PANDEMIC PANDEMONIUM


LIFE OR LIVELIHOOD?

WHAT MUST BE DONE AND WHY?

 

 George Wilson Adams CPA MBA

May 20, 2020

 

 1st Graphic Pandemic Pandemonium

 

Pandemonium, the Capital City of Hell

(Le Pandemonium, John Martin, 1841. Louvre.)

 

 

Minimize Harm

During the current Coronavirus global pandemic societies everywhere are confronting a stark choice between minimizing the harm caused by the virus and minimizing the harm caused by lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. In this case, as is almost always true, math can provide insight into what to do and why. Math can build a map that leads us out of hell. For many people the current situation feels like being trapped in hell.

 

The virus causes harm not only by killing people but also through prolonged and painful periods of illness endured by many who ultimately recover. Some who recover may have scar tissue in their lungs associated with "cytokine storm" - a severe and excessive reaction of the body's immune system to the virus. Further harm is caused by disruptions to the health care system, which in many places has been overwhelmed by sick people. Let X represent all the harm caused by the virus.

 

The response to the virus causes a different type of harm. Lockdowns and stay-at- home orders profoundly disrupt economic activity and directly threaten the livelihoods of millions of people and hundreds of thousands of small businesses. If lockdowns continue past a crucial tipping point they will cause long-lasting economic damage and destruction, including a possible second Great Depression. Suicide rates frequently rise during such harsh economic conditions. And severe damage to our economy will weaken our country and pose national security issues. Let Y represent all the harm caused by economic lockdowns.

 

Human life and livelihood are deeply interconnected in many ways. For example, if all economic lockdowns were lifted right now there would still be far fewer people willing to eat in restaurants, go on vacations, fly on planes and attend public events because of fear. Fear of getting the virus is just as effective as an official government lockdown in disrupting the economy. And if the virus suddenly vanished right now the economic and human disruption it has caused would persist for months and maybe even years. Thus, the correct response to this crisis must address both threats, to life and to livelihood, simultaneously.

 

A balanced solution to the crisis requires minimizing harm caused by the virus (X as defined above) and at the same time minimizing harm caused by economic disruptions (Y as defined above.) The best solution is:

 

Min(X) - Min(Y) = 0

 

The truth of this equation is proven by the following graph (which is intended only as a simplified illustration):

 Covid 19 Harm Graph 1920 final 960

 

 

Any public policy that differs from this solution, to the extent of the difference, will cause more harm than good. The above equation ensures that for every unit of harm (however defined) there must be at least one equivalent offsetting unit of good (however defined) to balance out and negate harm. The best that can be done in this crisis is to minimize overall long-term harm to both life and livelihood. Static, rigid, simplistic thinking will fail.

 

An Unbalanced Strategy: Do Nothing

In this extreme approach, government, business and individuals would simply ignore the virus and let it run its course. Such inaction will maximize the number of people killed and sickened and would most likely result in millions of people overwhelming the health care system, leading to its collapse. Even if we do absolutely nothing in response to the virus and do not impose any lockdowns at all there would still be a minimum, unavoidable degree of economic damage caused by fear, the likely collapse of the health care system, and the absence of many sick and deceased people from the workforce.

 

We can see what a do-nothing strategy would look like by extrapolating from current events effecting meat packing plants and Amazon distribution warehouses nationwide. These facilities were never locked down and are now facing significant issues with employee illness from Covid-19.

 

Many advocates of a do-nothing approach point to so-called "herd immunity," which would emerge naturally when 70% to 90% of the population is immune to the coronavirus. This means enough people would be immune to protect the small minority who are not. But herd immunity arises in only two possible ways: (1) A highly effective vaccine that is widely distributed; or, (2) Allow most of the population to become infected with coronavirus, resulting either in death or immunity, and most likely crashing our health care system with a concentrated surge of sick people.

 

Another point frequently made by advocates for doing nothing is that the individual average risk of being infected with the virus is small. This point is true but trivial. It is mathematically necessary to assess risk by considering not only the probability of a negative event (getting infected) but also the number of exposures. If you are exposed to a small risk repeatedly, over and over again every day, cumulative risk will rise over time. People who boast of winning at Russian Roulette are merely lucky; if they play this game long enough they will lose. When the law of large numbers is applied to a small risk the result is a much higher risk.

 

Risk is invisible until it produces tangible negative consequences.

