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

Mar 16, 2020 · 760 comments
Paul (washinton)
It is said that economists know the price of everything and the value of nothing. I have two close friends who have been preemptively diagnosed with the virus. As I write this there were 366 new cases overnight. If you know people who have been felled by COVID-19 how can you ask such a question?
gratis (Colorado)
@Paul : Have they been "felled"? The young and healthy can show no symptoms, or very mild ones. But, if they are older, "felled" could be unfortunately appropriate. Economic consequences are hard to determine, even in clear cut cases.
Louis (Denver, CO)
@Paul, Many people who work in the service industry: e.g. restaurants, retail, hospitality, etc, live on the margins and can't go weeks without a paycheck--unemployment is usually a fraction of what you normally get paid so it may not be enough to cover expenses. Some of these people could literally end up homeless without sufficient assistance--by being unable to make their rent or mortgage payment and subsequently being evicted or foreclosed on. When people are losing their jobs and being forced to endure major economic hardship, they're going to ask why.
Sb (New York)
@Paul I agree . When you are not symptomatic it all seems overboard . But as soon as you present debilitating symptoms, another tune will be sung. I have experience corona symptoms and have been quarantined , it is pretty bad and wouldn’t wish anyone to get it . Especially the elderly and immunocompromised that are extremely vulnerable
JSW (Seattle)
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.
Anthony (AZ)
@JSW You are correct, but I don't think human behavior is exclusively an American problem.
Paul (California)
@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".
Raymundo (Earth)
@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.
Jay Fox (NYC)
"Dr. Thunstrom was in her kitchen, drinking coffee" Meanwhile, my brother and his wife are doctors at Kaiser in the Bay Area where the ICU is over 100% capacity. They have no goggles. They don't have enough masks and are re-using them while making life or death decisions. They don't have time and are asking me to go online to search for goggles and masks. They're also trying to find the time to buy life insurance. So yea, it's a taboo question, and you shouldn't be asking it.
Grace Knight (Perkinsville, VT)
Thank you. My husband is an emergency room physician. It is taking 3 days for test results to come back and the hospital is going through unnecessary quantities of masks, gowns, and goggles until test results come back negative. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is postponing elective surgeries not because of lack of doctors and nurses, but for lack of gloves, masks, and gowns. Please have the economists focus on how to get enough tests, rapid test results, and more protective equipment to hospitals. My husband updated his will on March 2. He did not have time to meet with a lawyer, so he wrote it himself and had the town clerk witness it.
Alice Cook (Austin, TX)
thank you @jay fox. my two brother-in-laws are hospital doctors. one does a lot of intovating of patients. to protect his family he is isolating himself with no contact with his kids. and at this moment two doctors lie in critical condition. and we will expect these doctors to triage who lives and dies based on who gets a ventilator. many deaths will be under 50... agreed, this question should not be asked. find something else to ponder while these Americans are risking their life to save yours.
ScaredyCat (Ohio)
@Jay Fox My husband is a doctor and will begin to be exposed to not only the virus but people who aren’t symptomatic yet want the test. Add to that a staff barely able to follow basic instructions when things are “normal” and he’s concerned about a mess. Not all staff need to be in his office but he practices with two other physicians whose philosophies differ—one will try to do everything, including testing of a symptomatic staff members who are justifiably worried, but to the detriment of having testing available for patients. My husband would like to use a FaceTime software for some visits so vulnerable patients can avoid going out but the hospital/healthcare group has been slow to okay these basic changes, making it necessary to adopt “gonzo” or rogue practices while waiting for everyone else to catch up. I say this because altho I half believe in prayer, I want you to know we’re thinking about you and are willing to do what we can to help. If you read this, any advice?
Larry (Left Chicago’s High Taxes)
the Democrats see a proper reaction as suspension of the Constitution, confiscation of all private property, nationalization of businesses, and abolishing the rule of law
Larry Thiel (iowa)
People need to get over their panic. If a bunch of 80 year olds die from the cornavirus, I got news for you. The next bad thing that happened to them was going to kill them anyway. You can't destroy the economy to save a few people from this. You're going to find out in a big way, that it is not worth it.
Stephen (Brooklyn)
Misanthropy isn’t a very endearing quality. Try sharing this view with 10 of your closest friends and see what happens.
JW (Atlanta, GA)
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.
Some Dude (CA Sierra Country)
@JW A good reminder to supply side believers that demand is the actual driver of the economy.
Suzanne (undefined)
@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.
Suzanne (undefined)
@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.
Max Collodi (Philadelphia)
Of course. It's Obama, Soros and the Democrat party trying to undermine the greatest president in history.
jb (ok)
@Max Collodi , sarcasm or madness? We really can’t tell anymore—plenty of both on tap.
AM (Stamford, CT)
@Max Collodi haha, yes obviously a dastardly plot.
Larry (Left Chicago’s High Taxes)
The reason behind the unhinged hysteria is that the Democrats need it
jzim (New Orleans LA)
so this didn't really happen? Two Emergency Room Doctors Are in Critical Condition With Coronavirus
Meh (East Coast)
Need it for what? Even Newt Gingrich is taking it seriously.
Bach (Grand Rapids, MI)
@Larry Yes And taxes are the price one pays for civilization, like public health systems.
Larry (Left Chicago’s High Taxes)
The Democrats desperately need and want a crisis.
Mimi (Queens, NY)
Perhaps. It would be a mistake, however, as history shows that voters tend to be averse to a shift in leadership during a crisis, and vote in favor of the incumbent.
Meh (East Coast)
Sure, Larry. I remember the Republican hysterics over mustard and a tan suit. I guess two can play that game, except this one seems a little more life and death than Michelle's bare arms. I have a grandchild with a congenital heart condition.
tanstaafl (Houston)
@Larry That's why people are dying in Iran and they've shut down that country--Hillary Clinton asked them to.
George Orwell (USA)
Is America Overreacting to Coronavirus? Yes. To put things in perspective: The swine flu infected 60,000,000 Americans during the Obama presidency. The swine flu killed 12,000 Americans during the Obama presidency.
Charles Packer (Washington, D.C.)
The chilling thing about this episode isn't the possibility of actually catching the flu-like disease. Rather, it's the speed with which the topic has totally saturated the news media worldwide.
kkth1866 (NYC)
Yes, it's very nice that college students are unlikely to die from COVID-19, but colleges also have administrators, janitors, faculty, cafeteria workers, security guards, landscapers, IT people........
MorganMoi (Pacific Northwest)
It's clear this thing is dangerous to old folks like me. But from what I can research, this is the 6th corona virus to go through in my lifetime. Remember the other five? This article overestimated the fatality rate as evidenced by China and under reported the death rate from this nation's flu season which is estimated elsewhere as 56,000. Is the big news, the death of objective media and the mass hysteria it is profiting from by generating? Shrug... Guess we'll see...
Alex (Seattle)
When this whole thing blows over, like every public health scare we have does, we will be left wading through the ashes of a crippled economy worse than the great recession. THAT is when the real panic will settle in, and that is when the realization of how overblown this whole thing is will hit everyone. We destroyed the economy for what? The youth will blame those in charge for hurting their future (again) and help finalize the generational shift. It's time to usher out the old fuddy-duddy's of into the sunset for they can no longer manage anything.
Charles Packer (Washington, D.C.)
How long will it be before somebody asks about the origin of "social distancing"? So far, journalists are using it as if it was always there. I couldn't help but notice that it's the exact inverse of social media, whose inventors say they want to "connect the world together."
Mark Fishaut MD (Friday Harbor, WA)
Dr. Campbell is wrong in two ways. First the issue with young people is not that they will get sick but that there is plenty of scientific backing for the benefits of social distancing in delaying transmission of the virus. Second, if he can't possibly teach an introductory biology class without modification is absurd.
W. Ogilvie (Out West)
This is called a "novel" coronavirus which means its exact characteristics are not known. Politicians and medical experts can give opinions, but they are based on current projections, not precise science. We are using an abundance of caution which may be over reacting, but who knows?
Pat Goudey OBrien (Vermont)
SLOWING the spread so we don’t flood medical facilities is the name of this closure game. It’s not over-reacting. It’s preventing our hospitals from having to do triage and let a lot of us die. Get real.
Kno Yeh ('merica)
The people are overreacting because the Federal government underreacted. Personally, If the we had proper, intelligent leadership that took the advantage of the 2 week window and geared up on testing and n95 masks, I would be a whole lot less worried.
HAR (Fair Lawn NJ)
re: de Blasio "reversing himself": No, we misuse logical terms because they have been abused and degraded by the bluster and lying in politics. De Blasio laid out a rational chapter and verse explanation of the many reasons that he was trying to keep schools often, and then when the situation changed enough that the pluses-and-minuses calculations no longer worked in that direction (and those same calculations had also influenced the governor to issue edicts on a statewide level) he CHANGED COURSE to adapt to the ever-changing realities (rather than "staying the course" as some people do to show "strength" but also show stupidity by ignoring reality). True strength also needs flexibility.
Mike (Columbia, MO)
i think it comes down to lawyers - schools, companies, events are worried about lawsuits. "You made me attend, I got sick, it's your fault". Unfortunately, that is in our culture.
dmj (NJ)
Here in New Jersey Stop & Shop, a regional grocery chain, has set aside the hours of 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. only for people 60 years of age and older to encourage social distancing and to make food available. Excellent idea that should be broadly implemented.
MikeH (Upstate NY)
In a situation like this, I'd rather listen to the head of NIAID than some economist.
David J. Krupp (Queens, NY)
First we need more detailed facts about convid-19 in the USA. 1. What are the ages of all people who have died due to conoid-19? 2. How many people have been hospitalized due to convid-19 per week? 3. How many school children and college students have died due to convid-19? 4. Are these treatment for the seasonal flu effective against conoid-19: Tamiflu, Relenza, Rapiuab and Zofluza? 5. How many people have died of the seasonal flu this season?
Luze (Phila)
The New York Times is tracking this: you can find it on their site: they have been doing it since the first case. I watched last week as 300 became 600 and on and on. Every morning there are new cases.
David J. Krupp (Queens, NY)
First we need more detailed facts about convid-19 in the USA. 1. What are the ages of all people who have died due to conoid-19? 2. How many people have been hospitalized due to convid-19 per week? 3. How many school children and college students have died due to convid-19? 4. Are these treatment for the seasonal flu effective against conoid-19: Tamiflu, Relenza, Rapiuab and Zofluza? 5. How many people have died of the seasonal flu this season?
Joe (Los Angeles)
In the face of all evidence, some Americans choose ignorance. Our president is the poster child for this approach.
Tom Gable (San Diego, California)
The story quotes the EPA estimating the value of a life at $9 million. Can the economists figure out the cost of the shutdowns to the world economy and individual national economies in trillions of dollars in lost market value, declining values of pension and retirement plans, lost wages, declining commerce, increased healthcare costs and putting additional pressures on those in lower income brackets who will need future government assistance? Create a chart to show the growing estimated losses versus the number of cases treated, or some other measurement, and cost per case? What about surging government deficits from declining tax revenues and increased costs? The overreacting question is relevant and needs some means of measurement.
Singlespeedd (Southern California)
Let's see...The largest groupings of health compromised individuals, without access to even basic health care or basic sanitary facilities, who "dine" in close contact missions and soul kitchens are not even being addressed pro-actively by the politician's of those cities. Compassion would entail quarantining them in a now shuttered, fully equipped, climate controlled sporting facility, before it establishes a foothold in the encampments and runs rampant when they flee to other encampments to avoid the virus, making it impossible to track. I have yet to see any politician of a large city address this coming "Perfect Storm" of spreading the virus and overloading our hospitals. Perhaps the silence of these politicians is their solution to the homeless crisis.
Luze (Phila)
I don’t know. What is the alternative- wait and find out if we didn’t do enough? Right now I’m worried I won’t ever see my father again. I want to see him but until we can be tested easily there is no other way to do this.
Organic Vegetable Farmer (Hollister, CA)
As a farmer whose business is being destroyed by the panic and paranoia, and who has followed information from the beginning. I would like to suggest two items. First, testing using the tests developed internationally was needed when the first cases were seen in the US. Widespread testing like South Korea. Second, the economic destruction we are seeing already with widespread job losses and NO social safety net for those of us who are self-employed, lack of access to testing for nearly all and little health care for many still, how could the shutting of much of the economy be beneficial. I work 13-16 hours a day, 6 and a half days a week supplying food and my workers work hard, yet we are not compensated for our efforts, instead Trump denigrates our immigrant workforce. My restaurant customers are closed and people are trying to shut down farmers markets as somehow just an event rather than an essential sources of fresh and healthy food provided in a safe environment - out of doors! Folks, it is too late for these draconian measures to help us, they only hurt us. Testing in January would have nipped this in the bud. Yes, wash hands. Yes, get everyone tested with fast results tests. Yes, if a person is contagious (before the symptoms appear according to experts and not after they appear), don't go out then. No don't shut down society and send us into a nationwide depression, financial and mental.
Luze (Phila)
We need food. There has to be a way to sell your food. Food stores are not closing. A farmers market is much safer. Also how does the virus survive on cardboard or paper ? If it doesn’t if you’re produce is wrapped in this then you are ok. I may have to sell my house. Luckily I have a couple of months of funds thru w project and thru gardening for private clients. All of that will dry up so I need to think long term. The only thing I can think is to sell my house if I must. What people are terrified of- and rightly so- is having another situation like Italy. Bodies piled up in the morgue . They can’t even keep up w the death.
Baboo Gingi (New York)
Shutting of Fox News in January would have helped a lot....
Emory (Seattle)
Provide bonuses (greater than cost of daycare) to all medical staff treating virus patients. Steer gloves, the good masks, etc to those workers. Keep the hospitals as busy as possible without being overloaded. "Flatten the curve" = flatten the economy = most widespread pain. The steeper the curve, the more immune people. Maybe there are ways to give the virus to young people yet keep them away from old people for 2 weeks.
Larry (Left Chicago’s High Taxes)
America is far better off than anywhere else because of the inspiring leadership of President Trump, our capitalist economy and our private healthcare system, the envy of the world!
Joe (Los Angeles)
I trust this is sarcasm. USA healthcare: Highest costs. Worse outcomes. Disparity is to blame. And the GOP only hates socialism for people. Not their corporate overlords. Get ready for corporate bailouts. The people will get crumbs.
mary bardmess (camas wa)
Considering that the Trump administration denied, dithered and lied for 8 weeks, I don't think American can be accused of an overreaction. We should be really really angry.
MBurr (CT)
The low-information citizen is bold in their ignorance and mistrust of intellect, expertise and science. I find they can't be reasoned with, especially now that the we have a Low-Information President who champions and embodies their worldview. The only way they'll learn is the hard way and they'll end up blaming others, and Trump will be directing the blame shortly. So in the end, they'll never learn because anti-intellectualism is the core of their being. Read Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter from 1962 to see that this tribe has been around since Colonial times.
Bhaskar (Dallas, TX)
To democrats who keep saying: "Viruses have no walls, let's have open borders." If that is true, why are countries world wide shutting their borders? Even Europe and Canada think borders and walls are good. It just proves Trump was right all along about borders, walls, and travel ban.
ben (nyc)
Bhaskar, China wasn't on the list. Trump wanted a wall with Mexico.
K Crow (Philadelphia)
No one says that.
John (NYS)
U. S. cases per capita are much lower than many European countries perhaps because the U. S. shut down travel from China. The U. S. has 14.1 per million. The numbers for European countries include: Germany(101.6), Italy (NA), France (86.8),U. K. (22.7), Spain (212.6). This would also explain why we shut down travel with Europe later than the U. K. Viruses are subject to borders to the same degree as the human hosts that carry them. Allowing travel from hot zones to avoid the appearance of racism is political correctness taken too far. Infections can spread exponentially and a delay in their peak can buy valuable time as vaccines and therapies are developed. Delaying infections buys time to prepare hospitals and reduce immediate demand to levels closer to hospital capacity.
Jagan (Portland, OR)
Here is the thing...If this crisis (virus panic, drag the economy to a crawl, stock market crash) doesn't bring down the Trump administration or put a dent to his approval rating for the coming 2020 elections, what else is left for his opponents ? An engineered Nuclear war ? Is it worth the price main street pays for your Ivory tower games? Granted its not 1789 (French revolution). But do you really want to push the masses in that direction who r tired of your shenanigans ?
HG (Bowie, MD)
@Jagan Interesting that you think the whole world is cooperating to bring down the Trump administration. The more than 7000 people who have died so far must have really hated Trump.
Wes (Palo Alto)
Yes we're overreacting. Shutting down all public places/events is like avoiding cholera by not drinking water indefinitely. We're cutting off our nose to spite out face. Destroying the economy and disrupting normal life. Those who feel they absolutely need to avoid getting sick should stay home, the rest of us should be allowed to make our own decisions.
David Mangefrida (Naperville, IL)
You have completely missed the point of all of this haven’t you? The point is not to keep you well; the point is to prevent you from spreading it to people who will die.
@Wes In a situation like this, you making "your own decisions" affects those "who feel they absolutely need to avoid getting sick." You are not a rugged individual whose status is exclusive from the well being of your larger community. I am so tired of hearing tough-guy arguments from people who think they should be left alone to take risks if they so choose. You might stay completely symptom free through all of this, but a cavalier attitude opposed to preventative measures will harm your fellow Americans.
Sparky (NYC)
@Wes Making your own decision means your body may become a de facto machine gun, spreading the virus to more vulnerable people while facing no consequences yourself. Does your thinking include that you may unwittingly harm, hospitalize or even kill others? If we had better testing, we would have a more complete analysis, but based on existing information, current actions seem prudent.
