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Noted: Yglesias: Suppress the Virus!

Summary:
There seems to be one big piece of good news in the fight against Covid-19. The battle to keep the caseload low enough that hospitals do not collapse and the death rate rise from 1% to 4% or so appears to have been won, worldwide. Now there is a second battle: to push the bulk of the potential caseload out beyond the date at which an effective vaccine arrives and so reduce the global death toll from its likely non-vaccine value of 50 million to a small fraction of that: That battle can be lost. That battle can be won expensively, through prolonged and expensive social distancing and other measures that push the virus ’s reproduction rate R down to near one. That battle can be won quickly and cheaply, by sharp short-term massive virus repression, followed by controlling reemergences

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There seems to be one big piece of good news in the fight against Covid-19. The battle to keep the caseload low enough that hospitals do not collapse and the death rate rise from 1% to 4% or so appears to have been won, worldwide.

Now there is a second battle: to push the bulk of the potential caseload out beyond the date at which an effective vaccine arrives and so reduce the global death toll from its likely non-vaccine value of 50 million to a small fraction of that:

  1. That battle can be lost.
  2. That battle can be won expensively, through prolonged and expensive social distancing and other measures that push the virus ’s reproduction rate R down to near one.
  3. That battle can be won quickly and cheaply, by sharp short-term massive virus repression, followed by controlling reemergences via large scale and frequent trace-&-test-&-isolate.

Sane, intelligent, and competent countries are trying for option (3) in this second battle, and it looks like many of them will succeed. The Trump administration and its crowd of grifters and enablers appear to have decided that (1), losing this second battle, is best for their personal pocketbooks and reelection chances.

The very wise Matt Yglesias protests:

Matthew Yglesias: Coronavirus Mitigation Could Kill Thousands. Suppress the Virus, Don’t Just “Flatten the Curve” https://www.vox.com/2020/5/6/21241058/coronavirus-mitigation-suppression-flatten-the-curve: ‘With the disease seemingly beaten back domestically, Hong Kong is now in a position to start switching emphasis to a strategy focused on border controls.... The city has a clearly articulated strategy that it calls “suppress and lift”: ease restrictions now when cases are at zero, but then clamp back down as necessary to push cases back down if they pop up. Taiwan has also had no new cases for several days...

...New Zealand has not done quite this well, but the government believes it has successfully identified and isolated all of the country’s coronavirus cases and is lifting restrictions, on the claim that the virus has been “eliminated” in the country. South Korea’s outbreak is now down to single-digit numbers of new cases per week.... The United States, meanwhile, is moving to open up on the basis of a vaguely articulated assumption that settling for mitigation is good enough....

The United States has not really tried the strategies that have made suppression successful. To accomplish that, America would need to invest in expanding the volume of tests, invest in more contact tracers, and create centralized quarantine facilities.... Since the US didn't spend April doing that, trying to achieve suppression—along the lines of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, and New Zealand—would necessarily involve more delay and more economic pain. But doing so would save potentially tens or hundreds of thousands of lives and almost certainly lead to a better economic outcome by allowing activity to truly restart…

#coronavirus #noted #orangehairedbaboons #publichealth #2020-05-19
Bradford DeLong
J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, where he was heavily involved in budget and trade negotiations. His role in designing the bailout of Mexico during the 1994 peso crisis placed him at the forefront of Latin America’s transformation into a region of open economies, and cemented his stature as a leading voice in economic-policy debates.

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