Some Ask a Taboo Question: Is America Overreacting to Coronavirus?

With “social distancing” now widely adopted nationwide, a small group of contrarians urge a more careful weighing of the harm as well as the benefits of such policies.

Comments: 185

  1. Let's acknowledge the distinct possibility that the lockdown "cure" is worse than the disease. Do we ruin the economies of virtually every nation on earth, and allow the working class to suffer disproportionately, for a pandemic that might kill fewer people than the regular flu? Or cancer? Or car accidents? All of the choices here are difficult. It's not being heartless to advocate for the least damage overall.

  2. @Chris " a pandemic that might kill fewer people than the regular flu". NO! Get your facts straight, please. The flu mortality rate is 0.1%. The current known mortality rate, worldwide, for Covid-19 is over 3% (W.H.O. website, just now). It's better in the U.S.,but we have poor testing data, so our data is too premature. So, if the mortality rate was 1%, it would still be 10 TIMES what the flu's is. Apples & oranges comparisons are not helpful.

  3. @Slann Most experts believe the mortality rate will be very close to the regular flu once the total infected population is better known. So, sorry, but it's likely apples to apples.

  4. @Mac: Comparing traffic deaths with the risk of a communicable, lethal pathogen is comparing apples and oranges. The number of traffic accidents, injuries and deaths does not grow exponentially. Traffic accidents rarely occur in the absence of negligence or recklessness on the part of one or more drivers. To that extent, they are subject to human volition. Our health care system is readily able to offer care to victims without having to displace others who need care or make difficult choices about who will receive care and live and who will likely die witrhout intervention. For that matter, guns kill about 2500 Americans every month. Look around the world at the many nations where the incidence of death by gun is a tiny fraction of America’s — if we had the will to cut that by 90%, it could easily be done. It is subject to human volition. We are here talking about a microscopic strand of RNA in a thin protein coat that spreads like wildfire and that exists to take control of the cells of the human body in order to reproduce itself. In so doing it makes many ill and in a significant number of cases it kills. It spreads indiscriminately and invisibly, and it doesn’t care who you are, where you come from or what you believe. If allowed to spread, its victims will overwhelm the capacity of our hospitals, clinics and health care workers. How is it you fail to see the difference?

  5. If the author of this written work must further express himself, must he say it was not the new realities of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic themselves that, in various ways, continued to profoundly, collectively alter the (ideal) routines of daily life, more be special kinds of sadness, but the long and already neglected multifaceted, humongous socioeconomic problems, to in particular cite blanket entrenched inequality, as was also painfully explained by the national devastating problem of homelessness.

  6. WHO declares a global pandemic. Thousands have died in a few weeks. On one hand, an economist, a biology teacher (not expert in epidemiology) and a venture capitalist, say, "No worries." On the other hand, epidemiologists, our experts at the CDC, and similar experts in other countries like France, Germany and elsewhere warn to take major precautions. Who do we listen to? I, for one, won't be taking my guidance from the Silicon Valley venture capitalist.

  7. @J Jencks I agree. He's got some nerve giving *any* recommendations. As we say here in Alaska, "more money than brains."

  8. The article presents CDC worst case scenario prediction when comparing it to this years flu numbers predicting 240 million cases. As of now, no scientist knows with certainty that outbreak will not follow the typical flu season which is Oct to March in the northern hemisphere. Looking at numbers, the hardest hit regions are colder. Mild regions such as SE Asia have not had the number of cases as Milan, S. Korea, Wuhan, and Iran all if which are cold. Most likely it's seasonal and will affect the southern hemisphere from April to Sept. If the virus outbreaks and stops and starts like the flu, we should really be concerned about the strain on medical systems next fall. Lastly, if it doesn't follow the flu pattern, the strain on the health system should be relieved in April as the number of flu cases moves to zero.

  9. People asking whether this is overreaction are just taking the safe route, because if these measures work then we will avoid the worst case scenario. We could never know what would have happened with a weaker response. But like the Y2K times, those who actually k ow what they are talking about understand what damage inaction would do.

  10. It is already too late. This response should have happened at least a month ago. Containment is now over the infection must take its course. Most people WILL get infected, it is just a matter of time. The only real rationale now is to give our medical system time to cope with the influx of patients. Quarantine only applies to the most susceptible population, the rest of us just have to practice good hygiene and hope for the best. The sooner we accept this the better. In an immunological naive population nothing will stop this now from spreading like wildfire.

  11. I recently recovered from Influenza type A . i went to the ER about 2 weeks ago when my fever broke concerned it might be the Corvid19 Hunan virus(yes please call this virus from it's origin point like most other viruses are, like Ebola, Japanese Encephalitis, West Nile Virus and a host of others) . they tested me for flu and it came back positive for type A, but refused to test me for Corvid19 saying it was almost impossible to get both. How would they know this? My concern is and has been that a person not only gets Flu virus but also Corvid19 , that would be disastrous. Is anyone one else concerned about this? Why no mention of it?

  12. If you are a man of science, you should follow the nomenclature guidelines set by the WHO — call the virus COVID-19. Only anti-science Republicans call it as the Wuhan virus, yes, the very same people who not to long ago were calling it a hoax.

  13. @Opinioned! the WHO is in the pocket of Communist China as we have seen them deal with China with kid glove.. a purely political organization afraid to hurt their feelings. i'm a man of science and all the above named diseases were named by men and women of science The Wuhan- Corvid19 virus is the correct name for it originated in Wuhan, China. Almost all diseases are named from the location or region from where they originated. Stop with your political correctness please.

  14. While I feel like this an overreaction, I do concede that it's the best practice we'll ever get for a more dangerous pandemic. I don't want to get anyone sick. I don't want to get sick myself. But those desires have never caused me to advocate for a national shut down. I'm not someone who goes out at night to begin with, but I am hugely suspicious of a curfew. Curfews are put in place to help law enforcement patrol in an emergency, and most gathering places are closed after dark to begin with. The CT would say this is a foot in the door to something worse.

  15. The one thing that is certain is that if current efforts are effective, they will be thought to have been excessive.

  16. I have been raising eyebrows among friends and family by suggesting that the national response is heavy-handed, spreading more panic and causing more economic dysfunction than a more focused response would have. Clearly each outbreak needs to be isolated and assisted as quickly as possible. But the county I live in has no evidence of the virus, and also no toilet paper, no one going to restaurants, shows cancelled, and countless service people just starting to suffer economically. Perhaps if the country was prepared for this form of outbreak and had a strategy in place we would avoid the hysteria. Instead, it seems to me that fear is itself a form of virus, causing its own damage, with misinformation and contradictory comments from even the government helping it to spread.

  17. We live south of San Jose CA. I just went to Trader Joes wearing a mask and gloves as did a few others. But most people did not wear masks or gloves. I am in the high risk area, old, but I am very healthy. I could not believe it, several younger woman turned around and either stared or laughed at me protecting myself and of course them. Sadly many people just dont realize the enormity of what we are facing and wont until the numbers get much worse or someone near them get sick.

  18. @Mother You may have been laughed at because your mask was ill-fitting. My boss was telling me about all the people he saw over the weekend ostentatiously wearing masks - that had visible gaps. In other words, worthless. And wasteful. And, if you insist on wearing a mask, you are supposed to be changing it every 2 hours. And I believe frequent hand-washing is a better alternative to wearing gloves.

  19. Alright. OK. Hysteria has its own energy, its a recurring and sometimes necessary force of (human) nature. There are three problems here: health, economic and informational. The information is so very far from perfect. Mankind has know about plagues for a long long time. Somethings clearly work, and most of them are simple. Half our state governors, no doubt in good faith, are trying to outdo each other in emergency executive orders. The media is having a field day, a feeding frenzy with very little new information but lots of people seeking help. As one of the vulnerable ones (age) I am comfortable saying that if this Coronavirus pandemic translates into a truly historic tragedy it will be because of the economic and informational crisis, not the medical one. Somebody with some executive power needs to think about this.