Larry (Left Chicago’s High Taxes)
Fortunately President Trump has saved tens of millions of lives by repealing the mindless regulations and oppressive taxes Obama imposed on innovation, discovery, and progress
@Larry: Because clearly we didn't need a rapid-response pandemic team, did we? If you believe Trump, there is no pandemic - and if there is, we don't have it - and if we do have it, it's perfect and he has it 100% under control. And you can see for yourself how perfectly Trump has this situation under control. He also has his followers under his mind-control.
Richard Ralph (Birmingham, AL)
The panic is doing a lot more damage to human lives than the disease... for those who are comfortably well off, the COVID is little more than an inconvenience, but for people living on the financial margins and just trying to get by week-to-week who lose their jobs, the economic effects of the panic (not the disease!) are going to be truly awful.
Steve (Western Massachusetts)
@Richard Ralph Right. So don't panic. Just follow the precautions prescribed by the experts. And yes, we do need to support the people on the financial margins better, just without resorting to panic.
Beth (Boston)
@Richard Ralph people living on the financial margins do not have health insurance & if we don't flatten the curve here, will die because they cannot have access to necessary medical attention. Much more dire than the financial hardship they will endure. A little "inconvenience?" Try telling that to the well-off northern Italians who are watching their elderly die-off in droves.
Charles (Minnesota)
@Richard Ralph We're still in the first inning... Listen to the medical experts.
Carol Robinson (Plantation, FL)
Are the people who ask "Are we overreacting?" going to come to the ICU to help decide who gets a ventilator and who doesn't?
GH (Pittsburgh)
@Carol Robinson that is over the top. What they are saying is precisely to avoid that kind if hyperbole and made some sober calculations. I would add that the additional question is about diminishing returns. How much is too much and when does too much become harmful. These are serious questions. An uncalibrated response can do serious harm.
Joe C (Midtown)
@Carol Robinson Are the people who are saying we must "Cancel Everything" going to continue to pay small businesses and hourly workers for services they can no longer provide, or at least but them a sandwich after they've all gone bust?
Steve (Idaho)
@GH seems perfectly on point to me.
Less than 1000 sick in New York State with a population of over 16 million yeah over reaction is a good word
Charles Hodge (Edgartown, MA)
@EAH Without adequate testing we have no idea what the denominator is and therefore no idea if our measures are working or how to compare the value of what various states do and do not do. We cannot answer this seemingly rational question.
AK (San Francisco)
This is like standing on a beach as the waters recede before a tsunami and saying, "there's no water, how are we going to drown? everyone is overreacting."
Mark Nowotarski (Stamford)
@EAH The issue is not the current amount that are sick, but the rate of growth. As of yesterday, there were 3500 infected people in the US. That number is doubling every three days. Unless a radical change is made to slow the spread, the number of infected will be 140,000 in two weeks and close to 10,000,000 in a month.
Mike Fagan (Fl)
I share everyone's concern about the people in the financial margins. In a more humane country, we wouldn't have so many people in the financial margins. Yes we can have capitalism without a few winners and half the country losers. I would love to believe that that would be a lesson we learn from this pandemic, that we are all only as strong as our weakest link. But as Americans are hoarding necessities and buying guns, I have little faith.
Michael Browder (Chamonix, France)
It's clear that a lot of people just don't understand the statistics of this situation.
Theresa (Virginia)
It’s quotes from the professor in the article calling this a disease instead of what it is, a virus, and the Times either not catching it or being perfectly fine with keeping it the way it is; that fuels the overblown reaction by citizens. I’ve seen countless articles by MSM with the express purpose of misleading the public. Shameless especially given the enormous long term impact this will have on our economy and the lives of the working class.
Mountain Dragonfly (NC)
When a hurricane is approaching, we, the "greatest nation on earth" rush out to buy water, duct tape, sandbags, etc, etc. When I was a child, there was a story about the ants worker ants and the grasshopper playing his fiddle. Unfortunately, we are a nation run by grasshoppers. Right now, when actual millions of people WILL die, it is time to put the fiddle down, rather than have future generations unable to mourn their ancestors because their graves will be unmarked. And yet, in this moment of crisis, I see our government working purely from a political viewpoint, and too many still protecting a president who is totally incompetent. The only handwashing I see him doing is one of responsibility and competency. His late to the table directives are positions he has been forced into, and has trouble delivering to the public because it is probably the first time he has faced them. And all those people who don't want "big government"? How is local government working for ya? There are hero governors, but the coffers of many states are fed from the fed down. How much is too much control? The current panic is because we didn't control soon enough. The number of deaths that will result, and the financial disaster that will ensue is because we don't like being told to go to our rooms for our own safety, and sneak out the window after the door is closed. We all need to take a deep breath and realize that our lives depend on sweeping restrictions. Wake up, America!
Emory (Seattle)
@Mountain Dragonfly I mostly agree, but the flatter curve just means a few more will survive (due to better care in hospitals not overwhelmed). I think more will die from the indirect effects of unemployment than are saved by the flatter onset curve. I would prefer Mother Nature's way.
Dr. John (Seattle)
The MSM is now shifting their attention to the severe economic damage this over-reaction is causing our daily service and restaurant workers. Why didn’t they think of this sometime over the last two weeks?
Larry (Left Chicago’s High Taxes)
@Dr. John they didn’t think of it because they are economically illiterate
Per Axel (Richmond, VA)
OK, so you do not want to do what we say. Until you can be arrested, that is your choice. But if you willingly expose yourself against the governments gives advice, and this advice is also in agreement with medical school/CDC guidance, then you have a problem. The biggest problem I see is why should your term or whole life insurance pay out to your estate when you have not followed guidelines given out by the government? The insurance comnpanies could turn this into an "act of God" situation where they do not have to pay. You had all better READ just what your life insurance policies say. Incidents of Acts of War, or Acts of God [ floods, hurricaines and the like ] are seldom covered. Let me throw this out alsol, what about acts of terrorism? Will you insurance cover them? Call you agent and make them sweat!!
Rebecca (Berkeley)
There is one area which hasn’t been well thought through. College students are being sent home. Most don’t want to return to parents and infect them if they’re carriers. My daughter who is attending Cal Poly, in San Luis Obispo, Ca, is very upset because her bio classes can’t be taught online next quarter. She was very much looking forward to them. Her university has just suspended school indefinitely but at least through to summer. She also loses her housing there as everyone will leave. Her life has been upended. She doesn’t want to come home. She wants to be in college. She also doesn’t want to risk infecting her older parents either. Some of the older professors apparently had told the students if they travelled on spring break to not come back. This was later followed with an end to all classes and thus no return to campus after spring break or for next quarter. She is going to a mountain cabin on the coast for the break, packing up everything before she leaves, but has no idea where she’ll go after. For college students this is enormously challenging and I think there could have been other protocols put in place without full closures of classes.
Luze (Phila)
Alfred university sent kids home- to NYC- where there were more cases than in the teeny tiny upstate town. Why didn’t they just keep the kids there ?
Sandy (Oberlin, OH)
Maybe for the next 6 months, the federal government can send $2,000 per month to every working age person who earned less than $50,000 last year.
Jonathan (Oronoque)
@Sandy - That would work if money were magic. But if people are not working, fewer goods and services are being produced, so less is available, and therefore someone has to consume less.
Theresa (Virginia)
Wow Jonathan. So people who make minimum wage and are now not working because their place of work shuts down, should “consume less”? By that, you mean eat less? What you describe is classic supply and demand. By giving people a stipend, you are increasing demand which keeps supply chain moving.
Larry (Left Chicago’s High Taxes)
@Theresa so you’re going to pay them?
Markus F. Robinson (Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania)
Are we overreacting is not a taboo question, it is an inane question under the circumstances. Why? We are under attack by this virus. But with a relatively infinitesimal number of tests for the virus have been performed. We are fighting blind. We have no reconnaissance out there figuring out what the enemy is doing. So everyone has to assume that the enemy is behind every bush. That's why people are panicking and that's why we are currently losing. After Pearl Harbor the nation pivoted to a war footing in less than a month. We've been facing the coronavirus catastrophe since early January. What's most different is the apparent almost complete inaction of the Fed to begin really shifting resources to fight back, and to mobilize the American people. Even now, it is more a fear reaction, calling on us to mobilize in place, hunker down, hide, rather than pitching it as each of us now must do our part, help our neighbors and nation get through this. Trump spouts a few platitudes, but really what he said when he told the governors to go and find respirators themselves, is, "folks you're on your own, I'm not going to make this happen." Contrast that to what is happening across America, from state and local elected officials to corporations. In the absence of leadership, they are leading thank God. And finally even Fox news is changing its tune. Reality has a way of forcing people to do that when the possibility of their loved one's dying becomes real.
Rebecca (Berkeley)
America has under-reacted for too long. We are still under-reacting unless we have flattened the curve. Look how a doctor in an NYT article today has two masks left he must reuse? That’s a pathetic show of support for our health workers whom we expect to rally to our defense when we fall. Look at the gear they wear compared to other countries. Their often exposed arms, faces and clothing even when removing infected dead bodies. Compare the photos of health workers in Italy, Ireland, South Korea, China, with those in the US. Who said we’re overreacting ? The US should immediately provide all health workers with full-body protective gear, googles, masks, and face shields, ( see drive-through testing gear in South Korea for appropriate gear) and new changes of scrubs, plus showers, washing machines and driers. They should buy from wherever they can or make them. Also build extra health facilities Now. Sink billions back into the health departments and staffing. Create drive- through testing. Nationwide. And all across America health admins are still asking: have you been in China or travelled out of the country recently? Who said we were overreacting ? Do they understand community transmission for this virus ? The Case Curve? The trajectory we are now on?
Giovanni Ciriani (West Hartford, CT)
One thing I know for sure is that the food hoarding that is happening in the US is not happening in Italy, according to my several daily contacts with friends and relatives there, health professionals and lay people. I think that the federal government is not coordinating well the response, because its message is muddled, lacks clarity and often reverses itself, and which reflects the lack of character at the top.
Rebecca (Berkeley)
Nor are people in other countries buying up all the guns they can find.
My hope is that testing will increase to the point that we can eventually start to pinpoint and isolate only people who actually have the virus. Someone somewhere must be running models to determine the percentage of people who need to be testing vs. level of social distancing measures vs. healthcare capacity.
You have to have lived through a few epidemics to get a feel for the reaction to this pandemic. And believe me, the reaction to COVID-19 is far greater, far more oppressive and far more invasive than any others in the past thirty years, including the more deadly (but less contagious) SARS epidemic. Are we overreacting? Like all regulatory actions, it depends on what we choose to normalize. For example, we know with certainty that dropping the speed limit from 70 to 55 will save many lives. Sounds reasonable, so some advocate we return to a national speed limit of 55. But dropping the speed limit to 20 will save even more lives. Of course we don’t want to drive that slow because of a lot of very good reasons. So we’re willing to sacrifice lives for convenience and economic gain. The calculus is always performed this way. Right now we’re listening to the advice of health care professionals who are trained to save lives, no matter the cost and no matter how remote the risk. And the cost of drastic action is irrelevant. We’ve normalized influenza, even though it’s deadly to many, but COVID-19 is novel. But nothing is so simple. The course we are on has a very grave risk that must be observed: credibility and the next pandemic. If we overreact to this one, the public will remember by ignoring the same advice the next time around.
WYChris (Wyoming)
How many will die from suicide because of the economic fallout? Or from social isolation? How many will become severely depressed? How many will die because they will not or cannot go to the doctor or hospital for their routine health care? The ancillary “death costs” haven’t been taken into consideration. I still question the benefits of the severity of these massive lockdowns.
Harry B (Michigan)
Economists sitting in their million dollar Wyoming ranch, contemplating over reaction. Come to my hospital and volunteer, without personal protective equipment. Then we can talk.
Celeste (Ct)
The more I think about it, the more I think we should have just let it run it's course with some general precautions for the high risk people, and WAY better help to protect our health care workers. At this point we have literally killed our economy to save, generally, a lot of old people. (I'm saying this as an oldish person in a high risk group on immunosuppressants. I feel it's on me to protect myself at this point, which I have been trying to do.) In the meantime, entire businesses have been or will be devastated and never recover, especially small businesses, service industry etc. My daughter works in a small business that has already laid off half of the employees and it probably won't make it after years of hard work and success. Her S.O. is a sous chef in a previously successful restaurant which is also now closed and there's a high probability it also won't make it. All of their peers are in similar situation, with the very real possibility of not being able to pay next months rent. And this is the new reality for MILLIONS. We need a massive cash bailout for regular people immediately. They may not have gotten the disease (yet?) but their lives are being destroyed as we speak.
chaunceygardiner (Los Angeles)
Greetings, friends -- The death rate (deaths/number of infections) from the 2009 H1N1 "swine flu" was (per CDC estimates) 0.020%, about five *lower* than the rate of fatality from your average flu season. Meanwhile, the 1958 pandemic seems to have harsh. Given 20% of the population was infected, the death rate was 0.32%, more than three times that of an average flu season. The 1968 pandemic was less harsh than the 1958 pandemic. So far the numbers streaming in from JHU suggest that the current COVID-19 looks a lot more like the 2009 pandemic. The ratio of deaths to "confirmed cases" is asymptotically approaching something lower than 3%. Note that most cases do not go detected. For example, the CDC guesses that between 40 million and 90 million people were infected with H1N1. It puts it's point-estimate at just over 60 million. That is, the CDC believes that 20% had been infected with H1N1. There were over 200,000 hospitalizations. That is, out of about 60 million people, 200,000 got sick enough to merit going to the hospital. Of those 200,000+, 12,469 died -- about 4% of hospitalizations. 4% sounds scary, but keep in mind that another 60 million infected people did just fine. Then the other 260 million people did not even get infected. H1N1 now floats around the globe every year. It is part of our environment. Indeed, H1N1 is now incorporated into the annual cocktail that is the flu vaccine. (Blessed are the Cheese Makers and the Vaccine Makers.)
wjth (Norfolk)
This makes sense to me. We should quarantine the over 65's and let the virus role through the population as they go through their everyday lives. By all means take some action to eliminate less economically impactful actions but these should be very few and would not include closure of schools and colleges. It then becomes a very bad flu season.
Sandy (Oberlin, OH)
It should be mentioned that limiting in-person social interactions is about more than avoiding virus germs. It also helps those diagnosed with this new virus to recall the individuals they have been in contact with. Being able to successfully warn and test these potential carriers is a huge part of stopping the spread.
karen (Florida)
As a mom of many children and older and younger grandchildren, I cannot believe how "put out" they feel. One daughter in law is taking it seriously. And the rest think it's overrated. These are the same idiots who never get a flu shot and won't get the coronavirus vaccine either. These kids have never been through a real crisis and hopefully this may just be a wake up call. I don't want any of them around me for awhile. My oldest in his mid forties listens to right wing media and faux news of course so that's to be expected. The rest of them are normal.
John (Baltimore)
let's just do whatever we want. we're Americans we the best. all hail the individual....
Dr. John (Seattle)
Just because you tested negative yesterday does eliminate the possibility you were infected later in the day or will be infected today, and would test positive 3-4 days from now. Is it over-reacting to mandate testing for everyone, under force of law, every week or every other week?
ggallo (Middletown, NY)
Anybody looking towards our president for any leadership has NOT been paying attention. On Friday, our president handed the podium over to our vice president during that press conference (or whatever you wanna call it). That was one of the best moments of his presidency; for us, that is. Didn't he use some excuse like, "I gotta go make some phone calls?" Our president is constantly trying to sell us the worst used car on the lot. And in spite of the fact many of us don't want to buy it, we keep coming back to listen to the sales pitch.
Michael (Europe)
$9 million per person, and 2.7 million deaths = $24.3 trillion. In comparison, the entire Dow-Jones market cap -- and the largest businesses added together -- is about $6.5 trillion. So, even going by this economists measure, yes - it makes sense. At a deeper level, sitting here sheltered as an American expat in France watching people rush home for the shut-in that just started, the US looks like literally insane. Disney will open again, ball games will be played, restaurants will reopen. Paying all the people affected will cost a lot less than $24.3T. But reducing everything to money is perverse. Hopefully, if anything, this virus will open a new way of thinking.
Lizhud (Cincinnati OH)
How can you overreact when you look at countries where they are reading pages after pages of obituaries and stacking up their dead as they are doing in Italy? How can you overreact when science says that even those without coronavirus will die in overtaxed hospitals that can easily be overburdened? If we look at the economics, we might find a reason to say that letting the virus take its course will somehow be better in an economic equation, but the long-term trauma of losing scores of loved ones and community members--and let's not forget this is a virus that has killed in all age groups, and all walks of life, including our health care workers--and knowing we could have made a difference, would affect us for generations.
CMR (Brooklyn)
The article’s question is a fair one. There is SOME level of overreacting. The numbers of infected vs. those who have died is a bit distorted. In Italy for example, many of the dead are elderly people with compromised systems. When the news report stats, it usually has to do with known infection vs. death... if we include population total, the outcome is much different. Of course, we all need to be cautious and follow the advise of the scientific community but like the comments of so many, the devastating impact on the lives of so many who simply can’t afford to be out of work will be felt by ALL of us. It breaks my heart to see all the Restaurants in my neighborhood closed...