 

Another Unbalanced Strategy: Impose Harsh, Prolonged Economic Lockdowns

Prolonged economic lockdowns will destroy tens of thousands of businesses and millions of jobs. Dead people can't work and dead businesses can't be brought back to life. With this approach we may cause an economic collapse and second Great Depression. The government can't stop such a disaster by merely printing money, which ultimately results in inflation and possibly hyper-inflation. State and local governments who, by law, must have annual balanced budgets will face de facto bankruptcy as their revenues from income and sales taxes dry up. Our country will be weakened to the point of creating national security issues, and the real possibility of civil unrest. It is very easy to destroy, and very hard to recreate, large, complex systems like our economy.

 

Even if we implement harsh, long-term economic lockdowns there would still be deaths and illness for the most vulnerable groups of people, including those with severe pre-existing conditions and individuals in the last year or so of their natural life expectancy. The coronavirus is extremely contagious.

 

For otherwise healthy people, prolonged lockdowns may weaken their immune system by unnaturally disrupting normal daily interactions with other people. According to the hygiene hypothesis, for which significant scientific evidence has been gathered, it is possible to create environments that are 'too clean' to the point of being dangerously clean. This may cause the human immune system to turn on itself, producing autoimmune disorders such as Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Grave's Disease, etc. See:

 

 

Hygiene Hypothesis

 

What Lies Ahead: V, W, or L?

There are three broad possibilities for how this global pandemic will unfold. If this is a 'V' type event we will eventually hit bottom and then, slowly, return to normal. A V type pattern means there is one massive tidal wave of virus that sweeps the world and then subsides.

 

Alternatively, this could be a 'W' type event where there are at least two and perhaps more waves where the virus comes back. This was the pattern of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed 675,000 Americans and millions of others worldwide. There were three major waves of virus back in 1918 with the first in March, the second in the summer, and the last in the winter of that year. And in 1889 - 1890 the world was hit with the Russian Flu that killed approximately 1 million people worldwide. Pandemics come in waves and are seldom predictable.

 

Finally we could be facing an 'L' type event, which means we will bottom out and then stagnate for an indefinite period of time.

 

In order to minimize harm caused by the Covid-19 pandemic (both harm to people and to their livelihoods) we may have multiple waves of partial but temporary lockdowns followed by periods of returning to some kind of normality, followed by yet another return of the virus, followed by another period of lockdown.

 

This global pandemic will be a war with many battles, many losses and hopefully many victories. In the U.S. we must also fight the 'enemy within' - radical, left-wing extremists who hate America and want to destroy our country with socialism and other lunatic policies. These dangerous people are willing to hurt our country in order to gain political advantage.

 

 

Timely Versus Accurate Information

In the fog of war the information we receive may be very timely and up-to-the-minute, but may not be accurate. The truth takes time to discover. Even now, in late May, 2020, I'm not sure anyone really knows the actual mortality rate from Covid-19.

 

How accurate is the published death toll from the Coronavirus? The true story of this pandemic will most likely be written years from now, and require the accumulated expertise of many medical professionals and scholars to sort and shift through conflicting and ambiguous tidbits of raw data. Years of meticulous research will eventually turn raw data into accurate knowledge and insight. 

 

What really matters in this or any crisis is not what you believe but instead what you know. Scientific skepticism is the gold standard for evaluating claims through rigorous testing and repeated experiments that either confirm or dis-confirm an original finding. According to the great 20th philosopher Karl Popper, no claim or statement can be regarded as scientific unless it is falsifiable - i.e., subject to being proved wrong by subsequent evidence.

 

 

"In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable; and in so far as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality."

Karl Popper

 

 

We Were Warned

In late January, 2020 NASA's Aura space satellite noticed something very strange occurring over China: smog and pollution had suddenly decreased significantly. How could this be? Only a massive shutdown of factories and the transportation system could produce such a decline in pollution that was routine for decades over China. As we now know from reputable sources, the Communist dictatorship that rules China lied about the viral outbreak in their country and concealed its scope and intensity. China's dictators lied; NASA space satellites didn't.

 

People who think the virus is a hoax or exaggeration must explain why China, a brutal dictatorship that cares only about power and money, would deliberately hurt their own economy by imposing on themselves a harsh, prolonged lockdown: Why?

 

The only hoax is the dangerous idea that the virus is a hoax, and that only 'other people' will be effected by it.

 

 

"And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night."