  20. I do not think we are overreacting, and I will tell you why...the United States does not like to take casualties of any sort. This is why we lost Vietnam. Casualties. We recovered our dead, often jeopardizing the lives of those who tried to do so. We recovered our wounded under fire to get them back to safety. The Soviets said that they "would win this [Vietnam] war on the streets of America." They did, because Americans didn't like casualties. The North Vietnamese stated it explicitly, "Americans don't like casualties." I believe we are different from other societies. The majority think each life has equal value, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, etc. We are a humane society, something we should be proud of. But I do wonder, will our humanity eventually bankrupt us?

  21. @Space Oddity , if we had minded casualties, we wouldn’t have gone to Vietnam at all.

  22. During both the SARS and Ebola outbreaks, I was one who chastised those who accused the CDC and WHO of overreacting. It seemed nearly impossible that those griping at what were, at the time, negligible "sacrifices" hadn't grasped that the reason both outbreaks weren't worse was precisely because those organizations had kicked into high gear. I feel for those who have to make these calls. It's the proverbial rock and a hard place. Get it right (in the sense of erring on being cautious and preventing deaths ) and you're accused of a hyperbolic response. Get it wrong and more people die. I have pondered about how we've made this worse through panic, and imagine historians will have a great deal to say about the economic costs, but, in the moment, the only prize that matters is flattening the curve and saving lives. Here's to all of the heroes in the front-lines of making that happen...the medical professionals risking their own lives. Can we not learn to be patient, do without, and make the small sacrifice of staying home to save others? Are we really that far gone? But here is the hard truth. Civilized nations must figure out a way to rescue those most dramatically impacted by this: the working poor and middle classes. Economic remedies are going to be as necessary as medicinal ones. And "we, the people" are going to have to get a collective spine and demand, not ask, demand economic relief. If this administration can't or won't provide it, it needs to be voted out.

  23. In the United States, 78 people have died so far from the corona virus. But in 2018, 36,560 died from vehicle accidents in the US. I think we’re over-reacting.

  24. What number would you say is the tipping point? A million? I ask because it could easily happen.

  25. @John Murray Way, way over. I've never seen anything like it.

  26. For now the restrictions are good if nothing else, just to get everyone's attention. Yes, we calmly accept the 40,000 flu deaths this year as "normal" and most never even think about that. But Covid-19 will most likely, by this or next year, add 200,000 or even more deaths above that total. If it happened quickly we would have overflowing emergency rooms and hospitals. If it happens slowly it can be accommodated. Slow is better. By this time next year thousand of deaths by Covid-19 will be as normal as Flu, but more numerous. Get used to it.

  27. I have a trump supporting coworker who believes China created the virus to get back at trump for his trade wars. And running around hysterically declaring he refuses to live in fear to anyone who'll listen. Meanwhile he's packing heat, barricades himself in at night, and answers his door with his gun behind his back. I got news for him. He's already living in fear. Another trump supporter (after learning a patient hospitalized with the virus and has difficulty breathing, diarrhea, a lesion on his lung, is in his thirties, and had no preexisting conditions and who believes he caught it at a medical event, no less) seized on the lesion on his lung - well he probably had that already and didn't know it. The cognitive dissonance to make their fearless leader flawless and without lies and errors is amazing, if not wholly sad.

  28. @Meh Such ridiculousness. If true why would China unleash this on its own people first?

  29. That part of America that is "panic buying" is most certainly overreacting. There is no need to "clean off the shelves" when you shop. Everyone needs food. Relax a bit. Take a care of each other.

  30. How can we be over-reacting? The Ship of State is rudderless. And there’s a huge Iceberg bearing down on us. Or call it Tsunami or Monster Storm. Doesn’t matter’ Every other nation is announcing restrictions and closings at a rapid pace. Stock markets across the planet are reacting. How can this be a strange US phenomenon if the entire world is just a concerned? And the entire world has been TOLD to be concerned! Here are the retirement community, we get daily memos now. We are cooperating. Gladly. We know this may go on for a long time. But if we can do it, and we are in the highest risk groups, then so can you. We will try to stay out of the hospital, out of the ICU, even the ER. And home. Visitors can no longer enter the buildings. Employees are screened when they arrive for work. We’re grateful for the guidance and care. And we’re doing our part. No more groups. Our “activities director” has been effectively side-lined and is pitching in where she can. This is not the time for philosophical scrutiny. We must act on the fly, as best we can. For the good of ALL of us.

  31. I'd say the economic and social disruption is not worth the price. Let "natural selection" make its run. The virus is only killing the very weak and very frail among the populations. There are already some 35k deaths in the US each year because of regular Flu that mainly kills the weak. Sorry I sound callous but I am 50 years old and am vulnerable.

  32. @John Doe Ok, I will bite, you are wrong my friend, It is worse for MEN and it is not discriminatory. People are careless and spread it. And your ignorance is pretty bad also.

  33. @John Doe , that is not true. Check out those under 50 dying, if only your age cohort matters to your self-regard.

  34. @jb A depression on top of a pandemic is going to kill a lot of people too. and for years to come. The vulnerable 25% need to self quarantine like their lives depend upon it. THe other 75% needs to go back to regular life with precautions. Half the people will get this in two years time, no matter what we do. Why cause a financial depression on top of the pandemic.

  35. We have the biggest military so let’s use it to contain the virus. Then we can protect our poor healthcare system. Martial law should be in effect in all states. Unless we are going to just rely on social distancing which failed in France. Tonight the first military trucks entered Paris as French president announced total confinement for 2 weeks. France is all locked down like Italy, Spain ! What are we waiting for ?

  36. How many more people have to suffer and die from this disease in order for the reaction to qualify as "overreacting"?

  37. We can choose to go on with business as usual, wait for the virus to spread and then everyone has to stay home like they're doing in many countries right now.

  38. It's a capacity issue. People keep comparing this epidemic to annual flu and the thousands that die from it, not grasping that even going from a 0 .1% mortality rate to 1% is a 10 times increase in deaths. Many of the critically ill require extreme care and our hospitals simply do not have the supplies, staff, etc. the absorb all of these patients. It's great these two well off academics can sit in their kitchen and theorize about the cost/benefit analysis of letting a certain percentage of the population die in order to salvage a certain level of economic activity. Personally I think nature is trying to tell us something - and that is that humans are not omnipotent. At the end of the day, the virus will have it's say, and all we can do is blunt it's effects the best we can. I'm in one of the hardest hit states, although many miles from the center of the outbreak. I live on a small farm, and expect to live a pretty isolated existence for the foreseeable future. I care for my 87 year old mother - It not worth a restaurant meal to bring home a disease that could kill her.

  39. What is happening in DC? Pence looks under control, Trump is reading prepared statements cold. We know he struggles reading. I'm thinking Trump should sit this one out. He's confusing and lacks the integrity and sincerity to lead America out of this.

  40. Sadly this existential question is most relevant in a country like the United States, where masses of people are always teetering close to financial disaster. With few social parachutes, a relentless and cruel stigmatization of the poor by a ruling class that constantly favors the rich.. the consequences of an economy collapsing temporarily might be catastrophic, yes.

  41. Of course we're overreacting. That's the safe bet when there's no leadership.

  42. From you report on Italy, now: “As morgues are inundated, coffins pile up and mourners grieve in isolation: ‘‘This is the bitterest part.’’ So no, there is no overreaction. What is true is that society is organised so exploitatively that entirely appropriate measures are ruining lots of poor folks. But that could be fixed easily, if there was the will.