Anne-Marie Hislop (Chicago)
It is hard, indeed, to do cost-benefit analysis when human lives are part of the cost. On the one hand, a less stringent response would cost more lives. On the other hand, this response may ruin lives by bringing people to the point of losing their homes, their savings or never completing their education (thus setting a life of more struggle). In essence, there is potential for a different "loss of life" in the economic impact. I also wonder where/how it ends (as does everyone). So, my world has closed down. I stay home alone except for a walk or two each day. For how long? I have stocked up to some extent on food - do I eat it now or wait in case I am quarantined later (I can still go to the store for fresh food now)? Some of the businesses which have closed down will surely want to re-open. We have heard time-lines from 2 to 8 weeks or more. Everything is bleeding money...
gth (Greensboro, NC)
Always invert. Consider Type I and Type II errors.
Evidence Guy (Rochester,NY)
The following sentence in the article is somewhat misleading "China’s quarantine measures, a recent paper concludes, helped it cut infections to fewer than two dozen a day from over 3,500 a day in late January." If you look up the linked article, you'll see that they emphasize PRE-EMPTIVE public health measures, i.e. before the virus is circulating in a community. This goes along with the evidence from 1918, where protective sequestration AKA cordon sanitaire (isolating communities) was very successful in delaying exposure until after the deadly second wave of the pandemic. However, the study cited does not provide evidence for social distancing measures AFTER Covid is circulating in a community; in fact, its whole point is to argue against waiting for that. Quoting form the article: "Most countries only attempt social distancing and hygiene interventions when widespread transmission is apparent. This gives the virus many weeks to spread with a higher basic reproduction number (R0) than if they were in place before transmission was detected or widespread. Pre-emptive, low cost, hygiene enhancement and social distancing in the context of imminent community transmission of novel coronavirus COVID-19 should be considered. Early interventions ... might reduce infection risk, ... and result in less severe cases who are less infectious. A pre-emptive phase would also assist government, workplaces, schools, and businesses to prepare for a more stringent phase."
MH McGrath (Smyrna, Delaware)
Algorithms that place a dollar value on a life in policy decisions miss one of the principal underpinnings of our U.S. Constitution, and therefore, our republic. In the Preamble, at the top of the document, is the statement that the nation is being established to “promote the general welfare.” Nowhere in the Constitution does it assign a monetary value to that principle. It is the bedrock of our legal and social contract. The Declaration of Independence puts “life” as the first of the noble phrasing, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Hapiness.” Protecting every life, no matter the cost, is the first and most sacred of the duties of our government. And we can afford it.
Flash Sheridan (Upper East Side)
@MH McGrath We can’t afford _every_ potentially life-saving action. Every public policy decision affecting safety assumes an implicit cost per year of life saved, so rationality must trump sentiment.
Bill (Japan)
I am in Japan and I watched carefully what happened in China from Jan 20. I saw exponential growth with a doubling time of 2.5 days. I watched the quarantine and tried to map the changes as I am a statistician. I tried to measure the effect of the mass exodus from Wuhan of 500,000 people and the the quarantines that were set up. Suddenly around the Feb 3 or 4 it became apparent that the day on day increases were not constant and so the growth appeared to slow from exponential. The doubling time was stretching out. The quarantines were draconian but they seemed to be working. In the US, I feared that they could never be implemented. A divided nation, allegiance to individual freedom, a population that was not insured for medical treatments, homelessness, people working multiple minimum wage jobs without paid sick leave, and a host of other issues. I saw that in China they would enforce quarantines and wondered how well that would go over in a country with 350 million guns. I teach at a university and I just spoke with a student who is in China because he cannot come back here to Japan. He told me that with the help of apps that track people's health condition and location they are starting to be able to let people go back to work but they have been quarantined up until now and all shops, restaurants and supermarkets, even dentists have been shutdown. Therefore I think it is far from overreacting in the US. It is still massively under-reacting. Get it together NOW NOW NOW.
captain (ronk)
I look at it this way - there are 4 scenarios 1) you can get tested and if negative, you have the option of socialization 2) you can get tested and if positive, self-quarantine 3) you can choose not to get tested and if positive, suffer the internal torment of possibly infecting someone else 4) you can choose not to get tested and if negative, be thankful continue to live your life normally
Tara Vamos (Cold Spring)
@captain lol tested. People who have symptoms and have reasons to believe they were exposed report not being able to get tested, as of yesterday, within 50 miles of the Westchester cluster. Better be in Australia or S. Korea if you want a test, they're not here.
BH (Maryland)
@captain testing negative does not mean you can’t get the disease. Going out and socializing after a negative test is not a smart idea.
Victoria (Florida)
They're economists. Need I say more?
David B Miller (Austin TX)
Three troubling questions: 1) Why has the Imperial College London report and model (Corona/DocumentDownloads/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf) that has generated the "Isolate everyone" strategy not been submitted to peer reviewed journals? After all, it has been "informally circulated" for a week among policy makers. Even I, an amateur, can spot some very questionable assumptions. 2) Singapore, Taiwan and especially Korea have instituted very successful "track all the contacts" programs that the report assumes will fail. Evidence for that? Korea is a model that undermines many of the report's assumptions. 3) Any report than assumes the industrial world will essentially go into hibernation for 18 months while we "await the vaccine" is a fantasy. Young people in Austin are already asking why a disease which causes close to zero deaths under 30 should shut down the universe so a bunch of 90 year-olds can live a year-or-two longer. The whispers have reached an almost "Soviet Union near the end" level. Is it true that not one person of Black African descent has died? Africa, with the worst pubic health system in the world, has avoided the whole thing- no shutdowns, no wave of deaths. And Israel is making decisions that assume the London report is simply wrong. Finally the Trump press conference- 40-50 people in the 500 sq ft White House briefing room with the President and his aides a foot apart. Tell me again why the bars are closed?
Jace (Midwest)
There’s an article in yesterday’s edition with these words: “Two emergency medicine doctors, in New Jersey and Washington State, are in critical condition as a result of coronavirus” One was far younger than 60 or 70, the other was in his 70s. When a virus has the power not only to kill but also jeopardize the lives of medical teams what constitutes “ overreaction”? If anything, we haven’t acted quickly enough and what is happening in Italy is only weeks away from happening to us.
Katherine Warman Kern (New York Area)
Another consideration is that healthy people and kids stay healthy by being exposed to viruses and building natural defenses to them. Are we making ourselves more vulnerable to next yea’s cocktail of viruses by avoiding exposure to this one? The flu season has been particularly bad the past two years. Could it be because we are spending less and less time outside and with people? We’re already too isolated?
Caitlin (Madrid, Spain)
As an American in Madrid, I cannot help but feel like I'm watching a train wreck in slow motion with the overly skeptical response in the US. Spain has been on a national lockdown now for a few days, and schools, shops, restaurants, museums, parks and all public spaces closed nearly a week ago. We are only allowed outside (one at a time, no groups allowed) for essential grocery or pharmacy trips or to walk the dog. Is it extreme? Yes. Is it absolutely necessary in order to slow the spread? YES. This is not ideal but please heed the recommendations and learn from what we did right and wrong over here. Just over a week ago we were also still going about our day as usual, as if we were immune to it all. Now we have had to take drastic measures because of our wilfull ignorance. Please do not make the same mistake. We can get through this...wishing you all the best back home!
William (Massachusetts)
@Caitlin I have a friend in Bilbao said the same thing.
Guido Malsh (Cincinnati)
Hindsight being 20/20, and this being 2020, how will the world react to the next pandemic? That's the fundamental question we should all be asking now for when, not if, we must face it again. Haphazardness is hazardous to our health even in an age when we are supposedly at the height of scientific and technological advancement. Mother Nature always outsmarts human nature. Wisdom supported by knowledge is critical to understanding how the world works and how it doesn't. Catastrophes with their attendant panic, chaos and confusion must be anticipated before they can be most efficiently and effectively managed.
Jim Boyken (South Hero Vermont)
If you think as an individual, it is certainly an over reaction. If you think as a member of society, it isn't. The likelihood that you, personally, will die or become severely sick, is low. The likelihood that hospitals are overrun with the vulnerable if we run around shedding microbes, is pretty much certain.
Alienist (CA)
For those fortunate congressmen like Biden who get free government provided healthcare and do not face existential ruin due to for profit healthcare, it’s easy to point the finger at Italy. How about he looks at those countries like the Netherlands And Germany who are better equipped to deal with this crisis than the shambolic for profit US Healthcare system could ever be. They’ll even come up with the vaccine. Just sayin.
Sorengard (NYC)
I'm surprised how little NYT readers have thought through the implications of the actions we have rashly adopted to save ~ 1mn lives (midpoint of CDC analysis). As someone who has been studying labor and demographics for over 40 years, I'm certain the economic impact of the “preventative” measures we have taken will far outweigh the lives we will have saved. You think the Wuhan virus is ugly. Wait till you see tens of millions homeless on the Streets with no medical care. We've cut off our arm to avoid breaking it.
Angry Liberal (Ann Arbor)
@Sorengard You assume the CDC projections are valid. Query: what would the projections look like if the China data were removed/adjusted to take into account the horrible air pollution in Wuhan that ate away at lungs before Covid 19 showed up?
Sorengard (NYC)
@Angry Liberal. Excellent question. Candidly, I think you also have to take into account the prevalence of smoking and the related correlation. My own suspicion is we'll track very closely to South Korea given our demographics, i.e., sub 1% FCR, say ~0.7%. My doomsday model suggest 10mn infections and 150,000 deaths in the next 12 months. I assume a transmission rate of 2.5x, a 21 day incubation period, asymptomatic transmission, and a CFR of 1.5%. Even with these assumptions, I still can't get anywhere close to the CDC's projections and I've been doing these type of analyses for decades. My model was very close on H1N1 and spot-on with SARS. That said, the NYT reported that the CDC's assumptions were reviewed by over 50 experts so they must know what they're doing. Interestingly, the meeting was close door and the CDC will not release the model for peer review. Queue Justice Brandeis on sunlight.
Dave Wharton (Toronto)
Jim Jones had some interesting ideas that challenged the norm too.
Geoff Arens (NYC)
Over reacting and appearing “silly” in retrospect? Collectively, we should be so lucky.
Gaston (San Francisco)
With all due respects, Linda Thunstrom is a swedish educated assistant professor in the business school of an (no offense) less than top top university. She has no credentials in public health or the mathematics involved in predicting the course of pandemics. So why would her opinions be of any interest whatsoever? But in answer to her question about over-reacting, Covid-19 is highly contagious, and it is now impossible to stop the spread of this disease. But if rigorous measures to significantly retard the rate at which it is spreading are not taken, the US public health system could be completely overwhelmed and many people will die who might have otherwise lived, as happened in China. The mortality of a little less than of 1% of the US population is at risk. Is trying to avoid this loss worth risking a recession? Readers, you be the judge.
Bobn (USVI)
I have to say, I would rather take investment advice from an epidemiologist than pandemic advice from an economist.
Jenifer Wolf (New York)
One fix that would help people who lose their incomes because of cover-19 is to go back to 'welfare as we knew it' before Bill Clinton was president. That way all of the necessary steps could be taken to slow the epidemic without people going hungry or without necessary medication.
Sivaram Pochiraju (Hyderabad, India)
John California from California has accused me from spreading false information. This accusation is totally wrong. As such I gave immediate reply as soon as I came to know about it but unfortunately New York Times chose to keep silent till now. I have been writing in the New York Times with utmost responsibility for the past 11 years on various topics. I am a senior citizen of 71 years. I am diabetic and have high B.P for the past 19 years. In spite of corona scare, I go out everyday not only for walking but also for purchasing household goods. I did the same even today. My wife, who is 66 year old suffered from severe cold and cough for three weeks recently. She in fact tried some herbal medicine, which didn’t work. Later she saw a pulmonologist. Only after seeing pulmonologist and after taking antibiotics and other prescribed medicines her cold and cough have subsided but we didn’t run after corona testing. Not everyone needs corona testing. Only those with the symptoms mentioned by me in the comment published few hours back need to undergo testing. If everyone goes after testing for cold and cough, even America simply can’t provide testing facilities to all of them. Further there won’t be sufficient hospital beds left. Those actually in need of testing may not get a chance even.
Gypsy Mandelbaum (Seattle)
Perhaps the contrarians could suspend their disbelief until more is known about the virus. Every day there's new info, including an expanded list of symptoms. I wonder if any of them were ever abducted by aliens or suffered from multiple personality disorder?
Angry Liberal (Ann Arbor)
@Gypsy Mandelbaum And how would you care to pay for that? Its not free.
todd stockstill (Memphis)
Gross over reaction to a problem and danger primarily restricted to those over 70. They and only they are the ones who should self quarantine. Life should otherwise go on as usual. Makes no sense to shut down the country and ruin the economy for the foreseeable future just for the potential benefit of a few. The negative ramifications of the present policies far outweigh the benefits.
Angry Liberal (Ann Arbor)
@todd stockstill Totally agree.
Michael (California)
Finally someone is questioning that wisdom of this panic driven decisions. If emotions were taken out of the panic and look at this health concern in a pragmatic way, decisions would be realistic and still resolve this situation. Everyday 1500 people die because of tobacco use this includes second hand smoke but have we banned cigarettes? No. Yet it affects each and everyone and your health care system. Please will get sick and recover. And sadly some will die. If we put the deaths in prospective and in comparison to other causes of death, will we realize how the decisions made were over done .
Michael Cooke (Bangkok)
When in doubt, panic. At this juncture, nobody knows how many people might be walking around North America with the virus, asymptomatic. And nobody knows what portion of those will ever show severe illness. Random testing has not happened, and until it does, policy makers will continue to respond with either no measures at all, or with potentially unnecessarily draconian measures. Perhaps with good information we would learn that the virus has already spread too far in the USA and Europe to be contained. With that, protecting the most vulnerable, such as the elderly and those with conditions that make them statistically more likely to suffer the most, would become the path forward. We could then hope for some sort of herd immunity in the next iteration of this bug. What a pity that the Americans, and the Italians, failed to test (and to use face masks) while many Asian countries beyond China were proving the benefits.
KCF (Bangkok)
I don't feel I'm a contrarian, but it seems that nearly every western government that's trying to fight this pandemic is doing so from a position of fear and panic. To be clear, I'm not a doctor or epidemiologist, but I spent many years doing threat analysis and mitigation for the US intelligence community. First, the threat from the virus seems to be occupying a 'special' place in our country's threat spectrum. Meaning there's a lot more dangerous things we do everyday and we accept that risk, but not here. There seems to be a zero tolerance policy towards any new cases or deaths. Together traffic accidents, gun violence and the seasonal flu (for which we have a vaccine) kill nearly 100,000 Americans EVERY year. No one has proposed parking all cars, confiscating guns (although that might be good) or shutting down the entire country during each flu season. Second, the mitigation methods being imposed by our panicked leaders are decisive...meaning there's no where to go from there. There were no intermediate steps considered or proposed. The experts feel it may take months for the virus to recede. Is it realistic to immediately tell people to stop working, socializing and remain in their homes....for months? Third, what's the fallout going to be when this passes? People who have lost jobs, their life savings and only to emerge months later into a world wide recession. Widespread civil/political disturbances would not be surprising.
Angry Liberal (Ann Arbor)
@KCF Very well said. I agree with your conclusion that this seems "special", but I cant for the life of me figure out why. CNN and WAPO treated each new case like it was Ebola (which it certainly is not). Is this heightened media emphasis to blame? Don't know. I will be interested to see if the Republican Ohio Governor is successful in halting an election. I'm sure Trump is watching that one... Plus, Putin must be laughing his behind off...
JBC (Indianapolis)
Over the weekend I listened to a group of insurance/accountant types informally run the numbers on the # of people who likely would die if these drastic measures weren't taken versus the total financial costs to the global economy now that they have been, as well as the # of lives affected by the implemented measures. By a narrow vote, the majority decided the overall burden to society would be less if fewer restrictions were put in place even though the loss of life would be rather high. Felt a bit like the lifeboat survival exercise done at leadership conferences ... if throwing two people overboard would save the remaining eight vs all or most likely to drown, who would you toss and using what criteria?
Angry Liberal (Ann Arbor)
@JBC But we silently make that policy choice every day.
Steve Singer (Chicago)
Yes. The shape that the future will take is unknowable. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be called “the future”.
Bella M (Columbia, SC)
The question was asked in a home in Montana! Large state, little population.
Lorraine (Victoria, BC)
To the question "Are we overreacting?", I would point to the link in this article to the story 'Virus Buying - gun shops are seeing a surge in purchases'. I clicked on it and read this: '[He] had never bought a gun before. But last week he was in Larry Hyatt’s gun store in North Carolina, picking out two of them: a 9-millimeter Taurus handgun and an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. His motivation: the coronavirus. Mr. Hill...said he feared that the virus could lead to a breakdown of public order, with looting and robberies and “everything shutting down, like in a zombie movie” where society “just won’t have any sense of lawfulness anymore.” If that's not approaching or arriving at panic, I don't know what is.
John R Hain, MD (Carmel, CA)
There are plenty of instances in medicine where prevailing assumptions leading to erroneous conclusions resulted in harmful practices. Random diagnostic testing for infection and also for evidence of immunity will be necessary in order to critically evaluate the wisdom or folly of the policies that have been suggested to control the spread of COVID-19. To this retired forensic scientist, the jury is still out, for the evidence supplied so far does not convincingly justify the severity of measures being imposed over the entirety of the population.
Carla (USA)
Aren't those of us who are not so immunosuppressed supposed to benefit from a light dose of this viral antigen exposure from family, friends and strangers, while keeping up our immune systems with adequate, regular sleep, good nutrition and calm so that we develop antibodies to different viruses and bacteria? There's a greater percentage of people nowadays who are immune-compromised just because there's a greater elderly population, more people are on immune system-suppressing medications and more people with autoimmune diseases --- so why is it surprising that there might be a possibly higher percentage of serious illness and death with this coronavirus?
