For the last few days we’ve been preparing internal reports twice a day for staff. We’ve decided to release these publicly to help you plan.
US cases are at 42,400, up from 26,900 yesterday morning. New York state makes up nearly half, coming in at 20,900 alone. New Jersey is the state closest behind at 2,800. Perhaps the most troubling number is that NY has tested 78,000, which equates to a 27% positive test rate. Either they are getting a lot better at testing people, or a lot more people are testing positive. We are going to return to this point below.
Tennessee is up to 615 cases from 505 yesterday. Knox county officially moved up to 12 from 5. We expect that the real number is a lot more.
It’ll be a Rough Week
At this point, you should mentally prepare to have a pretty rough week of headlines. Here is what to expect.
1. Cases will continue to skyrocket.
[Edit 8:20PM, each time period below should say through March 22, and forecast out through March 29]
Here are total US cases through yesterday. The trend line is dotted and it’s a very good fit.
If we forecast it out another 7 days it makes our current state look pretty mild:
That leaves us just shy of 250,000 cases in the US alone. Could we really jump 200,000 in a week? The world jumped 100,000 cases in 4 days. In either event, the point is that the number of cases are about to skyrocket, even if the specific number we end up at is unknown.
In Tennessee, specifically, our curve is slightly less steep but nothing like you what you want a pandemic to look like:
A 7 day forecast brings us out to a little under 8,000 cases.
Again, there are very rudimentary forecasts, the kind of thing you studied in high school even if you don’t remember it. We’re not aiming for precision so much as demonstrating why you can expect it to be much worse before it gets better. By cases, we are only a few days behind Italy whose curve is close to our own.
2. Governments will react accordingly
The UK followed Germany’s lead today in putting the entire country on lockdown, including gatherings of more than two. Domestically, we are up to nine states in some form of lockdown, MI, OH, LA, DE, CA, NY, NJ, IL and CT. It’s possible that more are in place since I began writing this post. Knox County released such an order at noon, effective at midnight.
We still see some people questioning whether all of this is worth it, would it be better to let hundreds of thousands or millions of people die than grind our economy to a halt?
We don’t have answers: but we’ll note that everywhere the virus surged reacted the same way. Unless you believe that the Chinese just hate making money, as do Italians, Germans and New Yorkers it is worth considering that maybe the view from inside the storm is different than the view outside of it.
Also, if you want to know what your locality is going to do next, look at the cities/governments/nations ahead of you in cases. Tennessee, New York was at 524 cases on March 14th, 20,000 today.
3. The Worst Economic Numbers in History are about to come out
Unemployment numbers will be updated this week and Wall Street putting out projections for how much the economy will shrink the second quarter. Comparisons are already being made to 2008, 1982, The Great Depression, you name it.
We’re not a fan of these comparisons.
The modern economy has never, ever, ever had the pause button pressed on it. This is something new.
We’re not sure if it’s better or worse. There are more moving parts to the economy than any one person can comprehend, much less adjust. Put in my industry terms, we’ve never tried to turn this economy thing off and back on again. It remains unknown if we can actually do that.
So, this week ignore the headlines with comparisons. We don’t even have something to compare this to. If you want to read some genuine analysis go at it.
Is there any Hope?
I have a lot of hope. Let’s start with data.
If ever a country had been designed to fall under the weight of a pandemic it would be China. A country roughly the size of the US, with four times the population that, practically speaking, only lives in the half the space due to the geography of wide swaths of the country.
Hubei sits just outside the more densely populated area of the northeast.
If China can defeat this thing inside of three months there is no reason that the rest of the world — especially the West — can’t either.
But it isn’t guaranteed.
We still aren’t anywhere close tot he lockdown measures that China put in place. No one would be on any of the beaches if there were the case. Wuhan went into hard lockdown on January 22, they are coming out of it two months later, slowly.
The chart below maps out in yellow official cases of COVID-19 while the teal shows the actual number of cases, figured out in retrospect. You can see that there is an 11-12 day lag between when the testing catches up with the downturn of actual cases. That means, be patient, this staying at home thing really stops the virus but our detection methods take awhile to catch up.
We promised to return to New York’s numbers earlier. New York went on lockdown on the 20th. It is entirely possible that the number of new cases in New York is already dropping and the testing is still catching up. We won’t know for sure until April, give or take.
History – a different form of data – gives me hope as well. The one charted thing about being in uncharted waters for America is that we are always going into uncharted waters. From our beginning as a grand experiment with democracy, to our involvement in winning the two largest wars in human history to overcoming the Great Depression or eradicating Polio we are extremely adaptable.
None of the forecasts given above are inevitable, and we continue to expect that people will make rational decisions — after running out of other options.
Sunday Required Reads
I’m reposting this, you really should read through both of these to understand why we’re all staying at home.
“The Hammer and the Dance” does an amazing job mapping out our different options on how to react to COVID-19. A completely separate effort from academia, highlighted in the NYT, reaches the same conclusion,
How We Are Adjusting
Our time horizon is still floating at 6 to 10 weeks out. We’re beginning to feel that ten weeks may be optimistic based on the slow measures taken by the majority of the country.