  43. Everything is a pendulum. It's a fair question. Our society's "abundance of caution" mentality has grown rapidly over the past decade and will swing back at some point. The UK has a different philosophy at the moment, prioritizing herd immunization. We shall see. In any event, I'm not counting on protection from reams of magic toilet paper.

  44. @John D , today the UK is locked down.

  45. The unhelpful reality is that if social distancing and other such measures work, then nothing will happen...

  46. Great article. There needs to be a balance between taking precautions and completely destroying the economy. Guess we will have plenty of time to ponder this as we all endure the ensuing recession-depression.

  47. Is America Overreacting to Coronavirus? Of course it is! It's the Rahm Emanuel dictum--"Never let a good crisis go to waste."--being played to the hilt by the anti-Trump, pro-Left, "media" as yet another thing to try to blame Trump for, and it's absolutely contemptible. "Russian collusion" didn't work, "impeachment" was a complete flop, and now a disease that's less harmful than common flu is being exaggerated into an "existential crisis" that "may kill more people than World War II." Oh, please...

  48. America isn’t reacting nearly as much as other countries are. Are all of those countries dominated by rabid anti-Trump people? Is everything a conspiracy?

  49. @Henry Miller, Libertarian What's absolutely contemptible is your ridiculous recitation of every Fox News propaganda-driven talking point there is. But check in with us when you get sick! I hear health care in rural red areas is pretty sketchy.

  50. How is that Trump's approval rating is still at 45% given his incompetence in controlling the spread of the coronavirus? I find this as disturbing as the virus itself.

  51. Anyone who thinks we are, or might be, overreacting needs to read the Reuters piece about Patient 31 in South Korea -- who pushed the outbreak from manageable to dangerous. No, we are NOT overreacting -- yet if we're lucky enough for our numbers (those infected, those who die) to stay low, every djt supporter / devotee of the Cult of Ignorance will point to those numbers as proof that we did.

  52. Yes!!! I refuse to live in fear regardless if I die from this thing or not. But I would also say that the last few weeks have proven how much the media controls our lives. Well, your lives anyway. First it was the message that because a old Congressman in South Carolina said he supports Biden the ENTIRE country chased ol' dippy Joe off the cliff. And now with the CV hysteria they have you by the 'lobes' and can get you to do just about anything. Stop worrying about the virus and worry about the people controlling your every thought.

  53. Italy's mortality rate is no doubt in large part due to their elderly population, as well as most people there smoke 4 packs of cigarettes a day. Their lungs and body don't stand a chance from the regular flu, let alone COVID-19. So I guess that despite Americans being a much younger population, and cigarette smoking being exponentially less here, we should still take all possible extreme measures to decimate the economy, so that when this passes, it still will be felt for years. Pathetic.

  54. Bingo. You cause a recession you will kill the same number of people, they will just be young people dying deaths of despair instead of elderly people who have live full lives.

  55. “Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.” — Albert Camus, The Plague

  56. Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper says not to worry. Epidemiologists around the world say, "Take aggressive precautions." Can you guess whose advice I'm following? I'm an architect. If Mr. Draper should find himself needing brain surgery, would he like my advice?

  57. The core question is : Are the measures taken by governments to slow the spread of the disease effective ? The evidence is mounting that they are not From Le Monde, today "The exponential increase of the coronavirus epidemic in France has so far not changed an iota despite measures adopted gradually over the past two weeks. The number of cases identified was 4500 on Saturday evening according to the Director General of Health, Prof. Jérôme Salomon, specifying that the rate remained doubling every 72 hours. This actually means that the epidemic remains on its natural rhythm." France is a highly centralized country under the leadership of the decisive Mr. Macron . And yet the exponential increase did not slow down in spite of drastic measures. The same applies to Italy, where a total shut down has not slowed down the spread of the disease (see the data in the link). If the measures should be indeed ineffective, than it might be better not to implement ineffective steps that damage the economy

  58. The reporter contrasts the U of Wyoming professors with "conservative activists who have suggested the virus is a politically inspired hoax, or no worse than the flu." Is "conservative activist" the right term for someone who calls the corona virus a "politically inspired hoax"? I think a more accurate term would be "Trumpist", or "conspiracist", or "fanatic". Wikipedia has a list of conservative intellectuals, writers and activists at,_writers,_and_activists , including, for ex., George Will, Mary Matalin and Bill Kristol. Are any of them calling this a "hoax"? Reporter - ask them.

  59. shouldn't we ask what harm is going to come from a more than 2-3 week shut down. I AM all for social distancing, sanitation, I am not saying that should be done, I am doing it. However, past 3 weeks what about those who live in poverty? How long can they survive? People with 3 kids in a 1 bedroom apartment, no internet, no computers, no education being asked to HOME SCHOOL their kids? They may be out of a job with no income and have no food. They didn't have much when they did have a job. Will millions go hungry, get sick in other ways?

  60. From 1347 to 1351 the Black Death killed approximately 25 million people in Europe. Now that’s a pandemic. Toll so far in the US from the corona virus? 78.

  61. By definition a “pandemic” is a worldwide new infection. So yes, this is a pandemic.

  62. The United States government as well as local governments and many of its citizens ARE overreacting. Contracting this virus is NOT the kiss of death. Look at the number of cases worldwide and then the number of deaths attributed to this virus. This is nothing new in the recorded history of human health. New viruses develop people get sick and die, this has happened throughout history. The only current wrinkle is the fact that we are a global community, with a 24 hour news feed, and the rapidity of transmission is much greater than it would have been 200 years ago. This is not a cataclysmic event where tens of millions will be dead when the final tally is counted. When all is said and done the death toll damage will not even come close to the economic damage which equates to a self inflicted wound. Panic abounds and it falls at the feet of the news media's need for a story to excite hysteria and scare people, the CDC, WHO and NIH needing to let everyone know they are going to save the day, and our government taking charge and control for everyone's well being. I think the overreaction is off the chain and unprecedented. This is not the first time chicken little has shouted the sky is falling, but certainly this is the one which has stirred the majority up into a panicked state. Come on people wash your hands and keep your fingers out of your nose, mouth, and eyes. What is the answer...shut the country and the economy down for 8 weeks? This is not Armageddon!

  63. @DannyJ Yeah, the world's shouting wolf and you don't believe a word. People die. So what? You'd better hope that no one you love falls victim to the wolf when the threat turns out to be real. Just saying.

  64. @Danny J I’d prefer to listen to Dr. Fauce’s Expertise, even though for some reason, you are more certain than he is.

  65. It would be helpful if the ages of those dying from this were published. Why are we crashing the economy and disrupting the lives of the entire population for something that is mostly fatal to those over 70?

  66. Because older lives matter and because younger people are dying too?

  67. Your note is quite the comment! The answer is that we care about protecting life without regard to any given individual’s age. In other words, the life of a 70-year old is just as valuable to society as the life of a younger individual. Your note reminds we of a very unpleasant plane ride I took last week the featured a very loud individual in the row just behind me. After complaining for two hours about “Nancy”, “Chuck” and the “Deep State”, he ventured off into a soliloquy of how unfair is was that an older diabetic female relative had spent too much of her money to save her foot from amputation. His rationale at 34,000 feet? The relative’s actions reduced the inheritance she would be leaving behind.