Patrick Salbaing (Medellin)
All i know is that obstetricians will be overwhelmed in 9 months!!! It will be called the CV generation
Imelda Fagin (Madrid)
I wonder if that will be so. The population is already down, with people worried about the present economy and the future for their children. I’m not making bets on such an important subject but I think most young people will be More careful.
Patrick Salbaing (Medellin)
@Imelda Fagin so what about divorce lawyers then?
John Smithson (California)
Many people do not remember when AIDS (caused by the HIV) first came on the scene. There was panic like you wouldn't believe. And many did lose their lives, unfortunately. Some still do. It's still a problem. A big problem. But we learned to live with it. We shouldn't panic so much (though it's understandable that we do). We'll learn to live with the corona virus. So far worldwide it has killed 7,173 people (though that is climbing every day). And how many were killed by the flu in the United States alone in 2018? Over 80,000. This corona virus is a serious problem and it needs to be treated seriously. But we are overreacting and our overreaction is causing harm. This is being treated as a political problem, with politicians on both sides trying to score political points by what they do. That's wrong. We need to be better than that.
John California (California)
This is an odd claim, that it is a political problem. Yes, it is political, because power mediates public health measures. But a global pandemic that is on its way to killing hundreds of thousands, probably millions, can’t be explained away or dismissed is “political,”
John Smithson (California)
John California, there's no indication that this virus is going to kill hundreds of thousands or millions of people. There is that possibility, but to act now as though it will happen is to overreact. We overreact all the time for political purposes. Just like George W. Bush did when he invaded and occupied Afghanistan after the Al Qaeda 9/11 attacks. And when we treat doomsayers like Greta Thunberg seriously. Actions should be proportional to the threats they are addressed to.
Michael (California)
@John California No it's not on its way to kill millions. Every 12 seconds someone dies in American. But do we panic to stop these deaths. No we don't.
Ed Rosenberg (Boone, NC)
Will somebody please explain Type I vs. Type II error to these "contrarians"? Would you rather take aggressive precautions to protect you and others or would you rather die? Not a complicated question.
NeilG (Berkeley)
I understand that one of the reasons for our extreme responses is to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed. In my opinion, the reason that that is true is that our hospital industry is effectively unregulated. Hospitals that were not "profitable" have been closed around the country for decades. One lesson from our COVID-19 experience is that we need to regulate hospitals more closely, even if it means making more of them publicly funded.
Nnaiden (Montana)
It's not like we have time to spare debating the stratified economic implications of policy-making for this situation. At this point lead, follow or get out of the way.
Liz (Maine)
I can't believe that anyone would even question these measures after seeing what is happening now, in real time, in Italy. Two weeks ago, many people in Italy were probably wondering if the drastic measures taken by the government were an overreaction. You can bet those same people are not questioning the measures now.
MrsEichner (Atlanta, GA)
We need a balanced approach, and this is not it. Read the excerpts from the "British Report" and you will see that the report, which POTUS is using as a mandate, sets out a long-term, *repeatable* mitigation plan. It's not a "2 weeks and you're done" solution, or anything remotely manageable. It's over and over "until there is a vaccine." By the time there is a vaccine, our economy will be wrecked for the next 10 years. I, and many others over 55, will never be able to retire. If we are lucky to still be employed next year.
howard williams (phoenix)
Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness Without life your retirement plans and my retirement plans are moot. The market is not being stampeded by fearmongering, rather it is telling us just how bad things are. Do you really think our future will be restored if we only calmed down, went out to dinner and took in a show. Our obligation is to use our wealth and knowledge to save as many of our fellow beings as we can. When that’s done, maybe we can wonder if we over reacted.
Cheery (San Antonio)
This is not a taboo question in the very red Texas town I live in. The people in this small town north of San Antonio are firm in their belief that it is totally out of proportion or the even more popular belief, it is a Democratic hoax. I have never been more homesick for the Northeast.
NeilG (Berkeley)
The issues raised in this interesting article point to a more general problem in our society. I am old enough to remember when every decision involved balancing risk and reward, or at least comparing different risks ("risk management"). Now, the overwhelming trend is risk avoidance: if you can identify a risk, you avoid it, and you advise others to avoid it. It is a result of growing perfectionism and fear of litigation. If any doctor advised a patient that he or she did not have to take every measure available to avoid COVID-19, and the patient got sick, the doctor would be sued for everything he had. As a result, our society has lost the tools to balance risks, nowhere worse than in the medical field, and low-paid hourly workers are going to pay the price. They may survive the immediate crisis, but then they may not have the means to survive after that.
Richard Schumacher (The Benighted States of America)
Nahh. This is a good warm-up for the Really Big Disease that is yet to come. Really Big Disease © 1968 The Firesign Theatre
John W (Seattle)
If they don’t want social distancing then they can become volunteers in a coronavirus ward. They’ll have plenty of company.
Sivaram Pochiraju (Hyderabad, India)
There is so much of panic going on throughout globe on account of coronavirus. In the midst of this crisis one wise doctor has clearly made things simple regarding the same. According to him only those people suffering from dry cough, high fever and breathing problems might stand chance of getting coronavirus. They only need getting it tested. Even if a person gets it. there is every possibility of getting recovered under proper medical supervision and isolation. People having cough with sputum needn’t bother at all since they are suffering from some other infection. According to him coronavirus is deadly against senior citizens that too those suffering from high B.P. Diabetes, Cancer etc since they have far less immunity. He further said that it’s just like any other virus and nothing special about it. He has advised people to cough only on their shoulder so that others don’t get affected while they are coughing. Further he has said not to bother about hand sanitizers and that soap solution is suffice to wash hands. I thought of sharing his learned opinion so that there can be some benefit to mankind.
John California (California)
You are describing the symptoms of the virus. If someone has those specific symptoms, these symptoms are consistent with the person ALREADY having the virus. Problem is, many people with the virus are asymptomatic and still capable of spreading the disease. Hence the value of wider testing. Either you are misinterpreting the learned person’s remarks or you are mistaken. Either way, don’t spread misinformation. It can be deadly when combined with the virus. Thank you.
Sivaram Pochiraju (Hyderabad, India)
@John California : Thank you very much for your valuable opinion. I have been writing in the New York Times with utmost responsibility for the past 11 years. I hate to misinform that too in the prevailing circumstances. I am very much fluent in three Indian languages and English. This particular video is in Hindi, a language known to me since my childhood. If everyone with some symptom or the other gets tested for coronavirus, there is every possibility of the really affected people not getting chance to be tested and quarantined. Further there are not enough testing kits and hospital beds available for those affected by coronavirus even in countries like America forget other countries. I will be completing 71 years soon. Moreover I am diabetic and have high B.P for the past 19 years. Still I am doing all outside work in Hyderabad quite freely even under the present scare. Hope you get it.
BH (Maryland)
@Sivaram much respect and blessings upon you. Thank you for your comments.
Moree Spinaro (Portland)
Why is this a "contrarion" view? It seems like a fair discussion if civilization is being brought to a halt by stating spurious numbers that hardly account for accurate stats. Look for articles in Wired, Time, Slate that are beginning to more clearly showcase that this somewhat new strain of Corona family (and much less virulent than the swine flu which killed healthy young people too) may end up with a fatality rate far lower than 1%. In places like South Korea, it's as low as 0.5% already, and even they haven't tested. If the denominator in a "rate" ratio increases, the ratio goes meaningfully down. The denominator for now, ie people tested, is fairly small right now and inaccurate. So: we are essentially affecting the whole world population in order to save the smaller portion of the absolutely most vulnerable. It seems like an unkind thing to day, but policy has to be cold and considered.
Angry Liberal (Ann Arbor)
@Moree Spinaro And dont forget the data skew from the Chinese data based on the deaths in Wuhan, where the nitrogen Dioxide pollution destroyed lungs before Covid 19 ever came along.
Steve (NYC)
I can see how people might think this is anoverreaction or maybe unfair. Young people who get the coronavirus almost never die from it, but old people often do. So the young may wonder why their activities are being restricted. Isn't it the old who should hide themselves away and let the young live their lives?
J (The Great Flyover)
I must say, I really, really hope so...and as bad as this is, I can’t help but believe that with a warming climate and the resulting chaotic affect on the many diverse ecosystems, there’s another something brewing out there that will prove to much worse. Let’s hope “they” learn a lot from countering this one, but observation is not encouraging.
MEC (Hawaii)
The set of measures called social distancing not only can help save lives and reduce pressure on the medical community, but also by flattening the curve, get through the crisis sooner, thus alleviated the economic pain. The pandemic begins to end only when a positive-tested person infects on average less than one other person. The lack of a national strategy has, however, put us behind the curve and meant a hodge-podge of uncoordinated local restrictions that reduce effectiveness. Local actions may hurt economically vulnerable groups that can only get relief through national policies. It is time for people like Trump and Cuomo to stop blaming each other and working together.
Larry (Left Chicago’s High Taxes)
@MEC President Trump and Gov Cuomo are not blaming each other. Both agree President Trump is doing a great job!
Andy Hain (Carmel, CA)
Anyone remember the AIDS crisis, which at first gave a death sentence... but who could you trust to abide by the rules? Not even husbands and wives could trust each other... In comparison, this is like bronchitis.
Peter Vilbig (Providence, RI)
The squib line for the article says contrarians are urging a “more careful” weighing of the costs and benefits, but this isn’t accurate. They’re urging a different calculation, not a more careful one.
Andy Hain (Carmel, CA)
If trump catches it, it could be a death sentence... yet he doesn't care about himself !!! Why can't I continue to enjoy my life, too?
Andy Hain (Carmel, CA)
I thought it was those over age 60 who were at risk... why not ask them to stay home and leave everything open for the younger crowd? There is no point to killing off businesses and our seniors, too!!!
LauraNJ (New Jersey)
I wish they would stop “suggesting” and “urging” people to isolate and instead mandate a lockdown nationwide so we can get through this as quickly as possible and minimize the damage to both human life and our financial lives.
Leeba W (Spring Valley, NY)
Ten years ago 60 million Americans got H1N1. 12,000 died. And yet life went on. Schools shut down for a short time if at all. Businesses stayed open. The media didn't constantly blast about every case or every casualty. And yet we're okay with crashing our entire economy over this virus. Putting millions out of work. Destroying a high number of small businesses. Wiping out the country's life savings. Washing our hands and being vigilant makes sense. This, though, is insane.
Angry Liberal (Ann Arbor)
@Laura Dr. Fauci also said "This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.2"
S. (Denver, CO)
Tonight as I was self-checking out at my local Target store, the young person who was monitoring the transactions coughed - about two feet from me. I said she probably shouldn't be there if she was sick, and she coughed again (this time into her arm, thankfully) and said that she had gone to the doctor because she wouldn't want anyone to have what she had, and the doctor told her it was just an upper respiratory flu. I asked her if she was tested for the virus, and she said no. Cough. Cough.
Laura (Los Angeles, CA)
@S. She probably doesn't have any sick or vacation time. If you don't want her coughing on you, maybe you could chip in and buy her some. Also, remember, the new bill by Congress only covers employers with less than 400 employees, so this poor girl will not be getting any paid time off for being sick during this pandemic. Maybe you should be writing your congress person to let them know what you experienced, and make a call to action to help her. But Instead, it's better and much easier to shame this poor girl in the NYT comment section.
Andy Hain (Carmel, CA)
What good is the testing done this week, when there is no way of preventing those same patients from testing positive two weeks from now?
Jane K (Northern California)
Hence, the reason for isolation for all.
MrsEichner (Atlanta, GA)
@Jane K We can't isolate everybody for 18 months. We can't shut down business until there is a vaccine. The plan the Pres. is using calls for *repeated* bouts of shutdown and movement "freezes", until a vaccine exists. Read the British Report. Excerpts are in the NYT.
Phil (Arizona)
How about this: we go about our lives as normal and 1% of the world's population, mostly elderly people, die. The economic damage would be far less than what it's going to be doing what we're doing now. The world is overpopulated and we could use some culling, especially among those who no longer economically contribute to society. Do you want to live forever?
Will (UK)
@Phil I love it! Tell it like it is... and I do have some sympathy with that outlook (at 88 yrs!) It is a complex question, and I see both arguments.
B (M)
Except that would overwhelm our healthcare system
Roy (Minneapolis)
So is every rising population and every more density of living such a great thing? So we should all live in cities like those in China with endless ranks of towering apartment towers? Minneapolis last year adopted a build everywhere policy, over riding single family and other restrictive building zoning. This year the Minnesota state legislature is considering bills to do the same statewide. I live in a suburb where the chainsaws and bulldozers are busy cutting down centuries oak trees and filling open space with large apartment buildings. Without a high rate of international immigration Minnesota would have a falling population, given the low native birth rate. Instead we must suffer the rising noise pollution, light pollution, and air pollution, and less greenery, with ever more people. With lower density living, the risk of disease transmission is lower. Low density hunter gather societies had fewer diseases. But the world keeps adding over 80 million people a year, decade after decade as we approach 8 billion people, up from 2 billion in 1930. The Population Bomb is still with us.
Will (UK)
@Roy Yep, correct. Long term this will be a much bigger problem. Special problems in poorer countries with exploding populations, and mass immigration to perceived more sensible countries. PS - Trumpist & evangelicals fight tooth and nail to destroy family planning in such countries. Incidentally only preferring boys, to grow up unemployed, mobile, angry and resentful...
Carl (Arlington, Va)
My wife and I are 65 and taking this very seriously, but this a reasonable discussion. The restrictions are taking a shotgun approach. People aren't going to live with complete social isolation for very long. My 93 year old father lives in a retirement community. One resident has been visited by his son who later tested positive, but has no symptoms. Now all the residents are confined to their apartments. Obvious I understand, but elderly people get depressed easily and stop eating and taking care of themselves. You could wind up indirectly killing or pushing more people into serious illness and/or dementia by isolating them than by letting them have some activities. In our neighborhood, people are flouting restrictions already. I'm not suggesting business as usual, but there needs to be some thought about letting people do enough to keep up morale.
Angry Liberal (Ann Arbor)
@Carl Very true. Americans will live this way only so long. Then, its either back to quasi normal, or its a police state. I'm watching closely if a State Governor can defy a court order and halt an election. I'm sure Trump is watching, too.
JBonn (Ottawa)
It is quite OK to ask the question in passing. But haven't we learned that the blitz was effective in WWII, and that wasn't enough.
Netia (Denver)
Glad someone is asking this very important question. You still have more people dying everyday from the regular flu, cancer, obesity related health issues, car accidents, gun violence, etc. And yet we do basically nothing for so many things that kill people, and completely stop life as we know if for this. Yes, this is bad. But it’s not so bad that we need to act like the apocalypse is here!
JS (Chicago)
Best data so far: As infectious as the flu. 10-50 times as deadly. We are not overreacting.
Andy Hain (Carmel, CA)
@JS - I don't know anyone who has been infected, and this town has been full of foreign tourists forever, not to mention all the locals who fly overseas routinely!
Andy Hain (Carmel, CA)
@JS I'm guessing it's a big-city issue. Today I helped a fellow senior citizen setup a computer to use for working from home.
How many people do you know that have tested negative?
MR (DC area)
There are two major points this article and many similar discussions are missing: 1) our inability to test for the virus has left the US with little choice--we could have avoided what today looks like an overreaction if we had a viable way to scale up accurate testing. No reliable data means no way to target the response. It's already too late to manage this like the South Koreans did. 2) cost-benefit analyses are hard to do in the face of a threat that right now is growing exponentially. What looks like overreaction today will look like the bare minimum in a week or so. Major disruption to avoid a complete catastrophic collapse is the right call, even if the chance of it happening is only 50%. I just hope everyone says safe and physically distant. We'll get through this.
Andy Hain (Carmel, CA)
@MR It's all part of Trump's plan to destroy America so that his cronies can buy all of it on the cheap. Watch and see!
Cases are vastly underreported. Deaths are all documented. And the “deaths” are probably over reported bc of other conditions. So maybe it’s not that much deadlier than the normal flu?
JBonn (Ottawa)
The more aggressively we address it, the sooner we will return to normal. Isn't that what we all want? There is too little known about the disease to do anything else.
Mikey G (New York)
Actually by”flattening the curve” we are drawing this out much longer. But less people should die
Jeremy Bowman (New York)
I’m dumbfounded reading the comments here. People just don’t get it. I heard from a doctor yesterday who is treating an infected 31-year-old who worked at a restaurant in Times Square. How many people could he have infected? This is a global emergency. It’s time to start acting like it.
Andy Hain (Carmel, CA)
@Jeremy Bowman No chance someone working in Times Square would have complications, not only this virus?
Hospital Worker (NYC)
There are hospitals in New York City that seem to be asking this "taboo question", and deciding for themselves that we are in fact "overreacting" by using these strict measures. It's a very very frightening reality of healthcare. Somebody needs to be writing about and investigating the mishandling of this pandemic within hospitals that seem to be profiting from this disaster and human suffering. Hospitals in the Bronx are urging employees to continue to come into work to do non-essential, not urgent, and non-medical evaluations and therapies. Employees are coming into work sick (or with sick kids or family at home), pregnant, taking public transportation, because they do not want to use their precious sick time. Patients are not being discouraged to attend non-essential services, nor are they being adequately informed or educated. The current "social distancing" response seems to be considered an overreaction by hospitals in certain parts of the city (and I'm sure certain parts of the country) where human lives are simply not valued as much.
Natasha (Seattle)
Here as well. I work in a rehab department - it’s heartbreaking.