 

The Masque of the Red Death

Edgar Allen Poe

 

What Can Science Do?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause colds and other respiratory illness. The new strain of virus that causes the Covid-19 disease is different and is still being studied by scientists. The ultimate solution to preventing this disease is a vaccine. However, safe and effective vaccines typically take 12-18 months to create. Merely creating a vaccine is not good enough. To undo the current crisis any future Covid-19 vaccine must be at least 80 to 90 percent effective, and produce long-lasting immunity. Only this degree of efficacy will relieve the fear the virus causes, and recreate a world of tolerable risk. It is still unclear that an effective vaccine against the coronavirus will ever be created. See:

 Will There Ever Be A Covid-19 Vaccine?

 

Another medical solution is to directly inject antibodies into patients afflicted with Covid- 19. These antibodies attack and destroy the virus. On May 6, 2020, the Israeli Institute of Biological Research isolated the antibody that targets the coronavirus, paving the way for a subsequent monoclonal antibody to cure people afflicted with Covid-19. See:

 POSSIBLE COVID-19 ANTIDOTE

And several drug treatments may reduce the symptoms and severity of the disease including Hydroxychloroquine (combined with Azithromycin and Zinc), Remdesivir and Ivermectin. Consult with your physician (NOT a politician) before considering any of these possible treatments for Covid-19. By the way, medical science and politics never mix.

 

In addition to treating patients afflicted with Covid-19, science is developing new tools to create and maintain safe, sanitary environments:

 

(1) One of the most important breakthroughs is the development of so-called "far-UV" lamps that use ultraviolet radiation to immediately kill the Coronavirus in the air and on surfaces. (See www.faruv.com). These lamps are safe and do not cause harm to people. See this summary of research performed at Columbia University:

 Far Ultraviolet Light

 

(2) A new generation of super-HEPA air filters has emerged that scrub air free of almost all viruses, bacteria, mold, mildew, etc. "HEPA" stands for high efficiency particulate air, and is a technology that can remove 99.97% of particles as small as .3 microns (one micron is .000011811 of an inch.) The first generation of HEPA air filters was designed to remove radioactive dust from the air in order to protect workers at atomic power plants. See:

https://surgicallycleanair.com/

 

(3) Sanitation companies are now emphasizing the value of their services which includes total disinfection of commercial and residential buildings using powerful and safe virucides. See:

https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/15702-new-virucidal-program-combats- coronavirus

 

(4) Science will help identify the most vulnerable groups that face disproportionate harm from Covid-19. Nursing homes, retirement communities and people with compromised immune systems may need to self-isolate until effective treatments are readily available.

 

(5) Airbus is working with a biological research company to develop sensors that would detect ("smell") the presence of the coronavirus on planes. See:

 Sensors That Smell Coronavirus

 

(6) According to research by Northwestern University, Vitamin D deficiency may significantly worsen the effects of Covid-19. Merely taking a vitamin D supplement could help those who are deficient from dying of Covid-19. There is no evidence, however, that Vitamin D prevents getting the virus, and certainly no evidence that mega-doses of this vitamin do any good. See:

 Vitamin D Deficiency and Covid-19

 

The restaurant industry has been especially hard-hit by the pandemic. Food and fear don't mix. Even with no government ordered lockdowns many customers are likely to avoid restaurants and other public places until there is a vaccine, or other effective treatments.

 

The new sanitation technologies discussed above could be deployed in restaurants, hotel lobbies, airports, planes and other public spaces to create and maintain safe environments that minimize pathogens and the risk of contagion. Wearing a mask would become far less important if indoor environments are kept clean and virus-free.

 

Government should recognize and reward businesses that adopt these (expensive) technologies through a certification process. Governments should work with business in constructive ways that help rebuild public confidence and trust and expedite the arrival of a happier future for everyone.

 

 

A SAFE BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR GRANDMA

(Achieved when science, business and government all work together constructively)

 Safe Birthday 960

 

Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world. Science is the highest personification of the nation because that nation will remain the first which carries the furthest the works of thought and intelligence.

Louis Pasteur

 

 

LEGAL DISCLAIMER

George Adams
Certified Public Accountant Master of Business Administration
Tel: (207) 989-2700 E-Mail: GeorgeAdams@IntelligenceForRent.com
450 South Main Street: The HQ of IQ
Brewer, Maine 04412-2339

©2015 Copyright George Adams CPA MBA. All Rights Reserved.

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