof over their head, that’s not annoying, it is terrifying. If your business collapses after you’ve put your life into and secured your home against it, that’s not inconvenient. It is a disaster from which it may never recover.
The 2.2 million death toll — that was on the chart in the White House briefing room. It came from Imperial College London, but it’s been debunked by some public health experts. Here is Stanford epidemiologist, Dr. John Ioannidis.
Dr. John Ioannidis, epidemiologist at Stanford University: We have more complete information about that denominator that suggests that the infection fatality rate is much, much lower than 3.4 percent. It is actually probably much lower compared to the 0.9 percent that is the main figure that went into some influential calculations by a wonderful team of researchers in Imperial College, which probably overestimated the exact infection fatality risk.
The projection of 100,000 to 240,000 deaths, even with a total national shutdown lasting until at least June 1st, the factors that went into that calculation include data from Italy, which is also being questioned by epidemiologists.
Dr. Ioannides: It would not be surprising, if, in some locations in Lombardy, we have currently reached the infection rates of 20 or even 30 percent, but this is still a bit speculative. If that’s the case, then you need to correct the infection fatality rate or case fatality rate for Italy. That seems to be very high by a very large factor. It could be a correction of a hundred, for example — that needs to be applied.
In the absence of a better antivirus policy, it is necessary to shut things down everywhere, and that includes Utah, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, South Carolina, where there are no statewide stay-at-home orders.
But okay, let’s ignore the public health experts questioning the data and take the projections at face value. Even the worst-case scenario presented last week will be dwarfed by the long-term human toll of the shutdown. More human life across a much broader range will be lost. In the U.K., the government is modeling the health impact of the shutdown as well as the virus. Our government should do that here.
And to be clear, the public health experts are saying that when the shutdown is lifted, the virus will come back. So if shutdown remains the only policy, we would need many more of them for at least another year until we get a vaccine.
The public health experts tell us the shutdown is annoying and inconvenient, but we just have to accept it. If you lose your job and your family is relying on it for a roof over their head, that’s not annoying, it is terrifying. If your business collapses after you’ve put your life into and secured your home against it, that’s not inconvenient. It is a disaster from which it may never recover.
If we truly want to save lives — all lives — then we need to do two things: Slow the spread but speed the shutdown. It must end as soon as safely possible. But that means we need a better antivirus policy than we have right now.
Last week, I said, open where possible, close where necessary. Shutdowns do slow the spread. Look at the difference between the Bay Area which had the nation’s first stay-at-home orders and New York City.
So right now, in the absence of a better antivirus policy, it is necessary to shut things down everywhere, and that includes Utah, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, South Carolina, where there are no statewide stay-at-home orders.
Now, I’m asking those governors, including a great friend of this show, Iowa’s Kim Reynolds, to put in place a stay-at-home order at least for the duration of President Trump’s slow the spread guidelines.
Of course, that will take a high toll in those states and on our country and jobs, businesses, livelihoods and lives. Remember, this is not a choice between public health and the economy, between lives and money. The shutdown costs lives, too.
The president knows this, and that’s why he organized the biggest and quickest rescue package for America’s workers, families and small businesses we’ve ever seen. Even though they deleted Nancy Pelosi’s woke wish list, there are still some bad things in there, and I want to focus on one that could have serious consequences.
The Small Business Paycheck Protection Program covers the cost of payroll, rent, health insurance, interest and utilities for eight weeks. But the amount that small businesses can get is based on their payroll costs only. Rent isn’t taken into account at all. That is crazy. Rent is a huge cost for most companies.
So many entrepreneurs have told me, you’ve got to get the president to change this. Many landlords right now are doing the decent thing and saying we can miss payments for the next two or three months. But those landlords have bills to pay, too. And so they’re going to add it back onto rent payments in a few months. Small businesses with tight margins won’t survive that.
Right now, the worst of the shutdown toll is the jobs crash. But because of this problem with the Paycheck Protection Program, small businesses right across the country will be going bust in August, September, October, just when the economy is supposed to come roaring back just before the election.
Steve Mnuchin has been great in this crisis. But all of that work will be for nothing if small businesses collapse because of this technical problem. We can see that the president and his team are totally focused on winning the war against the invisible enemy, the coronavirus.
In the Middle East, we got bogged down in endless wars because no one knew what the objective was or had a realistic plan for achieving it. With coronavirus, it should be clear. It’s not realistic or achievable to say no one should ever get infected. The goal should be to stop our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
So the immediate task is to slow the spread and surge our capacity — the extra ICU beds, the ventilators, the PPE that is happening. That is today’s battle. But it’s not how we win the war and neither is the shutdown because when you lift the shutdown, the virus comes back.
The American people will not put up much longer with being told there is no alternative. They want to know their leaders are working on a more sustainable antivirus policy. They understand we need to slow the spread, but what they also want to see is a plan for speeding up the shutdown.
Adapted from Steve Hilton’s monologue from “The Next Revolution” on April 5, 2020.