DemostiX (PDX,OR)
Look at the data from China on age-specific deaths and death rates. Estimate that where mortality numbers are small it is because while exposure was as high as in the high mortality groups- the ages with years of cardio pulmonary impairment, it isn't making many of those people sick enough to seek medical treatment and even be tested and counted as cases. This is mostly- not only, but mostly- a precursor to pneumonia that kills when there are co-morbidities. Only because of insufficient beds and facilities is it as bad as declared. That and the people and economy being trampled to death in the stampede for the exits. And data from this and previous coronavirus epidemics support the estimates above. Same age-distribution of death (and vulnerability). Those data were ignored, and this is being treated as though it were virulent flu, which it is not.
Angry Liberal (Ann Arbor)
@DemostiX If you are going to use China data, you must adjust for the lung-destroying air pollution in Wuhan.
Rocket J Squrriel (Frostbite Falls, MN)
My question is: How long must we do this? I just read someone thinking that since it could take a 12-18 months to get a vaccine out that would be how long the isolation must last. 12-18 months? We won't have an economy left! We might not even have a country!
Peter (NYC)
Wonder what the cost of the corona crisis will be to the US economy, the companies going under and to the people losing their jobs compared to the cost of cancer, diabetes, and heart and circulatory diseases which kills multitudes more people.
Eva Lockhart (Minneapolis)
I'm not gambling with my loved one's lives. My love is immuno compromised due to cancer treatment. How cavalier for someone to suggest we are over reacting!
Jmart (DC)
If we had an adequate national response and widespread testing from the get go, we wouldn't have to take such drastic measures. But, due to lack of leadership and mixed messages, people are starting to panic.
Andrew Allen (Wisconsin)
I have been a beekeeper for several years, with the result I sometimes find myself philosophizing from a bee's perspective. When "colony collapse disorder" decimated the bee population a few years back, it was found there were myriad reasons bees were disappearing, many of them caused by man. I'm a bit skeptical that eating bats caused Covid 19 in Wuhan. China is a very old country and if they're eating bats they've probably been doing so for centuries. And it bothers me a bit when blog mongers belittle folks who suggest other causes for this disease. Perhaps this is our colony collapse - every passing generation stresses our beehive Earth a little more. Leaded gas, pesticides, overcrowding, poverty, GMO, G5 and on and on. Like the bees, we have handled each of these stresses pretty well up to now. Perhaps the time has come when two or more stresses interacted to create a monster we can't handle. Maybe Covid 19 is that monster
brupic (nara/greensville)
i would be loathe to claim overreacting; however, i don't call it the united states of hysteria for nuthin'.
allan macdonald (West Hollywood, CA)
Los Angeles Unified School District is, starting tomorrow, opening 60 locations where any student can come and pick up two take-home meals each day. Ask them about it.
Sarah P (The Condo Complex)
Fox News watchers still want this to be a Nothing Burger. Nope. This is a Whopper.
Rocket J Squrriel (Frostbite Falls, MN)
@Sarah P You watch a lot of the national media and you would think that they WANT there to be millions of deaths. A few reporters on their twitter accounts are cheering it on.
Dave (Seattle)
Chances are when Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021 unemployment will be north of 20%, maybe close to 30%. Mitch McConnell will still be Senate Majority leader and will certainly block and stall every attempt to repair the economy to make sure Biden is a one-term president. This recovery will take years. In the meantime hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people will lose their jobs, their life savings, their retirement and their homes. Poverty kills. How many people will die as a result of the COVID-Depression? Will it be more than would have died from the COVID-19 virus? This is a global over-reaction. So far the deaths in Italy are barely 0.003% of the population. Over 100 people die in traffic accidents in the United States daily, are we going to crash the economy to eliminate privately owned vehicles? Take a look around your city. Do a mental inventory of what businesses will till exist in 30 days. More people will be harmed by this overreaction than by the virus.
Jeremy Bowman (New York)
The deaths in Italy would be much much higher without interventions. Don’t you understand how a deadly virus works? It spreads exponentially. This is the only choice we have for now
Dave (Seattle)
@Jeremy Bowman Even if 350,000 people died that would be just about 1% of the US population. What's that everyone is saying about the needs of the many? This is an economic collapse on the level that Obama averted in 2009, perhaps deeper. How many people might die from the poverty, from the violence, from neglect, and from the wars, that will inevitably follow?
Rocket J Squrriel (Frostbite Falls, MN)
@Jeremy Bowman One reason why the deaths might be higher is that over 20% of the population is over 65. Accord to a story in the NYPost most of the dead have been in their 80-90's. One thing you don't hear about almost everywhere is the death of children and teenagers.
David Scott (Ramillion Forest, Ohio)
I've been asking the "taboo" question from the outset. I don't see why otherwise healthy people have to give up clubs and restaurants - if they choose to go to those. The U.S. has far worse statistics involving flu, and in '09 no one declared a pandemic until there were 12,000 or so Swine Flu deaths. Even then, we didn't suspend/end baseball, NBA games, and social activities. We're becoming a nation of sissies. I understand the Corona Virus is supposed to be far more transmittable, but 99.9% of people recover - if you're elderly, stay in. If you're young and health, LIVE - instead of hiding away as good as dead. Meanwhile, the Ohio Governor can self-quarantine with a plush toy for comfort. Land of the Free, indeed.
Hope (Cleveland)
@David Scott Try to understand this: healthy people can pass the virus to the elderly and/or unhealthy. Try, very hard, to understand that.
Christian Haesemeyer (Melbourne)
Not one of the factual claims in your post is correct. I mean it’s literally all false.
Anne (Texas)
What do you think about the Australian situation with covid 19?
Patrick (LI,NY)
Not over-reacting, just cautiously proceeding. I will take time later to laugh at myself.
DW (Philly)
that's very sound advice! thank you for lowering my blood pressure, with the mere suggestion
Michael (California)
@Patrick What about the people that will be unemployed and living on the streets, while you sit in your warm, comfortable home.
Larry (Left Chicago’s High Taxes)
@Michael people living on the streets? Just another day in California
The Owl (Massachusetts)
I'm 75. If it's me or a five-year-old kid that gets the ventilator, it's going to the kid if I have anything to say about it!
Steve (Chicago)
I'm happy to see that this point of view is finally at least being acknowledged. The costs of the current approach will become apparent not just in terms of dollars, but also stress and mental and physical health. As with most things, it's a trade-off, and you can count me among those who think we've gone over the edge Whether or not you agree with the decisions so far, I believe we run a risk when we blindly obey our elected officials and reflexively squelch any objections, even though the objections may be legitimate. Once these far from infallible "leaders" (of both parties, by the way) have discovered how easy it is to push around the entire population, will it be easier for them to do it the next time they think it's justified? At what point to these "orders" become a fascist or totalitarian government? At what point do we all become inmates? Before you over-react and start the yelling and screaming and shouting down, try thinking about it dispassionately. Just for a minute or two. Please. How much is freedom worth?
Jeremy Bowman (New York)
How much is freedom worth? Less than life
Steve (Chicago)
@Jeremy Bowman Perhaps the millions of people throughout history who have sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom would disagree. Comments like yours are exactly the kind of knee-jerk reactions that are so frightening.
Steve (S)
When you're sick you go to a doctor. You don't go to an economist. No disrespect intended, just stating the obvious.
Recovering Catholic (St. Louis)
@Steve Have you ever received surprise billing? Out of network fees? New patient fees from a doctor you've been seeing for years? Follow-up patient visit fees for minor conditions? High premiums, high deductibles, high copays, high prescriptions. Sorry to say it, but these days in our profit driven health "care" system, many doctors seem like economists, funneling us cattle down the revenue chute.
al main (Massachusetts)
The entire country should have completly shut down with quarantine 3 weeks ago.
Helen Kemp (Roswell Georgia)
Alright boomer, turn off Fox News and follow the science. What exactly is your suggestion to the medical community as hospital beds are filled and there are not enough vents for patients. Is it ok to be reduced to triage and only be able to intubate those patients with privilege? All this sounds OK until it is your grandmother or special needs kid.
Robbo (Houston)
Panic, pure and simple.
DW (Philly)
nope. panic is what you're gonna see if these precautions AREN'T followed and the numbers soar.
Wizened (San Francisco, CA)
Per every other article on the NYT: No. Especially the one saying there are manyfold undetected cases for every detected.
rich (new york)
Overreacting? Nonsense! We have already seen what this virus has done in China, South Korea, Italy, etc. Emergency rooms are already overcrowded and we are short masks, gowns, ICU rooms and ventilators. We have already underreacted starting with Trump's closing the NSC pandemic office in the White House.
@rich yes it was contained, plateaued and all but irrelevant now in China.
Jane K (Northern California)
@BEE, and they kept everyone inside for weeks and sprayed disinfectant everywhere, too.
@Jane K then this should be over here, too, in 2 weeks, unless we, as a people, are considerably more incompetent that the provincial services in the world's largest country. Still the response is likely going to be much more damaging than the reality.
John Carlo (Phoenix)
Regret having to politicize this but 'm in shock at how many people are not taking this serious in my circle as well in public spaces by saying stupid things such as were all gonna die of something... The source of all this in the USA is right wing media; Trump, talk radio & FOX that from the start of this framed it as a scam/hoax to beat Trump this November. Psychologically, it's much harder to reverse a false belief than it is to plant the lie to begin with. Right wing media has done this over & over for the last 30 years but this time their sick propaganda is on full display considering the rapid pace of this situation. It's evolving too fast to forget what the "patriotic" liars said just days ago. Now that we see this isn't a hoax, the right wing media tactic going forward is going to be a bunch of anti-China conspiracies to provide cover for the GOP & Trump. Just watch. Over the course of my lifetime it's quite apparent that the Conservative movement, fueled by right wing media since the early 90's, has ruined our nation & destroyed our collective bond by turning what would've otherwise been good decent people into hateful cynical ignorant malcontents. In the end, the China way may dominate the direction of the human species because if our constitutional interpretations allow people such as Hannity & Limbaugh to walk free after intentionally misleading the public during a pandemic, we may have reached the ideological Peter Principle of the USA.
Larry (Left Chicago’s High Taxes)
It’s encouraging to see the entire world copy President Trump’s closed borders and travel bans. Still waiting for the Democrats to explain how their anti-science plan of open borders keeps Americans safe
Jake (Arizona)
Everything decisive we do in response to this virus will be seen as an overreaction by someone. But when this all has blown over, we won't look back and wish we did less. The economy will recover, and things will get back to some sort of normal, but we will never regain what could be thousands, if not tens of thousands, of deaths. If we take the path of Italy, i.e. under preparation, try millions. I am privileged enough to be a college student who can quarantine and prevent spreading this virus further, and for the sake of people who do not have that luxury, I will.
Dave (Seattle)
@Jake The economy will recover? When? Chances are when Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021 unemployment will be north of 20%, maybe close to 30%. Mitch McConnell will still be Senate Majority leader and will certainly block and stall every attempt to repair the economy to make sure Biden is a one-term president. In the meantime hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people will lose their jobs, their life savings, their retirement and their homes. Poverty kills. How many people will die as a result of the COVID-Depression? Will it be more than would have died from the COVID-19 virus? This is a global over-reaction. So far the deaths in Italy are barely 0.003% of the population. Over 100 people die in traffic accidents in the United States daily, are we going to crash the economy to eliminate privately owned vehicles? Take a look around your city. Do a mental inventory of what businesses will till exist in 30 days. More people will be harmed by this overreaction than by the virus.
Jeremy Bowman (New York)
When a car accident happens, it doesn’t cause two other car accidents. It’s a deadly contagious virus. If we do nothing, it will destroy the economy as well. Only difference is it will decimate the population and overwhelm the health care system
Teal (USA)
The average age of people dying from this virus in Italy is 80. More than half of the elderly that are dying already had serious health problems. Are we are ready to set off massive unemployment and cause a global depression to slow this? Have all seniors self-quarantine. They are typically not employed or raising kids. These are the people that would be more likely to need critical care if they are infected. A tiny fraction of healthy people will need hospitalization. If this is our new standard for risk tolerance we must immediately eliminate the use of all antibiotics in agriculture to slow the creation of antibiotic resistant bacteria; we must deploy automated traffic law enforcement equipment everywhere to end the carnage reckless driving imposes on innocent people; we must institute strict measures to stop the scourge of obesity from spreading; and we must certainly quarantine the elderly every winter. It is obvious that isolating seniors during every flu season would save tens of thousands of them from dying. Is the fact that we accepted these flu deaths for years a horrendous mistake in hindsight?
Margaret Jay (Sacramento)
@Teal How does it feel to be absolutely right but be called a “contrarian.” I’m with you and I am one of the elderly with serious health problems. It ought to be about weighing the benefits against the terrible economic costs which may not even become completely clear for months or years. But this I know, saving a few thousand lives of people like me is not worth the human cost in terms of job loss, collapse of small businesses, severe damage to the education systems from kindergarten through college, increased homelessness, ravaging of retirement savings, or any of the myriad disasters that will be the result of this hysteria. And yes, it is about the socio-economics fully as much as it is about the medical science. One last word: The health system would not BE overwhelmed if it were not for the media and politicians constantly feeding the frenzy and thus sending people to the ER with minor symptoms.
Will (UK)
@Margaret Jay Hear hear! another oldie also worried - but there have been some tragic deaths amongst the much younger medics. But I am concerned about unintended consequences, esp. about those on the margins, young and old.
Trevor Diaz (NYC)
Yes. It is. Not only America, the whole world is over-reacting to this disease. Some people die, so what? There are 7.2 billion of them.
DMO (Cambridge)
@Trevor Diaz Let’s hope you’re not one of them.
Virginia Denninger (Rochester, NY)
Or not...hope that is.
Larry (Left Chicago’s High Taxes)
Science has proven that President Trump’s travel ban was the correct decision that saved tens of millions of lives. Thankfully our President, unlike the Democrats, believes in science
Caleb James (New Orleans)
The calculus here is all wrong. The amount of people who will commit suicide due to job loss, half a year or more of isolation/quarantine, and total societal shutdown will be many times greater than the number of people who die to this stupid virus. And the age bracket for those suicides will trend much more young and healthy than virus deaths would. Complete economic collapse, which is what we're seeing now, has consequences too. If you want to put it in terms of a body count, think about suicides, but perhaps more than that is not just lives lost but time spent living, actual living, that is lost. You can make it sound petty by saying "oh it's just sports or oh it's just a bar or a beach" but that nonsense is what being on Earth is all about. I'm sorry that 7,000 mostly old people have died from the Coronavirus since December but I'm more sorry for the 7 billion others who have to pretend like like that's a big deal. 150,000 people die a day from dogcrap. From it-doesn't-even-matter-what-from because that's what people do: they die. Let's take some precautions, let's keep immunocompromised people and those over 60 on complete isolation, don't ruin everyone else's year because of it.
CacaMera (NYC)
About 3-4 months ago I needed to drop off a urine test at Quest on 57th near 8th Ave. My doctor had sent the test request in advance, I had all the info about myself and Dr. written on a piece of paper too, and I told the receptionist. That drop off took over 45 minutes. Anyone who thinks they will step in and do the testing is a fool. They just cannot do it. People need to wake up and realize the severity of our critical units situation in hospitals. College graduations flocking to the beach parties are proof of college education these days not being worth the tuition charged.
CacaMera (NYC)
What part of "Emergency rooms are overrun with patients" don't people understand? What part of we don't have enough beds and equipment, and the human personnel (doctors, nurses) to deal with it is difficult to digest?
Teal (USA)
@CacaMera If seniors stay home and self-quarantine ERs will not be overrun. Hysterical younger people may go to the hospital for their cold symptoms but they should be sent home to get over it.
Michael (Brooklyn)
Yes, we are overreacting. We are asking young people, working people, freelancers, creatives — people whose lives and livelihoods depend on daily work — to bankrupt themselves. I’m one of them. If this keeps up through the summer I will be bankrupt. It’s not at all clear that ruining millions of young lives to save the elderly — who, by the way, still get their social security, their pensions, their Medicare — is a desirable or a fair trade off.
HG (Bowie, MD)
@Michael I expect you will feel differently if you live long enough. The government definitely needs to help people in your situation, but ignoring the facts about this virus would result in millions dying.
Chatelet (NY,NY)
@Michael What makes you think young lives are not at jeopardy from this virus? What makes you think all elderly have pensions, Medicare, etc? What a selfish, inconsiderate, frankly appalling post.
DJ (Texas)
I worry about the kids. I see parents refusing to take their kids to a playground. There's good research (reported in WaPo) that the virus doesn't last that long on items in the sun or outdoors, and in any event, the viral load is much smaller, as virus has degraded. But, isn't it important that kids play? I wouldn't go to a crowded playground, but I think you can't keep a kid from play. I don't know. Happy to be educated
The Owl (Massachusetts)
@DJ Define the lower limits of "a crowded playground... See the problem with your posting???
jk (San Antonio, TX)
When we first started learning about the virus, news outlets often reported "it's currently less deadly than flu" without providing the appropriate context around the words "novel virus" and "currently". I think that level of context and blunt honestly of "we actually don't know anything at this point" is really important to impress upon readers, because many people started the whole process of hearing/learning about the virus early on under the very real context of, "the news over-reports on everything these days". I think this led to a slower response across the board in leadership and to some general disbelief that this was going to be a big deal because it wasn't 'happening here'. Now that it is here, some folks will continue to be slow in accepting that the news is anything other than sensationalist journalism. There is certainly a gigantic cost to individuals and the economies of the world when opting for isolation and quarantines, but the cost will be higher if there is a substantial loss of life because we didn't do enough.
Vivian (NYC)
Not to be too political about it, but continuing partisan misinformation and a president who didn’t acknowledge what was happening slowed our response the most I think.