  68. Asymptomatic people can be carriers and spread the disease to vulnerable parts of the population.

  69. In some towns in Italy, more people have died in the last 3 weeks than died in an entire year in 2019. So, no.

  70. I retired as a Respiratory Therapist (RT) 10 years ago, after working for over 20 years. My question is; how could the people who should have seen this coming not seen this coming? And if they saw this coming, why not plan for it? Every year hospitals rent ventilators because they don't have enough to get through an ordinary flu season. Obviously, the whole system will collapse when there is a mass outbreak of a contagious illness requiring more ventilators. Medicare reimbursement, which is the standard most insurers use to determine what they what they pay hospitals, consider RT and the ventilator care that they provide to patients as not a 'directly billable' service. Although RT services are state mandated for Hospital operation. This places RT into the hospital expense accounting, instead of Revenue. Hospitals, like all businesses, prioritize services that are produce Revenue. Hospital RT departments tend to not have enough ventilators or other equipment, to do their work. RT is usually understaffed, working in basement offices with no windows and underpaid compared to equally qualified medical professionals. Yes, you do need a college degree to become an RT. Remarkably, there have been numerous News articles about the lack for ventilators. I have yet to see one interview or even reference to a single RT or Hospital RT directors. Not enough ventilators, and not enough RTs to run them - this is hardly news to respiratory therapists for the last 30 years.

  71. Trump eliminated the pandemic response team on the national security council. Then this week he says “no one could have seen the coronavirus coming!” More accurately, Trump should have said “no one in the Trump Administration saw this coming because I blinded us by eliminating the pandemic response team on the national security council!” And don’t forget Trump’s cuts to the Centers for Disease Control. Trump has put the nation in grave danger.

  72. "It is better to err on the side of caution." Agreed. Probably we ARE over-reacting. (In fact, it's difficult to argue we're not when one considers that roughly half of Americans don't get an annual flu shot, even though flu shots are 40-60% effective.) But why take a chance? If people die because we took a chance and guessed wrong, that would be horrible. The "why take a chance?" question is NOT rhetorical, however. There IS a potential downside to over-reacting. It hits everyone who loses a paycheck or suffers a downturn in business because prospective customers aren't coming in. The obvious "hurt" employees and businesses are, well, obvious, but the hurt goes well beyond the obvious ones. It affects ALL retailers, and then ALL wholesalers and manufacturers, because orders from retailers shrink. We DO need to think a bit harder about the proper responses. Nobody questions that lives come before jobs, but I'm impressed (for example) by the argument that closing schools may result in school-children infecting other people in the home (grandparents, for example, or working parents who stay home to take care of their kids), and may result in some school-children not eating well because they'd relied on school lunches. We might (or might not) conclude that schools should be kept open. The answer might be different for different activities. We might continue to conclude, for example, that sports events should be cancelled. The point is: We should draw distinctions.

  73. this was incredibly well put.

  74. I have no idea of the answer but I suppose the larger question is will these measures cause more deaths: if the result of social isolation, economic collapse with ensuing business closures and job loss, economic catastrophe especially for people on the economic margins, failure to fund charities that help poverty, all lead to other health risks and higher suicide levels, where are we then?. The sad thing is this is all one giant experiment. And I suppose there is no avoiding that.

  75. @Theresa - Perhaps our response to the pandemic should go beyond social distancing, to include direct support to those who risk suffering economic catastrophe. After all, why should they, already financially weak, have to bear the burden necessary to to get the pandemic under control?

  76. @Theresa , this is a multi-faceted ongoing problem. Partly due to unsolved and serious problems already present. The lack of sick pay, lack of medical resources due to investor profit demands, lack of provision for unemployment or emergency. Lack of supply storehousing. Lack of protection from exploitative employers. The two trillion dollars given to the rich in Trump’s tax cut should be clawed back now and spent in the coming days as we evolve ongoing responses to the crisis.

  77. Good article. Asking the taboo questions helps us to look at a wider data set. This is very new - the only thing we know for sure is more data will be coming on infection rates, infections scenarios, and at risk groups. We'll also be getting more data on people living paycheck to paycheck who will becoming impoverished - and who will need some help from the rest of us. Some of our neighbors will be hurting financially. Lets help them if we can.

  78. Since we've not been through something like this before, overreaction is difficult to assess. We read that hospital beds may be in short supply, should the disease spike. Yes, we are going through inconveniences, but for the most part-these are temporary. I do recognize that some people will lose lots of money and perhaps their livelihoods and their dreams. And these must be balanced against the cost in lives and illness.

  79. Italy. Spain. New Rochelle. Seattle. If you are not a frontline health worker or an infectious disease specialist you may go to the back of the bus.

  80. A major overreaction with highly political overtones. Last week there were 41 Americans dead from the Wuhan flu. 41 dead. That’s a typical weekend in Chicago.

  81. @Cjmesq0 Latest number of dead yesterday is 61. Do you expect the murder rate in Chicago to climb exponentially?

  82. It's not a "taboo" question, its a selfishly ignorant question.

  83. The Trump administration squandered the most valuable resource one has when dealing with a pandemic: TIME They fiddled and diddled for a MONTH, doing almost nothing. Trump lied and gaslighted about the virus "just going away . . like a miracle" when the weather gets warmer and all the rest of his irresponsible nonsense. And the CDC bungled the testing, refusing the WHO test. And the "buck" doesn't stop anywhere: "I take no responsibility at all" – Donald Trump.

  84. This is an appalling article to publish right now, right near the article about how folks in Italy are dying by the droves, alone. Why did you choose to publish this? You should be providing all the fact based reasons as to why we are NOT overreacting. My husband and I Skyped with our family in Italy yesterday. They are on lockdown. Coronavirus started killing those 80+; now it is killing those 60+, and younger people are presenting with serious illness too — to hospitals that have too little protective gear remaining and no beds. In their region, 58 patients that were hospitalized for other reasons contracted Covid from sick and underprotected HCPs. This is NOT A TEST RUN!

  85. You always need somebody to see an issue from a different angle. It enlighten the discourse and enables a better approach.

  86. Perhaps "some" ought to look at the world news.

  87. Maybe people are overreacting because we have a president who has consistently underreacted from the beginning.

  88. @PumpUptheVolume Instead of viewing CV as a worldwide threat to human beings, you view this as yet another leftist, MSM attack against Pres. Trump. Please remove your political blindfold! The human lives threatened, and which could be saved through acting carefully might well be yours or your loved ones. Sometimes overreacting translates into taking the appropriate steps in the face of a life threatening virus.

  89. With regard to closing things down and social distancing, I'm happy to go the way we are going. Better safe than sorry on that. However, the hoarding is way over the top. No one needs a 12 month supply of toilet paper or pasta. That's where America needs to chill.

  90. If you eat mostly rice, you can get by on one roll of Charmin a month.

  91. @Robert L Smalser Who's "we"? Do you *really* have to issue threats at such a time?

  92. It's not "his economy," it's ours, and we don't trust him with it (or our lives).

  93. Trump’s border policies did nothing to keep the virus from infecting the American public. They are useless. That is what coronavirus has demonstrated.

  94. My husband is an Emergency Room doctor and he's been asking this question for 2 weeks. He thinks altering behavior to save lives is great, but he keeps puzzling why we, the people, aren't more willing to slightly alter our behavior to save 10,000s of lives annually. (Reducing the speed limit to 55, limiting access to handguns and requiring everyone to get a flu shot.) Yet, we are willing to shut down normal life, risk harming other medically vulnerable populations by putting off care and devastate the economy. He and I are both hoping the country is overreacting. But this national emergency is going to have a huge, widely felt impact on many people for many years and no one seems to be calculating that cost. So ask away Dr. T.

  95. @Catherine I believe it is because none of the other cases you mentioned, while equally deserving, threaten to overwhelm the hospitals and incapacitate a big percentage of doctors at the same time. As an ER doctor, does your husband not see that risk? Or a difference between the sudden impact of this disease compared to the other issues you mentioned? The testimonies mostly read from doctors dealing with this disease is that it is different and that it must be taken seriously

  96. @Catherine Would love to know what your husband thinks in another 5-6 days.

  97. When the outbreak began in China, the government initially ignored the first cases and was slow in beginning containment measures letting the virus spread through the entire country. Now, as the virus has apparently peaked in that country, they have recorded about 80,000 infections in a population of 1.3 billion. Even if the Chinese government is understating the case by a factor of 20, the infection rate would still be 0.001% of the total population and the death rate proportionally less. With these numbers in mind, why are so many people assuming that the USA will have tens of millions of infections and millions of deaths??

