Charting the Course Through the Corona Straits – the Hydra + the Whirlpool (Least Destruction)
Video: The Corona Odyssey- charting the course
The world is in full panic mode, thanks to Covid 19.
Some are primarily worried for the health of their loved ones and friends, while others are more focused on their personal financial wellbeing, of their businesses, and of that of their country.
All but the most fanatical are mixed with their concerns.
The question becomes how best to navigate these uncharted waters.
Policy makers are in an unenviable position, caught between a rock and a hard place, or to use the metaphor in Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey, between the Hydra (the six-headed sea monster devouring sailors who venture too close) and Charybdis (the whirlpool.)
The game theoretical outcome we seek is to sail down the path of least destruction.
The Hydra here is Corona, the monster that will snatch up the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Restrict no movement, let business continue as usual, and you have a rapid spread of the virus that will result in the deaths of many, as well as overrun hospitals with massive numbers of people seeking treatment.
The sudden rush on beds, doctors, and other health resources would exacerbate deaths of others seeking medical care, from accident victims to those who’ve suffered heart attacks, for whom the resources normally available would be missing, creating massive amounts of fear as a byproduct, with the destructive news media amplifying the panic.
The stock market would tank, (harder) and the average family would be forced to sell what little investments might be remaining to raise needed funds for bills, losing their life savings to the smart money (or vultures depending on how you see it) of Wall Street, who have been saving their dry powder for just such an occasion.
On the other side of this strait you have the whirlpool, an apropos metaphor considering we’re considering flushing the economy down the drain.
If you tell everyone manning the oars of your ship to disappear below deck and self isolate for the next 18 months (the timeframe many scientists estimate it will take to develop a vaccine,) and don’t have anyone rowing the boat, the nation’s ship just gets sucked under into Davey Jones locker, and the remnants of it would be very difficult to pull back out.
It would be exceedingly difficult to restart the economy once destroyed.
Think of all the businesses that go under, never to open again.
Think of all the people laid off, with no means to support themselves, even though they have every desire and inclination to do so, the hard working Americans having to accept handouts despite it going against their principles, supported by a government with no tax revenue coming in, that has to debase the world’s reserve currency, until it starts to lose all its luster and value. Savers, especially the elderly, would have the value of their cash, vaporized.
As the intricate supply chain falls apart, products become harder to produce. Rather than concentrating on innovation and productivity, most people would just be trying to survive.
The misery created will be vast. Suicides would likely rise, as would political polarization as we would rarely be interfacing in person with each other, helping strengthen the feeling of “the other,” as demonstrated by the “discourse” on Twitter and Reddit.
Socialism would once again rear its ugly head with people becoming accustomed to handouts. A malaise would grip the world.
Certain localities have been experiencing a localized economic depression for over a decade, generally areas that had one or two big employers who shut down due to a trade or technology shock.
Sadly, such communities have seen rises in alcoholism, in opioid use, in depression.
Do we want to expand this further into our great country? And think of the crime that would come from people in utter desperation, should it ever come to that.
Meanwhile, China, from where this disease originated, now theoretically past the worst of it, would start ramping up production, perhaps providing some its more valued workers hazmat suits, the rest, likely more dispensable.
Chinese power would quickly grow, and a totalitarian Communist entity which harvests the organs of political dissidents would eclipse the United States as the dominant world power, the Chinese yuan replacing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, and Americans would be forced to learn Chinese characters here in America.
I tried to get ahead of the curve there; It’s not easy.
That amongst other “reeducation,” with Chinese censors removing all references to Winnie the Pooh.
So, anyone on the extremes of this issue, advocating for a total shutdown and wrecking the economy; or business as usual, “nothing to see here, move along then” ; I urge you step outside what is likely your inherent bias, or your current emotional state, and see the issue from the other side.
So What Course Do We Chart
There of course will be a difference of opinion here between many intelligent people, with even epidemiologists in disagreement, largely due to a lack of data which would help us predict how this will all play out.
No one today can be certain they have the “right” answer, as Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo stated, at some point decisions become “an art form.”
So what is my solution that I think will yield the optimal, or in this case, the least cataclysmic results?
We need a 3 week hiatus. People will figure out if they are sick and further quarantine, especially as increased testing becomes available. The body is believed to fully process the virus in 3 weeks, so the time-frame is not arbitrary.
Further, anti-body testing will hopefully be rapidly deployed and medics will be able to harvest anti-bodies from recovered individuals via plasma transfusions, which was a method used to help treat SARS when there was no vaccine. Although considered an archaic technique in medicine, first practiced during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, it’s still effective.
This will also buy us time to ramp up equipment needed for hospitals, from ventilators to surgical masks, and sadly, toilet paper.
The Rn (the number of infections each confirmed case subsequently creates) will diminish even after we release people from their confinement because of increased awareness and precautions being taken. The Rn will also be reduced by the fact that some herd immunity will have been developed via those who’ve already been infected and beaten back the pathogen, meaning that even if they come in contact with someone who is shedding virus, will not be passing it along again.
And will get more challenging as time goes on.
That said, if I were President I would state that we would reevaluate again after 3 weeks given the data. Perhaps at that point the public would be forgiving if the isolation time frame needs to be extended.
At that point we will have more information on virtually every aspect of the virus. It took us months to sequence the genetic code of SARS, but given advances in technology, we managed to achieve the feat with Covid 19 in a matter of days.
The downtime will also give us the ability to acquire/produce many more tests. That is the one area where the US has failed, and where South Korea, which dealt with both SARS and H1N1, was far better prepared.
Testing for the virus is absolutely crucial, and when people know they are positive, they can both stay secluded knowing that by going out they will endanger others, or seek treatment earlier and without fear of just “being under the weather.”
I believe the cure must not be worse than the disease, and that we would be far better off steering further from the whirlpool, and the utter destruction of the economy, and the extended misery such a course would cause.
Yes, the hydra might snatch up a few more poor already compromised souls in the short run, but the it’s my belief that humanity would be better for it over time. Look, nothing in life is certain. You take in the data, you weigh your options, and like Odysseus did during Homeric times, you make the decision which will cause the least amount of destruction. Sadly, in this case, you have to edge towards the hydra.
Video: the top 10 positives of Corona Virus!
And if you think this pandemic will last a long time, rest assured, it won’t; after all, it was- “Made in China.”