D Na (Carlsbad, California)
Perhaps, while the disease spreads in the US it could be temporarily renamed MAGA-19. The repeated failure over the last three weeks to impose measures that reduce the rate of new infections to below 1.0 per infected person is entirely responsible for the unfolding disaster. The math is simple for anyone, except when it conflicts with a narcissistic personality disorder.
Sivaram Pochiraju (Hyderabad, India)
This is the global scenario barring couple of places. Certain mad things like panic buying and price gouging have already happened and caused huge inconvenience to others. Imagine a situation in a country like America, paper tissues, toilet paper rolls and hand sanitizers vanishing into thin air. It literally happened at plenty of places including Ann Arbor, MI. Imagine brothers venturing into buying hand sanitizers etc from all sorts of stores while travelling a distance of 1300 miles resulting in the emptying of shelves everywhere and then selling online. It literally happened there. However thanks to Amazon, they ended up donating 17, 700 of them. Plenty of big companies are taking undue advantage of the critical situation and have decided to reduce staff. This is insane having earned huge profits already. These very big companies will even seek bailouts thanks to political corruption. Millions of children belonging to economically backward class have lost their lunch in schools and also periodical health checkups there. The only good thing that seems to have happened is many employees are working from home. All kinds of pollution is reduced drastically. There is huge amount of fuel saving on account of these severe movement restrictions. The possibility of containing the spread of coronavirus is great. Families will be happy if the companies concerned or government takes care of the pay checks of their loved ones. Children will be happy.
Pimp Daddy T-Bone (California)
No, this is real.
Petunia (Mass)
These economists had better shut up, quit talking and do some actions. All they can do is theorize.
ZT (Brooklyn NY)
Don't grant undeserved mystique to the contrarian position by calling it "taboo." It is in fact all too widely held. Huge swaths of the American population still view the situation with open skepticism, and are continuing to gather in large numbers. Telling them that what they're doing might count as "breaking a taboo" only adds fuel to the fire. There is no "taboo." There is only an attempt to coordinate our efforts as a population. In the absence of strong federal policy and communication, the media has a major role to play in that process. Articles like this cannot afford to be couched as impartial. If you report these positions you are effectively promoting them.
Casey (New York, NY)
I had the misfortune to hear some right wing radio today. CV is being overplayed...I'm going out....its all about making the president look bad...etc....etc...etc....
J Harrod (Fredericksburg)
@Casey what else would you have the President do?
Mike Edwards (Providence, RI)
If a government, federal, state or local, mandates that a person must lose his livelihood for the public good, such a person must be fully compensated by the government doing the mandating.
Jazzie (Canada)
This is a war people! While the enemy is invisible, it is still able to kill humans on the order of a severe conflict. If anyone thinks that measures which are being taken are draconian, better that than not doing enough and as a result sentencing even more people to death. We are all in this together and yes, while the 1% escape to their bunkers and bolt holes and islands, even they are mortal. It is essential that we listen to the experts.
georgiadem (Atlanta)
What some of the general public may not realize is if enough sick people inundate the healthcare system at once there will not be enough ventilators or staff to go around, period. Even if as Trump suggests hospitals just buy more ventilators who does he think will staff the ICU? Will Trump University suddenly graduate more respiratory therapists, ICU nurses and Intensivist MDs? No! For Christ sake, the staff they have now will get sick as this worsens. Two ER MDs in NJ and WA are now in ICU in critical condition. One of them is in his 40's. So expect triage of sick people. Those who have the best chance of survival, those who may survive and those that are let to die. I already heard on NPR today that hospitals in Washington State have already put this plan in place. Vents vs Bagged vs Let Go. This POTUS has put us all in peril. He continues to do so. His denial of facts and dodging of legitimate questions is relentless. He must be taken out of office in November.
J Harrod (Fredericksburg)
@georgiadem? How is the President putting us in peril? It is a talking point, but his actions have slowed the spread of the disease to levels that would be lauded in Europe. Compared to the rest of the world the U.S. response has been decisive, clear and rational. The numbers prove that.
georgiadem (Atlanta)
@J Harrod You are living in a bubble. I am on the frontlines.
Greendog (not far enough)
when the doctors and nurses begin to die it's time to pay attention.
Karen Lee (Washington, DC area)
When your parent is convinced that COVID-19 is just like the flu, and reminds you that tens of thousands of people die of the flu each year and only a handful of people have contracted COVID-19 in the US ... well, it IS difficult to explain how tens of millions of people will get COVID-19.
Alexandre (Brooklyn)
"... only a handful ..." -- that we know of because there has been no broad testing to date. people shouldn't even talk about testing numbers coz against a population of 330 million people, testing to date has been near nonexistant on a relative basis
If nothing else, it's good practice for the next pandemic (like the flu of 1918 that killed tens of millions). Be assured, it's coming.
J Harrod (Fredericksburg)
@LA In 1918 there weren’t any antibiotics.Most fatalities were from secondary bacterial infection. Many others were from a cytokine storm. Cytokines were unknown in 1918
Which antibiotics should we be using today to stop coronaVIRUS? Just stop. Please.
Jack (New York)
Here’s how the country needs to establish one message. Trump tells us to stay away from groups of 10 or more. Devin Nunez went on Fox News to encourage folks, if you’re healthy, to go out to a local restaurant. What? That’s exactly how this virus spreads, by asymptotic people. That’s why New Rochelle was hit so hard. The 50 year old lawyer didn’t know he was contagious until he had gone to work, to Temple, and to a party after his trip abroad.
Dennis (Ardmore, PA)
Contrarian views? How is that anti-vaccination thing working out? Same thought patterns.
Claire (Westchester)
NO! The reaction was still too late. If enough attention was paid early on by the government, it may not have been bad. Learning lessons from China, Iran, Italy seems to be too hard so the country has to experience this itself to know it's a real issue that can happen to everyone.
S (Brooklyn)
I understand these economic considerations and I understand how they seem callous to say out loud. But let me put a face to the economic pain. I am the owner of a very small business with 8 employees who is being forced to lay everyone off this week because our industry has ground to a halt for the indefinite future. Most of them have worked with us for over 5 years. Unlike a major corporation our employees aren’t just cogs in the corporate system, our employees are our family. I know all their joys and their losses and their hopes and their dreams. It is crushing and devastating to disappoint the people who rely on you. Small businesses have a very small margin of profit so we are not able to survive with no income stream beyond a month or so. My business partner and I are not eligible to collect unemployment. There doesn’t seem to be any relief in site on a city, state or federal level. After 9 years of being a growing small business, we have died this week.
Tony (Pikesville)
@S I feel for you. It's not an easy situation to be in. However, your business will stand a much better chance of recovering with strong action now as opposed to later. At a 2% fatality rate and infection rate twice that of the flu we are looking at millions of dead and tens of millions sick without aggressive actions. Do you think your business would survive that? There is no perfect plan to balance every action with how many people get sick. It is digital. We either stop it now or we don't.withoug
Teal (USA)
@Tony Please learn to read the news carefully. You appear to be headline skimming for your information.
Tony (Pikesville)
@Teal What did I write that was incorrect? Stop trolling. If you want to point out something is incorrect then do it. Don't just accuse someone of not knowing something because you don't like what they are saying. My facts are solid. If you have different numbers then let us know.
Linda McKim-Bell (Portland, Oregon)
No we are not overreacting. We are being rational. We believe in Science and Facts. This is in spite of our “leaders”. They will have a lot to answer for when this is over.
They won’t be answering for anything once they’re voted out.
WeNeedFacts (Riding a Rainbow)
So many colleges, businesses, and other institutions are requiring their "patrons" to not be on-site in large numbers. I believe the fundamental reason for this is due to our highly litigious society - each organization is putting themselves at risk of a lawsuit if/when one or more of their patrons are hospitalized or worse, dies, due to a coronavirus infection "caught" at their facility. Of course it is selfish for organizations especially colleges to cause distress to so many, simply to minimize their own susceptibility to lawsuits. What else would you suggest?
Allen82 (Oxford)
I thought "All Life is Sacred". Just ask the anti-abortion crowd. Hope they are not the contrarians.
Mhuynh (Texas)
Yeah I think we are overreacting, big time. Swine flu infected an estimated 60 million Americans and killed over 500,000 worldwide.... numbers I don't think covid19 will get close to reaching. Yet the amount of hysteria for covid19 is orders of magnitude greater than what was seen with swine flu.
Greg (Cambridge)
It will infect 100 million Americans. The 2009 swine flu had a lethality at least 10x less, possibly 30x less, than coronavirus. 50000-1million Americans will die. These are CDC numbers. Why do you disagree?
Judy Hill (New Mexico)
@Mhuynh so are you going to volunteer at the hospitals treating the patients?
Tony (Pikesville)
@Mhuynh Why would you think that? H1N1 has an R0 of 1.2-1.6. COVID-19 has an R0 of 2-2.5. Swine flu is much less infectious. Also, swine flu has a lower mortality rate than COVID-19 based on current numbers.
DS (Manhattan)
Someone’s mother, father, sibling, child. Other than Harvey Weinstein and Mitch McConnell, I’m willing to pay the price.
Andrea (New Jersey)
Again, I am 68 years old - virus target. Everybody who is anybody is always whining about the aging population and now that we get a virus which happens to target just that, all governments are scrambling to stop it at a tremedous economic and human cost. This is a carnaval of the absurd. Trump and the western media sought to embarrass China when the virus was just there and now that is here we are blowing up the house to kill a mouse - so to speak.
Detachment Is Possible (NYC - SF)
This will come down as an example of mass hysteria to be steadied for generations.
robo (Italy)
one word: Italy & triage. Ok that's two. still, pretty concise.
Ben (Florida)
Really? Because most people don’t seem hysterical to me. They seem cautious but rational.
Alexandre (Brooklyn)
then why don't you go volunteer at the nearest hospital? they're looking for some know-it-all volunteers
VisaVixen (Florida)
Contrarians: aka Devin Nunes. Even Trump had to throw shade on that. But we know Devin don’t like his Mom.
Rex (Detroit)
There is a dearth of knowledge concerning most aspects of this pandemic including its long and short term consequences. It is rational, in the absence of real data, to react with extreme caution given the rate of transmission and fatality associated with the coronavirus. It's better that most people take a vacation for two weeks and then reassess a further prudent course of action than assume the best and potentially suffer the worst. That is the logical, sensible response. To characterize that as panic is irresponsible nonsense.
r a (Toronto)
Shut down now and have less infections. Or don't shut down now, have more infections (and deaths), then panic and shut down. But either way a shutdown. With all the economic costs. So it isn't really a choice.
James, Toronto, CANADA (Toronto)
Social distancing and forced closures of schools, museums, restaurants, bars, etc. to combat the Coronavirus pandemic, just like universal health care and gun control. represent an infringement of personal freedom and, thus, are anathema to those who believe that their freedom is more important than the safety and well-being of their community. Virtually all medical professionals are warning that unless strict measures are taken now (actually several months late) the impact on the health care system will be so overwhelming that hospitals and clinics will not be able to cope with the resulting numbers of cases of coronavirus infections. Wondering if such strict measures are an overreaction is, in fact, another way of saying "Don't restrict my freedom!"
jane (alaska)
I'm a college student and I find it abhorrent that people make the arguement "They're young and will probably be fine." Dr. Campbell should grow up and realize not all college studies are healthy-I know college students with suppressed immune systems due to chemotherapy from cancer, heart conditions and lung conditions, all at a higher risk than your average citizen. Additionally, with communal bathrooms and living areas, the spread would be similar to a cruise ship. Repeated exposure to coronavirus also plays a part, something college students would be forced to endure in dorms. There is a difference between catching corona on the street and being stuck in a dorm room with a contagious roommate. Dr. Campbell should consider staying in his lane.
J. G. Smith (Ft Collins, CO)
NO! We are not over-reacting and the NYT should discourage this perspective. Anyone who thinks we're over-reacting just needs to look at Italy. I'm no biochemist or health professional, but from my very basic understand of viruses I don't think these "temporary" measures are going to be very "temporary". I believe they will be longer term than we think. I'm very glad the President started to put a "possible" end range on this as July/August...or longer. I think we'll only be truly safe when an effective vaccine is deployed.
DW (Philly)
yes - noting that emerging much longer time frame is one of the few things Trump has done right so far.
Bill Wolfe (Bordentown, NJ)
I wish all those that are complaining about either over-reaction or the lack of preparation - testing - equipment - masks - ventilators - doctors - nurses - hospital beds - emergency response planning and actual response - you name it. I wish you all would think about your attitude towards government, taxes, regulations, and politics. My guess is that the large majority of those now ;legitimately angry were opposing taxes, regulations and supporting politicians who attacked government and regulations. Just a guess.
Krista (San Francisco)
I mean, if we had the test kits, a government that took public health more seriously than stock options for the (already) extremely rich...and a president who didn’t spend every breath he takes lying to the public...we might have a better idea of the reality. As it stands, we just have to err on the side of caution and use common sense. This administration has failed on a very grave level.
Nathan B. (Toronto)
The views of economist at the University of Wyoming are about as relevant as the views of any other random person. I'll listen to the medical professionals, and so should everyone else.
Malcolm (Bird)
It's very valid question- things take on a steamroller approach to the problem, where dissenting voices are discredited or ignored because newly minted social convention has already decided on a response. So, in terms of the big picture cost of the corona virus, and the havoc it is wreaking everywhere, it is a valid question to ask if the sacrifices and costs everyone are making are commensurate with the savings in lives. Heresy - I know, but in a fully rational world, questions like the following would be asked. * Are people at any more risk of catching Covid19 than the average flu? (not enough stats to decide) * Of the people that do contract Covid 19, how may more would die than if they only have the regular flu? We don't have the data yet to make a call on that. There is no doubt however, that the knee jerk reactions around the world have done irreparable damage to the global economy, and will continue to do so. More people die from regular flu, guns and car accidents every year. Life somehow goes on unabated. What is so different about Covid 19? . Everyone has to take a step backward, take a deep breath and re-evaluate what you/we are doing based on the facts, not the overhyped version of the (inconclusive) facts. There I said it. Overhyped. And in the interests of disclosure, I am a 66 year old male with asthma. So get a grip everybody!
John Chastain (Michigan - (heart of the Great Lakes))
& an ignorant one at that.
Greg (Cambridge)
We have time for this?
HG (Bowie, MD)
@Malcolm What is so different about COVID-19, is that unlike the flu, no one has immunity to the virus. Some projections have well over 100 million Americans infected, and we don’t even have a grasp of what the death rate is from someone who gets the virus. Right now, we don’t even know how many people are infected, due to the lack of testing. We could do nothing until we have answers, but in the worst-case scenario, that would lead to millions of deaths in the U.S. alone.
Kajsa (Annapolis, MD)
Given what's happening in Europe, it seems like the threat isn't totally bogus. When we have wide-spread testing, we'll have a much better sense of what's going on.
Jeff M (Santa Barbara)
@Kajsa no body (sane) is saying the threat is bogus. They are cautioning that the proposed cure may be worse than the disease. And that is a rational thing that we all should thoughtfully consider.
Isn't this where the old axiom, "better to be safe, not sorry", comes into play.
Mike G (DC)
The problem is that when precautions ARE taken and the worst case scenario doesn't happen people say it was an "over reaction". But when nothing is done properly and the world crashes down on our heads we demand someone's head on a pike. It's like the person asking "Why are you making us close the barn door? The horse hasn't gone anywhere..."
John Smithson (California)
Politics seems to be driving a lot of the measures being adopted. In a few hours my neighbors and I will be under an order to stay at home. That makes political sense, but no other sense. Medically it will help, but socially and economically it will cause a lot of harm. It was disappointing last night to hear the two Democratic candidates tear into the president at a time of national crisis, it's also understandable. Politics has its own forms of disease.
Jack (TX)
I think it is a fair point to question if the measures are too draconian. On one hand, COVID-19 is a serious virus that has killed many, and social distancing makes sense. On the other hand, the reaction does have a feel of the AIDS hysteria back in the '80s, when much wasn't known about HIV or AIDS .
Marc (Colorado)
@Jack We actually know more about this virus than we did with HIV back then. This virus is genetically similar to the virus that caused SARS, and many of the public health interventions were based on that. In Hong Kong, such draconian measures were instituted and still costed many lives - a lot of blaming came after despite the fact that it was contained. For this virus, we have to start from somewhere. Unfortunately, we lost precious time. This incompetent leadership is very much accountable.
Marc (Colorado)
@Marc Some information regarding SARS versus COVID-19 here:
Dan (St. Louis)
Claiming the virus as a hoax is a not a proper characterization of conservative views. Saying that this is an over reaction caused by a media-induced panic is closer to what they have been saying. And that is not too far from the views expressed in this article. For example, Hannity has pointed out that H1N1 infected 60 million Americans (1 in 6) during Obama's tenure and killed more than 12,000, but the media did not panic the country into a shutdown nor did they criticize the Obama administration for allowing that to happen.
calhouri (cost rica)
@Dan You lost me at "Hannity"!
Judy (NYC)
@Dan Unlike Trump, President Obama declared an emergency before any deaths from H1N1 were recorded.
Christian Haesemeyer (Melbourne)
So the swine flu fatality rate was 0.02 per cent then. About one fiftieth of that of the current virus. But more importantly, the hospitalisation rate was only about 0.1 per cent of those infected (if you believe Hannity’s number of 60 million), which is less than one one hundredth of the corona virus hospitalisation rate. So no, these are not in any way similar events.
gus (nyc)
It is not only a few contrarians who are asking these questions. If it's difficult to handle the influx of patients, everything needs to be done to meet these needs. And I understand the reasons for concern. But there are lots of arguments against these shutdowns, that have to do with economic and social justice and civil liberties. Sometimes safety is less important than liberty.