  98. @Lazyal The Chinese eventually did take swift, draconian measures, which is what helped stop the spread. Wuhan is still under lockdown today. We are trying to avoid making Seattle, NYC, etc. into new Wuhans, with citizens quarantined for months and unable to leave.

  99. There are academic studies from the Spanish flu - a city that enacted early, strict interventions slowed the spread of the illness, allowing its health care institutions to stay afloat where a late/non-strict-intervention municipal counterpart had many more ill people at once, overwhelming its health care institutions. There are also natural scientific comparisons showing the results of China’s initial low-to-no-intervention (fast, severe spread) versus, I believe it was Singapore, which instituted early, strict interventions. Singapore has fared better; a lower rate of deaths. If anything, the US is responding too slowly, too loosely. Believe the public health scientists, the epidemiologists. This is first and foremost a public health crisis. The experts to listen to are the experts in that field - not economists, for example, whose focus is not first and foremost on saving lives.

  100. I worked in a school of public health much of my career and we should realize that this is not the time to try to optimize our response...there are too many unknowns. People are not used thinking in terms of exponential growth. For example in Colorado our first case was 3/5. 9 days later we were up to 101. Overall growth day to day fluctuates and is affected by increased testing, but across the country, the growth rate is about 30% per day, which means doubling every 2.5 days. Although Colorado has been quick to react (State of emergency declared five days after the first case, when we had 15 cases statewide), we will be seeing the effects of unfettered transmission until March 23rd, after which the increase may start to slow down. By that time, we will have on the order of 1400 cases. If ten percent are serious and five percent are critical, that's 140 and 70 cases, respectively. That just might be manageable. But if the transmission rate continues at 30% per day, the disease would run through almost half of the population by 4/22! I realized recently that we high risk people (I'm 67) should regard it as our civic duty to do all we can to avoid getting sick. Yes, it's in our self interest, but it's also true that we are the people most likely to need hospitalization, so we're the ones who could overload the healthcare system. People under 60, and especially under 50, may be miserable, but they generally can recuperate at home. So, yes, isolate as much as possible.

  101. We are overreacting not because we are trying to get ahead of the transmission, but we are not paying attention to the demographics. If we agree that the virus is considerably deadly to a vulnerable population, there are several towns and counties where it is easier to separate the vulnerable demography from others - In University towns, and some suburbs like Western parts of Plano (Part of Plano West of Plano ISD), it's younger families - makes no sense to use the same measures being used in NYC or LA - we are taking control away from local ISDs and towns by almost daring them to go against Dr Fauci. Herd immunity makes perfect sense to communities like ours

  102. I wish the article had compared our responses to different risks. The one billion lives that will be put at risk by climate change--including millions of children who will likely starve to death. Yet how little are we doing! Even the who knows how many Americans who die every year of inequality and poverty-related illnesses.

  103. I can multiply as well as my 7 year old grandson. If 150 million Americans eventually contract the disease in a year with a mortality rate of .01% (1 out of thousand) then perhaps 150 thousand will die. Comparable numbers are about 600,000 each for heart disease and cancer.

  104. One out of a thousand is 0.1 not 0.01 percent. And the suggestion is that the mortality rate of coronavirus is closer to 2-3 percent. If 150 million Americans contract the virus at those rates, then we are looking at over 3 million deaths.

  105. “Are we overreacting?’’ Of course "we" are. And the media is feeding the panic. It's the panic that will do more damage than the actual disease. In any event, I believe the panic will be over in a month when everybody calms down.

  106. I have no confidence that the U.S. will do what is right during and after this pandemic. This country is structurally incapable and fundamentally unwilling to put people over money, and all people over just some. In the U.S., millions are uninsured or underinsured, people working multiple jobs can’t make rent, and workers making a few dollars an hour are told that if they miss a shift their hours will be cut. This is a society that responds to poverty with police, and to health care needs with jail. It may be true that viruses only see bodies, not class or immigration status, but there is no question that those who will bear the brunt of this pandemic will be the poorest and most marginalized. The fundamental inequality on which everything in this country is predicated will be exacerbated by this crisis in ways we cannot fathom.

  107. @Michael Sorensen We are putting people over money. See: cancellations, closures, and other social distancing measures.

  108. Odd that economists don’t understand how exponential functions work. If we don’t act, rates of infection will simply scale to a point that is unmanageable.

  109. Reports say S Korea has had success with widespread testing and isolation of carriers perhaps without such severe disruption of all society. Lacking here of course is ability to do such widespread testing. Maybe that’s what we should focus on with the first step being obtaining and distributing tests widely and removing restrictions on testing. That way we could both understand better the extent of current infection and work towards more targeted isolations.

  110. I suspect we ARE over-reacting, but this reader is misstating reality: "How can the author possibly print the mortality-rate could be as high 40x the mortality-rate of the flu when it's already quantified no greater than 2x max?" What I've read is that the seasonal flu mortality rate is .1%, and that the mortality rate for the coronavirus is either unknown (because most sick people haven't been tested) or 2-3.4% -- quite a bit higher than the flu death rate. Indeed, I understand the flu death rate was roughly 2% during the 1918-19 flu epidemic, which understandably scared many people. That doesn't mean we should simply do whatever's necessary to save lives. Lives count for more than jobs, but we should think it through before we simply shut down everything. It's not clear, for example, that closing schools is wise. School-children who stay home may infect others who live with them (grandparents, for example, or working parents who stay home to take care of their kids), and some school-children may not eat well if they'd depended on free school lunches. The point is that "Shut everything down" isn't necessarily the right conclusion. Lawyers may insist that it is (since nobody will be faulted for shutting down a school even if that turns out to have been unwise). But it may or may not be: We should draw distinctions.

  111. Increasingly draconian measures are being taken in the U.S. that are destroying our economy and ruining livelihoods. Closing schools and stores and banning all gatherings are not sustainable. They will not stop the spread of the virus, just slow it, the justification being to flatten the curve and bring the peak of the curve below the level of the capacity of our health care system. I’m a (former) epidemiologist and I disagree with the expert advice I’m hearing, which seems to be completely focused on flattening the curve (social distancing, etc.) rather than raising the dashed line — our health care system capacity. Why can’t we pour billions of dollars into several crash projects? 1) build more hospitals (they did it in 10 days in Wuhan); 2) take over hotels for temporary use as hospitals; 3) quickly manufacture more equipment (e.g., ventilators) and drugs; 4) divert doctors and nurses from other less critical positions (e.g., giving annual physicals) to support COVID-19 patients, especially those in critical or intensive care. We did it in WWII (both for military manufacturing and the atomic bomb), and we can do it now, if the government pours its resources into those four activities rather than putting the entire country on lockdown. It seems to me that being forced to balance between saving lives and saving the economy is a false choice, because there's an alternative: beef up the health care system on a temporary, emergency basis.

  112. @Chip Barnett You mean, one of those hospital hotels, like the one that collapsed and killed tens of people? That's what happens when you build something in 2 weeks.

  113. When the advent of World War II occurred or the Depression was happening, people in this country pulled together through food shortages, trauma, unemployment, loss of family and uncertainty. This country looked to doing things for the greater good of all, not for one particular political party or to the benefit of corporations and their stockholders. When Donald Trump speaks of “Making America Great Again”, that is what most of us want to see, an America that puts the greater good above all else. It ends up being good for all including the economy. We are all going to be affected by this one way or another. Some of us will lose substantial amounts of income, possibly jobs or businesses, family members and lives. This is a short term plan to avert longer term consequences. This is to save your fellow citizens and healthcare workers that care for more than just Covid 19 patients. From the beginning, if Trump had exemplified the wisdom to listen to experts and follow their advice in his personal life, he could have gained the political support and respect from Americans he so craves.