LEFisher (USA)
@gus: Safety is less important than liberty?! Not if you're dead!
carla (NYC)
People in ambulances and emergency rooms are risking their lives to keep everyone safe. This is everyone's chance to be a hero and save lives by doing everything they can to reduce the spread of the virus. If you don't, whenever you see a story about an EMT, paramedic, firefighter, nurse or doctor who lost their life fighting this virus, you will regret that you did not do more. I hope everyone will choose to be a hero and do all they can.
Ravens (WA, USA)
The economy will get hit very hard one way or another. Worst-case scenarios have millions of US deaths. Limited evidence suggests many of those who get severely ill but survive will have long-term health consequences. Many of those who get ill would be too sick for too long to keep their jobs. And the people who are most at risk for getting sick (due to high public exposure and lack of sick leave or WFH options) have a lot of overlap with those who are losing their jobs or businesses due to the quarantine's economic effects. Our country chose not to prioritize safety nets for wage workers and small businesses. In a crisis, they now have no safety net and are getting hurt - whether we quarantine or not. I can't say which economic harm is worse for the economically vulnerable - that from more widespread sickness and death, or the harm we're seeing from our society choosing to reduce our economic activity to slow spread and reduce infections. I'm not an expert, nor have I seen good explanations from experts that describe what the relative impacts would likely be. I don't think it's at all clear that the economic impact of just letting things run will be less for wage workers, in the long run. However, it's clear that having hundreds of thousands of additional deaths due to a sharp peak in infections is worse - and I have definitely seen experts give detailed information on how these scenarios differ, as well as which groups will be hit hardest by employment.
CitizenTM (NYC)
I’m not arguing we are overreacting or the article has merits. I do not know the answer anymore than the next guy. But even 100.000 deaths of famine in Africa in the past or of Malaria have not caused more then a collective shrug amongst most world leaders. Currently we bankrupt the world economy for 5000 deaths, most of which were dying already. I feel for them and their painful deaths. But where was our call for action in Biafra, Somalia, Ruanda or whatever? South Korea, Taiwan, Hongkong acted early and fast - btw; they had learned from SARS.
turbot (philadelphia)
If there are 3,500 COVIR-19 clinical cases in the US, there may be up to 35,000 infected people, totally. How long has the infection been in the US, and how much of the population in actually immune? As the infection spreads exponentially, so should the immune population, with some lag time. When the infectious and immune curves intersect, the epidemic should be over, since there will be no one left to infect.
RB (Santa Cruz)
Overreacting? My take until today was no action. One only has to look at the steps taken by Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan in the excellent article in the times to see what real action looks like. Any one asking that question is either lazy or worse. Just do some diligence miss Phd.
LEFisher (USA)
Outrageous question. But to those who prefer to ignore the facts, science, & reality by clustering together, I say: You first.
Queenie (Henderson, NV)
We probably are overreacting but that is safer than the alternative. While it’s true the supermarket shelves are getting empty of the basic foodstuffs, you just have to be creative. I went down the candy and chips aisles and found them fairly well stocked. And truthfully, that is the stuff that gets you through a crisis.
cadv lib (Colorado)
@Queenie. Humm. I guess frozen pizza is food basic since it is all gone...
HN (France)
Will the western world accept being confined to their homes, surveilled, patrolled, and punished if they don't comply with strict orders on personal movement? I'm not saying it isn't a unprecedented crisis and that we shouldn't all work together, but I am asking how this solution will be enforced and what it will mean for democracy.
Erich Breckoff (Finland)
As someone who has a high chance to end up working as an paramedic should the regular services become overworked I think that there is no damage it erring on the side of caution. It even may save the life of someone who thinks we overreact...
J.C Maloney (CA)
US has the money, resources, people with skills, but the governments, particularly the Federal government is always the slowest to respond. Let our local state and city governments take action and collect money from the Federal government. We have superbly trained military men/women who can organize crisis like this faster and efficiently. Listening to a leadership-less president with an ego is not the way to direct the people. He has no empathy or encouragement. Remind you of Mayor Guiliani, who read Winston Churchill's speeches during WW II to lift up the British people during a most difficult several years. Read about what South Korea did to handle the virus without locking down in a martial law way. They learned from the SARS and began to stockpile masks and tests and were ready when Corvid 19 began. They tests thousands per day, contained, yet their people were free to move around without fear. The only good from this virus frenzy is that it will bring down Trump come November 2020!!
Commenter (SF)
If there were an effective vaccine available, wouldn't you get it? Of course you would. Well, guess what? There IS and effective vaccine out there for the flu (well, sort of effective: 40-60%). Yet roughly half of Americans don't get annual flu shots. Is this inconsistent with the coronavirus scare? Yes. I've heard different numbers, but roughly 40,000 people die each year from the flu. Flu shots would decrease that number by a lot more than will die from the coronavirus. Yet roughly half of all Americans don't get flu shots. Go figure -- if you can. (I can't.)
Larry L (Dallas, TX)
I am going to remind people of something that came to mind in the middle of the 2008 Financial Crisis: What do we have left when this is over (and it is not years and years - it's a FEW MONTHS)? The government, most businesses (if the government does its job right), the roads, schools, factories, stores/restaurants, the technology and people with all their skills will still be around. Right now, there is no way for the markets to LOGICALLY assess what is going on so there is this ridiculous level of volatility. Basically, it is the product of ALGORITHMIC trading. One wonders if PEOPLE (who can look ahead) were driving whether the market insanity of the past few weeks would have occurred. What the country should think about is: how better can we create a form of social insurance so that short-term events like the coronavirus do not damage all of the aforementioned assets this country has.
Jim (Merion Station, Pa)
That it is taboo to ask proves the point, as does the hysterical comments responding to even asking if the governments and press are overreacting. Destroying the economy makes people sick and kills them.
Ben (Florida)
That is exactly why our healthcare system shouldn’t be based on profit.
Minya Konka (Austin)
This question has been answered. Look at Italy. People there argued only a few days ago that the virus cannot take away their freedom of kissing and hugging. Now they come to make impossible decisions about who to live and who to be left behind. Well, I guess enjoying freedom requires knowledge and reasoning as well as responsibility.
J Harrod (Fredericksburg)
@Minya Konka This is not Italy. Trump and state governors have taken steps that Italy refused to do weeks ago. Even now Italians are congregating in defiance of government requests. We are doing everything that can be done.
Dr. (Montana)
"So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." FDR
Cooofnj (New Jersey)
If people had really listened to health experts and distanced early on we would not have this problem. People dismiss experts automatically when it doesn’t suit their world view. All of this panic could have been averted if people acted rationally. Lol!
doug mclaren (seattle)
The title of the article “are we over reacting” could be changed to “are we placing too much value on the lives of elderly people” and it would be entirely consistent with the body of the article.
LEFisher (USA)
@doug mclaren : And remember that "elderly" is now defined as 60-65+.
JLC (Seattle)
The goal at the end of this is for everyone to think we've overreacted because so few people die. So go ahead and ask, but I'd say the goal is to do just that: Overreact It will save lives.
Tony (Pikesville)
The article states that a person is worth $9 million. A different NYtimes article estimated 50,000 deaths in the US even with aggressive containment actions. That is $450 billion in lost people even with aggressive actions. If we can't contain the virus the additional deaths are not incremental but exponential, so failure to contain the virus would cost trillions in just dead people. An overreaction seems appropriate both morally and economically.
Detachment Is Possible (NYC - SF)
50,000 hypothetical deaths versus real costs. 40,000 not hypothetical deaths from flu are occurring this season. Will we now establish same measures every year during the flu season?
Tony (Pikesville)
@Detachment Is Possible Flu has an R0 of 1.0 and mortality rate of 0.1 COVID-19 has an R0 of 2-2.5 and mortality rate between 0.7-3. We also have a flu vaccine and antiviral drugs for flu. Without aggressive containment, deaths from COVID-19 will be in the millions and we hit capacity for hospital beds in late April or May. This means people who need medical care for other illnesses won't get it and even more people die.
armondavid (Miami, Florida)
America is under reacting. What we are doing now should have been done a month ago. We had China as an example. But no one learns from from others’ tribulations. I’m afraid now we are about to lose a large segment of dear or familiar senior citizens, and others, to a forecast pandemic.
david in brussels (Brussels, Belgium)
Italians knew better than to overreact or take the government too seriously -- no one trusts the government, you know -- and deaths have now spiked to 368 in a 24-hour period. Singapore overreacted and the deaths per capita have been far fewer, as we've all read. As for that economist, is she willing to trade in her family members for death at around $9 million each? What is the old saying about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing?
JustMe2 (California)
Yes, Americans are overreacting. The local Trader Joe's was letting only two people in at a time. So I left. Just nuts.
Kenneth (Las Vegas)
Lets everything go back to normal and everyone just spread the disease in a ratio of 1 person = 2 infected. If the people travelled widely, the earth's population would be exposed to the virus in 34 days. 7 billion infected in one month. 80 percent are ok. 1.4 billion seriously sick for a month with serious complications. 1 percent of 7 billion dies. 70,000,000 dead. Multiply by 8,000,000 = $560,000,000,000,000. What do some call that number?
Observer (midwest)
@Kenneth I call it nonsense.
King Of The Beach (Montague Terrace In Blue)
Are we in the End Times yet? Or would that be over-reacting?
Marie (Spain)
In approximately two weeks, the author will understand how insanely naive her article was. I am writing from a country that is now in quarantine. Two weeks ago no one took it very seriously here either. Now cases are increasing 25% daily, with 40% needing hospitalisation. All day and all night, the sound of ambulances. We have one of the best healthcare systems in the world and our hospitals are collapsing. Many Americans believe that illness and death are merely options. You are approaching a rude awakening.
Nav Pradeepan (North America)
We do not have the know-how for a proportionate response to the crisis. In its absence, we can either respond tepidly or aggressively. Common sense recommends an aggressive response.
Commenter (SF)
@Nav Pradeepan In the absence of knowledge, common sense indeed dictates an aggressive response, at least initially. But let's use the time we gain from that aggressive response to obtain knowledge. It may be, for example, that closing schools isn't the best policy, since school-children sent home may infect others who live with them. We may nevertheless conclude that shutting down schools is wise, but we should at least think about it, not just assume that "shut it down" is always the right thing to do.
r a (Toronto)
@Nav Pradeepan Exactly. The first step to making decisions under uncertainty is to admit that there is uncertainty and limits to our ability to see ahead. We want the best (or least bad) choice over a range of possible future outcomes. Currently that seems to be to aggressively practice social distancing in the hope of avoiding a sudden surge of cases. Furthermore if there is a surge of infections then people will panic and we will get social distancing anyway, just a few weeks and many deaths later.
LEFisher (USA)
@Nav Pradeepan : We know the spread rate & the death rate, & we can study the three main samples: China, South Korea, & Italy.
Commenter (SF)
For what it's worth, I live in San Francisco, and have for several decades. It's pretty empty here, as it probably is in most cities, but the few people out on the streets are nearly all in their 20's and 30's.
Grace (Philadelphia)
Not so much a taboo question as a foolish one. The threat is real, the evidence of widespread contagion is real, the lack of testing ability is real, and not much else is known - so if these cautions appear an overreaction in hindsight it will probably be because they were effective.
Garagesaler (Sunnyvale, CA)
If any unfriendly nations need to know what it will take to destroy the US economy, now they know. Create a biological weapon, introduce it into this country, and let the media and politicians "handle" the situation.
EB (Earth)
Wait, the Times asked an ECONOMIST whether we are overreacting? What on earth would she know about it? It sounds as though she thinks the risk to herself and her own family is small (maybe she lives on a ranch in her state of Wyoming, miles away from anyone) and in the meantime she is watching her net worth go down. So, she'd rather see lots of deaths, as long as the economy keeps going and her stock portfolio is okay? Huh, I wonder which political party she typically votes for. Can't begin to imagine.
Observer (midwest)
The current on-line edition of the NYT carries an article that suggests total Covid-d cases are ten times what is reported. If that is the case, then the ration of deaths to infections as reported today by the CDC drops from the ever-cited 2% to .2% -- which is not much higher rate of morbidity than than of the flu. If, however, the 2% morbidity factor holds up then with under 4000 cases reported this new virus is not all that infectious, so why the hysteria? No, I am not a pathologist. But, I can do basic math.
rjs7777 (NK)
@Observer precisely. I posted this a few days ago. We still do not know what the infected population size is. Accordingly, we do not know the fatality rate of COVID-19 among infected cases. Circumstantially, there is a case to be made that the fatality rate is about 0.2%. That is the rate in Germany, Norway and several other countries. The US is certainly not testing widely. So we don’t know. Very few people are properly digesting this absolutely crucial factor As we weigh the risks to public health. Hospital infectious disease experts, do valued for their expertise in the hospital, are NOT necessarily statisticians. Huge gap here.
cadv lib (Colorado)
@Observer. Basic math is wonderful. The problem is that we haven't done enough testing to have a realistic idea about how many are infected. There is a lot of speculation out there.
Tony (Pikesville)
@rjs7777 You conveniently left out countries with much higher rates. France is 2.2%. Spain is 3.4% The best numbers we have are from South Korea because they have done the most extensive testing and its number is 0.9%.
Elaine Dittmer (Cary)
Those who think 'we are overreacting' are will expose themselves and their loved ones to the virus. AND keep the virus expanding, putting us all at danger. This is a time for stringent penalties and controls, but the US doesn't have mechanisms for that. Live free or Die, becomes Live Free and Die. With fake science and denial starting in the White House. I just wish they weren't' taking so many down with them.
Eal (NYC)
Its worth it to chill out for a few weeks yes. We have more ability to share/stream/etc. than ever before. Enjoy it.
Kristin (Portland, OR)
It is beyond me why people keep comparing this to the seasonal flu. That is not what we are dealing with here. It is somewhere between 10 and 30 times more deadly under the best of circumstances (meaning a fully functioning health care system that is able to provide top of the line care to every patient because it is operating at normal capacity). Take a look at places where that capacity has been exceeded, and you're looking at more like 60 to 80 times more deadly than the flu. And that, thanks to weeks of delay and handwringing, is what we are currently looking at here. If we had instituted a national lockdown three weeks ago, we might have had a chance to actually get this under control. But now it's almost a certainty that our health care system is going to be completely overwhelmed. Not only are we not overreacting, we're not doing nearly, nearly enough. The financial consequences can be dealt with and people given assistance to keep them afloat, fed, and in their homes/apartments. On the other hand, hundred of thousands, if not a million or more Americans dying (and those numbers are WELL within the estimates by the experts under scenarios where we continue not to effect a coordinated nationwide shutdown), is something we can't undo.
chuck (oregon)
and there are no taboo questions about anything
irene (fairbanks)
@chuck Except perhaps asking about the actual origin of this virus, which seems to be cobbled together from disparate sequences . . .
GR (Canada)
There are no questions that should not be asked. The problem is we needed the answer three months ago. Epidemiologists study the progression of disease and mortality. Deaths are easy to count. The economic and social costs of the covid-19 are not as easy to 'count' and model. We need a broad systems understanding in order to made decisions that alleviate the worst outcomes. "Just saving one life is worth it" is a naive maxim that may ignore the broader harms. The goal of policy should be to alleviate the worst outcomes broadly understood, not only the counting of deaths. For instance, what will the suicide rate look like over the next four months? How will the youngest and most vulnerable workers in the service industry cope with being laid off? What small business will never come back? How will this impact retirement strategies over the next decade? What are the consequences of social isolation for trust, conflict within homes, mental health? I understand these extreme measures are meant flatten the curve and not overwhelm the nation's health care system. If these measures are not capable of doing that, then the system was too far rationalized to begin with to protect other aspects of societal life. Given how Western nations tend to run lean rationalized health care systems (beds and ICUs have been dropping as reported by the NYT), the difficulty of triage, life and death decisions, seems inevitable and a horrible position to put health care workers in.
Southern Hope (Chicago)
Singapore -- held up as the best-run of the coronavirus countries -- never closed down any of their schools. Not for a single day. They felt it would be 'too disruptive.'
CitizenTM (NYC)
Singapore is smaller than NYC, more modern and has a population known to obey authorities without questioning. It had an easier time to identify and isolate early. It is also less racist than the US.
MJ (Louisville, KY)
@Southern Hope Singapore also aggressively tested and tracked the disease. The US administration called concern for the disease a hoax and ignored the need to test. Now it is too late and the disease is widespread here. This is a scandalous failure on the part of the US authorities.
Greg (Manhattan)
A year from now, when we're in the middle of the next Great Recession, when millions of Americans are being evicted from their homes, when millions more are homeless, when families have exhausted their life savings and have no health insurance, when small businesses all over the country are shuttered, when poor and vulnerable students have fallen way behind in school, when crime, drug addiction and suicide rates are way up, someone might remember the ridiculous hysteria over a somewhat-more-potent-than-usual cold virus.
Maggie (California)
We could fix part of this with nationalized health care.
Chatelet (NY,NY)
@Greg Have you heard of Spanish Flu, Sars, Mers, Ebola? Covid-19 outpaces them, in strength and speed. If you imagine millions suffering in sickness, and dying less important than people losing their comfort, it is obvious you don't belong living in a civilized society.
lou andrews (Portland Oregon)
if overreacting means "flattening the curve" then i am all for this overreaction
Greg (Manhattan)
@lou andrews Until you lose your job, home, and life savings.