  114. Increasingly draconian measures are being taken in the U.S. that are destroying our economy and ruining livelihoods. Closing schools and stores and banning all gatherings are not sustainable. They will not stop the spread of the virus, just slow it, the justification being to flatten the curve and bring the peak of the curve below the level of the capacity of our health care system. I’m a (former) epidemiologist and I disagree with the expert advice I’m hearing, which seems to be completely focused on flattening the curve (social distancing, etc.) rather than raising the dashed line — our health care system capacity. Why can’t we pour billions of dollars into several crash projects? 1) build more hospitals (they did it in 10 days in Wuhan); 2) take over hotels for temporary use as hospitals; 3) quickly manufacture more equipment (e.g., ventilators) and drugs; 4) divert doctors and nurses from other less critical positions (e.g., giving annual physicals) to support COVID-19 patients, especially those in critical or intensive care. We did it in WWII (both for military manufacturing and the atomic bomb), and we can do it now, if the government pours its resources into those four activities rather than putting the entire country on lockdown. It seems to me that being forced to balance between saving lives and saving the economy is a false choice, because there's an alternative: beef up the health care system on a temporary, emergency basis.

  115. Who's going to work in your new "miracle hospitals?"

  116. @Brad Blumenstock See point #4 above.

  117. @Chip Barnett Thank you Chip.  And thank you for this article NY Times - keep the overreacting articles coming please!  As a former epidemiologist Chip can you tell me what you think will happen if we are not as a nation exposed to this virus (because we are hiding in our homes) - won't exposure build up our nation's resistance to it and prevent it returning in perhaps a more deadly virus combination form in the future?  Since most of us who get it won't get bad symptoms I can only think exposure is a good thing to strengthen our immune systems for the future.  Having separate quickly established government 'hospitals' in each state (and free healthcare for those with the virus or suspected virus) for those who do suffer severe symptoms would allow healthcare workers to focus on them and the treatment of the virus.  It seems this would make much better sense than 'protecting' the rest of the nation from contagion (which I'm pretty sure is impossible in any case) despite what they tell us.

  118. In fact, the one true measure of the success of our efforts to battle coronavirus is if people are saying "we overreacted" when this is over.

  119. Such a question is not "taboo," if by taboo, one means scientific, or the product of a careful mental habit. On the other hand, it is indeed "taboo," as taboo normally means "a social or religious custom prohibiting or forbidding discussion of a particular practice." The 'coronavirus" is, if nothing, a social and even non-secular concept, as its origin stems from a radicalism that is of a religion, where religion means "a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance."

  120. I think the question should perhaps be posed as whether extreme measures are necessary. Some of the precautions proposed (and enforced) - such as prohibiting assemblies that bring together people closely - make sense. However, locking down entire cities as a preventive measure (rather than in a prohibitory sense as in China) does seem extreme. Governments are also under pressure to be SEEN doing something significant. Some of the extreme measures seem to be a result of this. It is also unfortunate that some Governments that are acting aggressively on caronavirus are appallingly negligent in providing good, basic healthcare on a normal day.

  121. I know what people are under reacting to - the approaching global climate catastrophe. Are we going to be unprepared like for this pandemic? I hope people, especially younger generation will now realize the weight of responsibility that's on them.

  122. I feel the “panic” is because people are misinterpreting the ”social distancing” restrictions as an indicator of everyone’s personal risk of getting sick from the virus infection. This is not quite the case. Most people, even if they became a carrier of the virus, will not get sick at all, or only mildly so, especially if they are young and otherwise healthy. The purpose of the restrictions is to reduce these numbers of asymptomatic carriers, trying to prevent a person from becoming a carrier, and even if they do become one, then trying to reduce their likelihood of giving it to someone else, and then that other person becomes a carrier too. The more carriers there are overall, then the greater the probability that a vulnerable person, (mainly older persons, and also those with compromised immune systems), will catch the virus and get really sick from it. Nonetheless, even after the social distancing restrictions are eased, hopefully in the next couple of months, older and vulnerable people are still going to need to stay away from crowds and gatherings where people are bunched together, and away from people they do not know well, for the next couple of years — but that part of it will not have as much of an economic impact (except for the elderly’ s use of cruise ships and international planes). I do see a time in the near future when people will screen their families and children before going to visit grandma.

  123. A nice illustration of why we tend to respect doctors more than economists - most of whom never saw the 2008 crisis coming either. Anyone who warned that the financial system was unsound was 'overreacting' then too. Anything that interferes with profit is automatically labelled 'class warfare' 'extreme caution' 'regulatory mania' or 'overreacting to events'.

  124. This is not a taboo question -- it is a deadly and dangerous mindset. Sometimes, when you are driving, a truck pulls out in front of you. It is not 'taboo' or 'over-reacting' to put on the brakes. It is completely necessary. We now know the trajectory COVID-19 takes, and we know it overwhelms health care systems as patients with acute, life-threatening respiratory systems pour into hospitals. We must avoid that happening all at once. We are braking extremely late on this, but the worst of the impact can still be avoided. Even if you are so callous as not to care for the patients, think of the health care professionals. They are as brave as any soldiers, putting their lives on the line for the rest of us. My thanks, and my deep admiration, to them.

  125. 1. Does flattening the curve merely delay the inevitable that the same % of the pop. gets the virus? 2. If we flatten the curve, will we be better able to manage the deaths X weeks from now versus today? Can we effectively prepare the health and end of life system in the next few weeks while hunkered down? 3. Will we actually save lives, or merely defer deaths by flattening the curve? 4. How long do we need to remain in lock down? 5. Does getting the virus once confer immunity? If it confers immunity, can an immune person be a carrier? 6. Is there any evidence that the virus is seasonal and that it will abate? Will it return as the same virus in the fall, assuming it is seasonal? Will it mutate? 7. Is it possible to isolate those at greatest risk, and let those at lower risk "go to war" against the virus? 8. The actual information on those "at greatest risk"--those who have suffered the greatest mortality--doesn't appear to be available to the press--or at least they don't have the statistical skills to explain it to us. Why not? 9. What happened to all the "Stay Calm and Carry On" signs that were popular a few years ago? I don't know the answer to these questions, but it seems that -the usual intelligentsia--those hair-on-fire climate people--are now telling us based on their "science" that we not only have to stop drilling and using our guns, but we have to stay home at night and stop working--to let Bernie Sander's government care for us.

  126. @Hooey If you had read much of anything you would know that the experts say that flattening the curve will prevent the health system breaking down, since we have too few hospital beds in the US. We will save lives. If we had testing from the beginning and had been as pro-active as Hong Kong or Singapore, we would not have a problem now. You want to catch an exponential spread before it really takes off.

  127. Your inclusion of "stop drilling and using our guns" tells me all I need to know about your ability to acknowledge reality.

  128. I suspect we ARE over-reacting, but this reader is misstating reality: "How can the author possibly print the mortality-rate could be as high 40x the mortality-rate of the flu when it's already quantified no greater than 2x max?" What I've read is that the seasonal flu mortality rate is .1%, and that the mortality rate for the coronavirus is either unknown (because most sick people haven't been tested) or 2-3.4% -- quite a bit higher than the flu death rate. Indeed, I understand the flu death rate was roughly 2% during the 1918-19 flu epidemic, which understandably scared many people.

  129. @Commenter It's not just the death rate, it's the hospitalization rate. For H1N1, a bad flu, it was 0.4 percent. For Covid-19, it's at leat 15 percent, a a nearly 40 fold increase.

  130. Any question or opinion should be considered but do you realize that this is the least populous state in the union and has the most "social dispersion" because of its size? Not only that, it's very republican (Cheney) and republicans are scrambling to distance themselves from their failure to address this disease early because of their president. It may follow that this economist is very much en thrall to rich Wyoming benefactors to her school. Or, she may be an oracle. But I doubt it.

  131. The precautionary principle should be followed. For all we know the epidemic won't be as bad as thought, but why take that risk? We can minimize illness and death by doing what's necessary. A short term punch to the economy is just that - short-term.

  132. Similar to climate change which choice, over or under reacting, would lead to a worse outcome? And faced with such high stakes, can you really over react?

  133. Nobody should be forced to get a flu shot, but I'll wager that many more will people will voluntarily get flu shots next winter: "My husband is an Emergency Room doctor and ... he keeps puzzling why we ... aren't more willing to slightly alter our behavior to save 10,000s of lives annually. (Reducing the speed limit to 55, limiting access to handguns and requiring everyone to get a flu shot.)"

  134. Nothing quite as amusing as an Arts or Social "Science" professor who could not solve a first-years stats problem to save his life claiming to be able to parse sophisticated epidemiological modeling decisions.

  135. One poster noted that we should err on the side of caution. One probably does not want regrets because of a phlegmatic approach to a disease that is so deadly. Take pains to be safe rather than a statistic because you were not.

  136. Thank you Ms. Harmon for an excellent and sane article. The "cure" is almost certainly worse than the disease. The deaths of despair, slow, painful, drawn-out deaths of the unemployed, impoverished, marginalized millions that will certainly occur because of the devastating effect of draconian isolation measures on our economy should be on the consciences of our leaders though likely will not be. "We did the best we could" will certainly be the callous response. I'm with the sane minority of people who say this is ridiculous. I hope you save these comments and revisit them in six months with a follow-up article on who was right and who was wrong that hopefully will prevent such ridiculous over-reaction in the future.

  137. There’s a simple answer: if we were not to take these measures (which had been the case, btw, until last week), and many of the most at-risk people died (such as your parents and mine), as is the case in Italy, would the public say it was a price worth paying, or instead blame anyone in government for not having done whatever it takes ? when does the economy matter more than lives ? Note also that the main reasons anyone can still doubt the severity of the virus are that (1) Americans have been barely tested, thanks to the Trump administration and our poor public health system and (2) we are still at the beginning of the curve. Where there is overreaction is buying so much toilet paper and provisions, but this kind of siege mentality existed even before the virus. Just today I read about all the people buying guns - not an overreaction from the “liberal” citizenry.

  138. Maybe those economists should ask Italy whether we are overreacting.

  139. The reaction to the virus appears that it will be far more damaging to human life than the virus itself. Thousands of lives will be reduced in life span from the stress and anxiety and uncertainty of buying food and paying rent.

  140. We have to react aggressively to flatten the curve to avoid overwhelming the medical infrastructure. At the same time, some of you are too quick to dismiss the economic risks of shutting down the whole economy for two or more months. This Senate and this President will not act to protect the economically vulnerable until it is too late and this could spiral out of control. Wealth inequality isn’t just about social justice. Wealth inequality makes an economy vulnerable to shocks because too many people are unable to handle any economic disruption. There is a real risk of a true Great Depression with tens of millions of homeless people and widespread food shortages.

  141. @JW A good reminder to supply side believers that demand is the actual driver of the economy.

  142. @JW Totally agree The worst hit will be the small business owners, hotel workers, mangers and owners, restaurant owners and workers, musicians and actors, venue spaces, colleges - some parents already yelling for some of their money back. Middle class college students, students studying the sciences or the arts that require labs or perfromance classes, dry cleaners, ALL potentially out of business for good. No money. No employment. Everythinng shuttered for more than a month or six weeks? utter chaos...Spanish flu lasted three years.... think about it.

  143. @JW Totally agree The worst hit will be the small business owners, hotel workers, mangers and owners, restaurant owners and workers, musicians and actors, venue spaces, colleges - some parents already yelling for some of their money back. Middle class college students, students studying the sciences or the arts that require labs or perfromance classes, dry cleaners, ALL potentially out of business for good. No money. No employment. Everythinng shuttered for more than a month or six weeks? utter chaos...Spanish flu lasted three years.... think about it.

  144. One thing is absolutely certain - this is setting up a great buying opportunity for those with some cash and interested in investing in equities.

  145. If, in three weeks or a month, those people who question the response can say "I told you so", I'll be satisfied we did the right thing.

  146. Simple science, confirmed throughout history...viruses require live hosts in order to survive, which is why overly lethal ones burn out. Isolate, either voluntarily or not, for the incubation period and the virus will stop spreading. If any mistake has been made, it was not doing this sooner.

  147. Human beings are notorious for over-reacting. However, considering how many people have already died, I don't think that is the case right now. It may be cliche, but "better safe than sorry", even with a virus.

  148. Interestingly written piece. Hmmm. Seems there's a hesitancy to say that our political left may believe there's been an overreaction on this horrible health scare. I'll get right to my point.... Bottom line, those on the political right have been suggesting there be less overreaction to the coronavirus, thereby lessening the fear. So who's correct? I thought so.

  149. The problem isn't the virus per se - it's that we don't have the resources to treat millions of sick people in the space of a few weeks. If there's an infection spike, people who would have survived the virus with treatment will very likely die simply because there weren't enough beds to go around.

  150. Americans do not like being inconvenienced. Parking. Ticket lines. Shopping. Gasoline. Rain, snow. This virus is an unknown. The best advice is the best for now. Accept the inconvenience. Keep up with the information from the CDC and your health services.

  151. It seems to me we have a few overlapping, underlying things going on here... 1) Folks are scared and confused. Such emotions are closely tied to the feeling of 'anger'. Many (in the US) feel that they are on their own. A chaotic federal gov. response. Restrictions and communications vary by states/city. 2) With the world being so connected now, we are seeing what's happening elsewhere (i.e., in Europe), and, knowing that the US is a number of weeks behind Europe (vis-a-vis the virus trajectory), this only augments our fear. 3) Social media means that every decision made about how society should or should not conduct themselves at this time, is up for debate and public pillory. And again, because folks are so scared, the rhetoric is that much stronger. It's hard to say what is an over-reaction vs an under-reaction, though one thing is certain: we are all going to die one day, if not from a virus, from a weekend drive...from a fall down our front stairs...from a slip in the snow... Some folks are simply fearful of death in and of itself. And for some, perhaps the notion of death by way of a virus that has such terror attached to it, is that much more terrifying?

  152. I've read an email from a doctor working an ICU on Seattle. It was scary enough that I would not consider sharing it on social media (my wife is a physician so if was forwarded to her). Considering how ill prepared we are to deal with a pandemic in this country, I think social distancing is needed. However, it remains to be seen if we will have the political leadership needed to keep those most vulnerable from going under economically over the next few weeks as the mass layoffs start.

  153. This is such a difficult question. These strict measures will save a good number of people from getting the disease or dying from it. But there is a tremendous cost as well, and some people will die from the measures. But as a practical matter, we have to do it -- politically, nothing else is possible. People will not accept a government saying that some people dying is a price we have to pay.

  154. @Alan We have said that many times in the past. The wars we have been in are but one example. I will leave it to others to decide when we made the right choice.

  155. @Alan I doubt people will die because of this policy.

  156. @Alan Au contraire, there are postings in other places where some people question the expense of billions to save the lives of "a few old people."

  157. These critics would be on firmer ground if the robust social distancing rules were being implemented for the long term. Indeed, human nature being what it is, we'd all best hope not more than three weeks or so of such policies are needed (at least of the most draconian variety). But over the short term, ie, three weeks or so? Seems eminently possible for people to radically and temporarily change their behavior. And, as we've seen in the case of countries like China, such a course of action, while inconvenient for millions, is nonetheless prudent and necessary.

  158. At the least people will be going without paychecks, likely longer than they can afford. At worst, family restaurants cannot afford rents and shut down. Family retail businesses will shutter the operation and never re-open. Money over Life? If you have a half year salary in the bank, it's an easy choice. If you are the average household with a $400 emergency fund, Money IS Life. Many images of people on Cruise ships, and younger people at the local Bar. "Social Distancing". What about the mom with 2 kids, working fast food by day and Uber by night? A one time $1,000 stipend sustain her children. "Just give her more!" And where does she go when the dust settles. Restaurant is closed, and she no longer has car insurance. Now what? We need data, and we need Leadership, and we need a balanced solution. Shutting down the country and keeping everyone home for the next two months is not a viable solution.

  159. Maybe this is simply Mother Nature's way to starting to save her planet. Really how many homo sapiens does it take to destroy the planet.

  160. George Eustice, the British Environment Secretary, warned shoppers risked spreading the virus by bringing their own reusable bags from home: "Scrapping the plastic bag charge is a way to try to slow the spread of the virus."

  161. There is no safety net. The GOP is dead set against any kind of a safety net for Americans. They apparently see it as a morality issue. My question is, if we had the same kind of assistance as say, Sweden, would we still need to have this conversation?

  162. Not everyone's voice is worth hearing. When the majority makes sense -such a rare occasion in cacophonous America, the so-called "contrarians" are free to say anything of course, but the rest of us should have more sense than to listen. There is always some aspect of emergency measures that are not ideal. No matter what is being done, some detrimental this or that will ensue. That is not a reason for not taking the necessary actions. As long as the science is sound, do what needs to be done for the benefit of all, even those annoying contrarians.

  163. @Blue Zone “Sense is my point of view,” Everyone said.

  164. @Blue Zone In this case the contrarians make no sense at all. If the virus is already out in the communities across the US ( confirmed by the infected cases out of the very few that have even been tested), then taking steps to halt the spreading of the virus through drastic social steps like shutting down schools, crowds, etc is the sensible way to stop a disaster. That’s the way that China and South Korea seemed to have contained the virus, although I must say that much more testing has to be implemented here so that we can know how bad the rate of infection really is, and the infected can self quarantine much more quickly. Here in the state of NC, the local evening news just stated that only 329 tests have been done in the state to date, which is a ridiculously low number considering that the state already has 15 infected cases.

  165. @Blue Zone Please take away Rush Limbaugh's Medal of Honor.

  166. Over reactions in terms of distancing, hugs and hand shakes is prudent. Seeing people hoard basic supply's is harmful and down right disgusting. They need to be shamed on the spot in public. Then there are the leftists using this event as a vehicle to promote future socialist policies as if that would make a difference in outcome...and those who clamored 3 years about Trump/Russia collusion then, obstruction, then abuse of power and for impeachment.. those gleefull folks now have a new angle to hammer on Trump. In some people events like this bring out the best in them; helping out others if and when they can to do the most good possible.

  167. @Lane ' leftists using this event as a vehicle to promote future socialist policies " I haven't seen nor heard any of this. What I have heard is a distinct national, non-partisan reaction to the lies and delayed, incompetent response to this virus from the WH. American citizens want, need and expect appropriate, truthful responses from the government THEY pay for. THAT is no "overreaction".

  168. @Slann Trumps first action against the virus was to stop travel from a few countries. He was called xenophobic for doing it. Now many nations do it. Point is he gets criticism for everything he does from some quarters..and it's mostly highly partisan. Read opinion page,you'll see plenty extolling the virtues of socialized medicine being better able to deal with pandemics, in spite of the Italian failure.

  169. Even after the COVID-19 threat has subsided, we cannot possibly know if we over-reacted; but we will definitely know if we UNDER-reacted.

  170. Letting people carry on with their lives as usual caused the virus to spread uncontrollably. People started to lose their minds at the thought of contracting this virus. Panic buying ensued. A general lockdown became the only viable solution. Tasteless thought, I suppose, but maybe if people cared a bit less about dying they wouldn't have lost their minds. But most people really, really do not wish to give in to a spreading contagion and die.

  171. This is crazy. Not having an idea od what the devastating impact the collapse of the health system means is mind boggling in this day and age, with all the information we have. Italy where I live is at breaking apart after only a few weeks. I am simply shocked.

  172. Numbers, people, numbers. How many people have been died worldwide. 10,00? Remember the Weapons of Mass Destruction that gave us the moral certainty to invade and destroy Iraq? Same mentality at work. Mass hysteria is almost always lead by goverment bureacracy, from the four hundred years of witch hunts on to today's endless wars, or banking meltdowns and now a virus. Some things never change.

  173. @Z Over Over 100,000 people have died today worldwide from all causes.

  174. Obviously some degree of overreaction is better than under-reaction in this situation. This is sometimes called the "smoke alarm effect" meaning that it's better for the smoke alarm to be a bit too sensitive so it will go off while you're cooking rather than not go off when something is the house like wiring is starting smolder. And yet there's such a thing as excessive reaction. I've seen some of that recently.

  175. One of the more annoying things about Americans is that we all think we are experts at everything. Having a right to an opinion does not make that opinion correct.

  176. @JSW You are correct, but I don't think human behavior is exclusively an American problem.

  177. @JSW There are no American experts in Coronavirus. Nor are there American experts in how quarantining all citizens impacts the economic future. I am sick of the people who defer to the "experts" on this situation. They do not exist, at least in our country. The politicians at this point are making decisions based on fear for their own careers. We should be consulting with insurance companies who specialize in modelling disasters and their costs as well as epidemiologists. The simple fact is that thousands of people are going to die whatever happens. It's a lose/lose situation but by putting millions of people out of work, they are greatly increasing the number of "losers".

  178. @Paul Out of work or dead or being the cause of someone's death due to selfish behavior? Which do you think most people would choose? Insurance companies stats are used to make money, not prevent public health crisis.

  179. Not saying these are not some valid questions, but in a sense this is quibbling. Economies always recover, dead people never do. Governments can step in to assist those in need. But given the lack of knowledge at the moment, the worry about overdoing steps to mitigate the spread seems foolish. Isn't the downside risk of doing too little much greater.

  180. Climate change has caused famine and food insecurity in poor counties, leading people to turn to unusual wild animals for food - animals which contain previously unknown viruses. Unless we solve the climate change problem, expect pandemics to become common.

  181. @FJF It is not logical to conclude this outbreak had anything to do with global warming, as you seem to suggest. It has been known for years that perhaps a million and a half UNIDENTIFIED viruses are carried by wild animals around the world. This is why the pandemic response team had people stationed around the world to work to identify any and all newly transmitted, (animal to human) viruses. That effort should be refunded, perhaps by the W.H.O., and more investment will mean more protection, for all humans. Humans will continue to contract these new viruses, and you may remember "mad cow", which came from beef cattle, not "bush meat" sources.

  182. Go big and go home. It appears that maximizing short term pain will minimize total long term damage to people and the economy.

  183. Why are you not mentioning that poverty kills? 25,000 people die each day from it. Malnutrition, starvation, and other preventable issues. With nearly a billion people in the world living in deep poverty, without money beyond day-to-day, keeping the economy functioning is important for them. Anytime it is mentioned people attack you as if you are asking for welfare for Wall Street. This isn’t about Wall Street. It’s about keeping poor people working and paid so they can feed their families. Staying home works if you are rich. It doesn’t quite work if you don’t have enough to eat on a normal day. The danger we face is whether these extraordinary measures will kill more people inadvertently through a massive recession. It is something we must be talking about.

  184. Some experts claim that 50% or more Americans will be infected. If 100 million get the virus (less than half), just a 1% death rate would be a million deaths. If we value a life at $9 million, that is a cost of $9 trillion! If we do not succeed in flattening the curve, the number of infected and deaths could be much higher.