Erica Blair (Portland. Oregon)
@lou andrews Overreacting means ignoring the lack of essential hospital equipment--and hospitals themselves--necessary to treat those who fall victim to this virus. It also means ignoring the actual coping abilities, and survival, of all those low-paid hospitality workers (and everyone else) who are suddenly out of a job, have no health insurance, and whose savings evaporate within a week or so. Meanwhile, I hear that the huge corporate giants are already demanding a government bail-out for themselves!!!
Sanjay (New York)
I wouldn’t consider myself a contrarian, but at some point the effects on the economy is going to be worse than the actual virus. If people don’t have work, cities and states are going bankrupt due to a diminishing tax base.
Bob (San Francisco)
To look like we overacted is the goal. If social distancing works, we will lessen exposures, slow the disease transmission rate and not overwhelm our critical care capacity.
Issac Basonkavich (USA)
This is the country that mobilized to fight WW 2. The same should be done here. First of all, the more done, the sooner, the less of an impact will be had by the virus. Tied with this is the fact that there will be more viruses coming in the future as the world shrinks and billions interact; might as well establish a procedure now to head off the next pandemic. This one could have been confronted several months ago. When the virus was emerging in Wuhan in the Fall, thousands and thousands of business persons were traveling in and out of the area to Europe, North America, South America, other parts of Asia. The containment that was effected could have been effected much earlier. Societies must develop the ability and infrastructure to immediately jump on this sort of thing. So what if it's an over reaction. Under-reacting costs lives. Out of control is out of control.
Slann (CA)
I agree with Romney (among others) that our government should give $1,000. to each American adult. NOW. That would not be an overreaction, but would, indeed "smooth" a lot of "bumps", immediately. Here's a chance for the repub Senate to add this to the House bill and boost the ability for ALL Americans to deal with this virus's disruption.
Erica Blair (Portland. Oregon)
@Slann Yang's idea would be helpful in these circumstances. It's not much, but better than nothing when you're faced with destitution and hungry kids. Meanwhile, the Trump admin is still working in the courts to scale back food stamps.
Jeffrey Ban (Baltimore Maryland)
What benefit does the curfew provide? How does that stop the spread of the virus, exactly.
BDavis (California)
it stops looting and those state militias from doing what they do.
Erica Blair (Portland. Oregon)
@Jeffrey Ban To go from contrarian to paranoid contrarian, it juices up the idea that it's all too easy for a government with authoritarian leanings to control its people. With their cooperation, yet. This should give us pause.
GO (New York)
Here’s a statistic for you: 7 million Americans depend on insulin to stay alive. One in four of those people cannot afford it, even with some working 2 or 3 jobs. With everyone off work and school and the economy tanking who is going to pay for this insulin at a moments notice? When these diabetics on the edge of poverty who have to ration food to pay for it on an ordinary day are suddenly completely out of work, how can they possibly get insulin? Missing one day can be a death sentence. I have a child with a medication where one single dose cannot be missed. Even without financial problems it is a struggle to make sure red tape and prescriptions are ready and available on time each month. I shudder to think about what danger we are placing these nearly 2 million people in. And that’s only one condition. Destroying the economy can kill millions in a myriad of ways and right now we are operating out of panic and fear and not calmly considering all of the possible unintended tangential dangers that could potentially be far more fatal.
Tintin (Midwest)
Are citizens over-reacting? No. Prevention of the spread of an infectious illness that poses serious threat to older adults is absolutely responsible behavior. Is the stock market over-reacting? Yes.
Jeff (Evanston, IL)
I can understand the doubts about this extreme social distancing if people don't notice what is happening in Italy and Spain. As I see it, the same thing will happen here if we don't take these extreme measures. As the saying goes, prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
Dave Foster (Waterloo, MI)
The value of social distancing in helping to avoid overwhelming hospitals by spreading the same number of cases over a longer period of time is not really acknowledged very strongly in this article. To the extent that the curve is 'flattened', more people will receive appropriate treatment and more will live.
Call Me Al (California)
"Elevators" Those containers in high rise buildings, that must be used as they get taller and taller. The distance that is suggested/mandated between all persons, not only those who have the Covid-19 but everyone. is 6 linear feet which is the most six or eight people on a device that had held 4X that number. Do they form a queue, lined up face to back in limited space? Do those who are elderly trek up stairs, hoping the have the energy to make it? We are taking bold steps that will give millions a paid leave for months, which some will start their own businesses or take other off-the-book jobs. This solution could well be as bad as the disease.
Erica Blair (Portland. Oregon)
@Call Me Al Banning the use of elevators is on Friday's docket.
Indy (Kenmore, WA)
My grandparents and great-grandparents were called on to do their part in WWII and did so graciously. They gave their blood, sweat, tears and would gladly do it all over again in the service of the country they love. Today we are asking people to wash their hands, exercise social distancing measures and sit on their couch for a few weeks. How's that for a "taboo" conversation?
Tipton (Vancouver)
@Indy This is a very privileged comment. Many people are already suffering the effects of lost income. Many were not in a position to buy food and supplies to shut themselves in, and are currently going without. Their situation will only get worse unless the government provides them with support vis-a-vis rent and utility abatements, stipends for food and medicine, etc.
Mmm (Nyc)
I don't want to be too cold blooded but if we are doing a cost-benefit analysis the economic value of a life in late retirement years isn't $9mm. And it certainly isn't that once we are talking about a life in a nursing home that already requires $100k in annual care expense increasing at 2X inflation. And of a person with a short remaining life expectancy (life expectancy at 80 is about 10 years and starts to drastically decline from there). OK wow this is getting cold blooded, sorry. When you think about it, many lives in later years have materially negative economic value--they produce $0 and consume big $$$ in health care expense that otherwise could be diverted to the young and productive (in the same way it might be for the greater good to not fund extraordinary end of life care at great social cost but marginal social benefit). With certain assumptions, you might find that the coronavirus left unchecked might make the survivors richer by relieving society of this end of life burden. (I don't advocate this but want to point out that all this talk of the coroavirus costing $50 trillion in early deaths is quite inflated, probably by a factor of 10-100) Economics, the dismal science.
Brunella (Brooklyn)
@Mmm You're right, "this is getting cold blooded." Most humans possess empathy, and don't diminish lives by viewing them in purely economic terms.
irene (fairbanks)
@Brunella We should not diminish lives by viewing them in purely economic terms but we should acknowledge that sustaining life is an economic activity which sometimes cannot be justified. We have become a 'life at all costs' culture, even when the quality of said life, and the physical and emotional cost of sustaining it, is negligible. This attitude is unsustainable.
HG (Bowie, MD)
@Mmm Just go ahead and say it: “We should let the old people die.”
Ben (San Antonio)
I would like to see the NYT conduct more in depth reporting; I have been told by some medical professionals and have read articles from reputed medical school website that address the effects upcoming spring and summer will have on COVID 19. There is a suggestion, though not definitive, that COVID 19 might die out as temperatures rise in Spring and Summer time. I don’t know what is really true. Nevertheless, should warm weather assist in containing COVID 19, we won’t know if the containment is the result of isolation or warming weather conditions. Noteworthy, some articles I read suggest that the warming weather theory is a myth with respect to “NEW” viruses that emerge or suggest that scientist are uncertain if warm weather will act the same on COVID 19 as it has on previous viruses. So I personally am agnostic about the warm weather theory. I will, however, avoid unnecessary contact and focus on frequent hand washing, but I won’t be a hermit either. As a last comment, if the warm weather theory is true, then today’s drive is cause for optimism. South Texas is known for wild flowers blooming at a certain time of year when cold weather is over. Today, the blooms filled the medians and sides along the highway I traveled.
John Brown (Idaho)
Why has the Stock Market stayed open ? Obviously it is in panic mode. Why not close it for two weeks and then close it when the value of the stocks goes below 2 % for the day or would manipulators take advantage of it. Next time, ban all International Flights until the Pandemic is over.
The Comandante (Ciudad Juarez)
I am resubmitting due to a couple of typos....... As a child growing up in the 1950's-1960's, your mother told you to wash your hands and don't touch your pimply face and do not pick your nose. What has changed? Here we are re-inventing that same stuff we went through 60 years ago.
suzanne (New York, NY)
America underreacted and reacted too late. We lost a lot of time. I don't understand why someone didn't put Trump up against a wall and explain something to him. Maybe they did.
Patricia (Ghana)
Read this if you think Americans are being too hysterical about the spread of an epidemic. Especially the ones who want to just keep business as usual. There is a huge difference between the official perceived case count and the true case count in a community. Part of the reason for this in the USA is NO TEST KITS. This is stupidity 101. Those who doubt, read this now:
Clint (PA)
I'm worried about the long-term economic impact of so many closures, cancellations, and restrictions. It may turn out that COVID-19 is much more common than is now commonly believed, and thus the mortality rate is far lower. Tens of millions of Americans may face many years of economic hardship due to these actions, which may very turn out to benefit only a small fraction of the population.
mijosc (brooklyn)
Is the picture purposely meant to evoke Blade Runner?
James (Atlanta)
More people will commit suicide from financial distress caused by our overreaction to the virus than will die from the virus itself.
Marc (Colorado)
The data in China reveals that this virus infection has 6 to 16x higher case fatality rate than seasonal flu among younger individuals aged 20-49 yers old*. So it's not an overreaction. To say that only older individuals are at risk is extremely misleading, and dangerous. *
Slann (CA)
@Marc W.H.O. data for today (March 16): 168,019 confirmed cases 6,610 deaths Global totals.
ClydeMallory (San Diego)
China must banish the "wet markets" where the COVID and SARS viruses started. China must teach their people that eating bats and armadillos has dangerous consequences to the world's population. If the outbreak occurs again, then China deserves economic isolation.
Slann (CA)
@ClydeMallory There are approx. 1 1 /2 million unidentified viruses carried by animals, and that's why the pandemic response group had people stationed around the world to quickly identify local "first cases". This effort needs to be heavily funded, and restarted. These viruses don't just move from animals to humans in China, and many people eat local animals, worldwide. These viruses can come from anywhere. Remember "mad cow" disease?
james alan (thailand)
heard today for the first time that this virus is Highly contagious not just contagious so no we are not overreacting
A Maners (St. Louis, MO)
Some people are asking this. Of course, most of those people watch Fox news and believe anything that comes out of Donald Trump's mouth.
BDavis (California)
Absolutely true. My town of Evangelical Trump lovers is in complete denial.
99percent (downtown)
So far, 81,000 cases in China with 67,000 (82%) of those recovered, leaving 14,000 sick and 3,200 dead in a country of 1.4 billion people. The USA has 1/4 the population, so maybe 20,000 cases and 16,000 recoveries and 4,000 sick and 800 dead.
HG (Bowie, MD)
@99percent You are assuming that no one else in China is going to be infected?
Mr. Little (NY)
The moral indignation and sanctimonious condescension of the social distancing crowd is tiresome. It’s the same reaction as when you get a gender word wrong, like if you say transsexual when you mean transvestite. The outrage. Or if you inadvertently say something that could be taken as racially offensive. Yes we should take precautions, yes we should be distant, avoid large gatherings, wash our hands, use sanitizer, and gloves. But to close everything, to self isolate, to be horrified if someone accidentally brushes you, is over reacting. To hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer and pasta and bread is surely not necessary. The vast majority of people who get the virus are fine. Estimates of deaths at 3.5 % are based on the number of deaths among CONFIRMED cases. The vast majority of people who have Coronavirus have not been tested. Therefore, a fairer estimate is far lower, about 1%. Yes, it’s probably still a bit higher than flu, but honestly, it’s not the Black Plague. People are acting as if the virus will kill you in 24 hours. That from this fear we have destroyed the world economy, put billions of people out of work , including me, insured that mothers will not be able to feed their children, or pay their bills because their job is shut down, all to assuage our fears, is narcissistic and cowardly. Yes, yes, yes, we don’t want to infect others. But our isolating will not do much.
BDavis (California)
some in the retirement home in Kirkland went from no symptoms to dead in 24 hours.
DG (Idaho)
Here is reality there are approx 7.8 billion humans in this world, less than 200 thousand of them have been confirmed with this virus... I would say its being blown way out of proportion for some reason that has not yet become apparent.
Slann (CA)
@DG Here are a few: "social media", where misinformation, rumor, and baseless fears can be instantly transmitted around the world. Our news media, which depends on revenue ("clicks", advertising, etc.), instead of being independently budgeted, "curates" stories for maximum emotional reaction, instead of presenting clear facts. Print news media has been steadily losing readership, to both of the aforementioned. Underlying a lot of this is the decline of EDUCATION, which allows ignorance to contribute to any subject being "blown out of proportion".
HG (Bowie, MD)
@DG Maybe because those numbers are only for the few months that the virus has jumped into the human population and because the number of confirmed cases is increasing exponentially in several countries, and because the U.S. has no clue as to how many of us are infected, so we can’t even figure out how bad things will get? There is also the fact that as a new virus, no one is immune to being infected, so we can’t rely on community immunity to slow down the rate of transmission.
Ginger M. (North Carolina)
Are the people asking if we are doing “too much” about Covid-19 actually asking if their investments are falling “too much?”
Andrea (New Jersey)
We are wildly overreating to this virus (I am 68 years old). This flu season has killed about 22000 Americans, including 144 children. Coronavirus tends to target older and sick persons who would have a relatively low life spectancy anyway. And with so much fear instilled into the public, emergency rooms are being swamped by the well-afraid. We made a boogey man up out of this virus when it was in China and now the snow ball has rolled over us.
KJP (San Luis Obispo, Ca.)
I live in Arroyo Grande Ca. in San Luis Obispo county. As of now we have 3 cases and I am sure there are many more out there. It seems to me after paying very close attention to this situation for weeks it all starts at the top. That person is culpable and no one was willing to say to that person you have no clothes on. There was and is no bottom to what this person is willing to do to further his wanting adulation and never being told he is wrong. We are all paying with our tax dollars and our lives. He will always say he knows more than anyone about anything. I would not shed a tear if he got this disease. I just had to vent, because it did not need to get to this point if we had a real leader to lead us.
P. Jennings (Seoul)
Yes. Americans are overreacting. Just wear a mask and keep your hands clean. Aside from not congregating in large groups, life here in S. Korea is going on pretty much as normal. There has been no hoarding, and no calls for people to shut themselves in. My son is home from school, but we go out often to walk around and get exercise. We just follow the common sense rules for protecting ourselves. And guess what! Infections here keep declining.
Cornflower Rhys (Washington, DC)
It is entirely possible that the covid-19 epidemic will be very different in different places. In some relatively unpopulated western and southern states that are mostly rural, it might have a minimal impact whereas in NYC and Seattle, it is already something that has a much bigger impact.
Felix (CT)
Gee, it would have been great if we had had an office in the white house dedicated to analyzing data and coming up with smart, well thought out responses to pandemic threats. We might have been able to use the 2 month lead time to formulate a real plan. Oh wait, we had one of those back in 2018, didn’t we?
Paulo (Paris)
People are only reacting to the media. Covid 19 killed about 3,000 people in a country of 1.5 billion, seldom anyone under the age of 60 or 70. The cure will be worse than the poison.
HG (Bowie, MD)
@Paulo And that was because China took drastic measures that were much stronger than what we are being asked to do now.
Charles Focht (Lost in America)
Better safe than sorry, as they say.
Rev. E. M. Camarena, PhD (Hell's Kitchen)
Overreacting? Hmmmm: “Despite COVID-19 infection being widespread, 93% of the cases are in 4 countries: China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea.” - World Health Organization Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom, March 11, 2020. As to the people who point to Italy and gleefully say "That's America soon!" What’s happening in Italy bears ZERO resemblance to the situation elsewhere: “The majority of people who have died from the coronavirus in Italy have been between 63 and 95 with underlying illnesses. 22% of the Italian population is over 65... Italy is a country of old people. The elderly with previous pathologies are notoriously numerous here. I think this could ex- plain why we are seeing more serious cases of coronavirus here, which I repeat, in the vast majority of cases start mildly and cause few problems, especially in young people and certainly in children.” - Prof Massimo Galli, the director of infectious diseases at Sacco hospital in Milan. CHINA? W.H.O. reports as of March 11, China has only had 0.0056% of its population infected with the coronavirus. Wuhan, China, the town that is suspected of being the origin for the virus, had only 1% of its population infected with the coronavirus. YOU do the math.
Scientist (Boston)
Yes, the number of cases against the total Chinese population seems small, but it is a false equivalence. The real numbers have to be compared to the population of Wuhan and surrounding provinces, where the rate was high. They kept it relatively contained by completely quarantining the entire area and shutting down all the industries in the rest of the country. People who showed symptoms were quarantined by force if they did not cooperate. Try doing that in this country.
Rev. E. M. Camarena, PhD (Hell's Kitchen)
@Scientist: Talk about cherry picking! Was Prof Massimo Galli wrong? Was Dr. Tedros Adhanom wrong? Instead of dealing with the facts I supplied, you latched onto a bigoted trope about a ruthless Chinese government. Let me tell you something about China, Mr. "Scientist": Everything their government does is informed by one thing. The need to forestall famine. They will do whatever it takes to stop anything that could lead to famine. And panic in the population will start that horrific ball rolling. So will corruption, which is why they have the death penalty for corrupt government bureaucrats. From your perch in Boston I doubt you have ever experienced famine, but the people of China have. So go attack them for their internal policies. China sits on a tinder box, knowing that famine could be set off at any time. And here... the privileged we hoard toilet paper because 68 people died since January. You have provided a shameful and xenophobic attempt at rebuke.
Yankee49 (Rochester NY)
Let's see. Two academic-secure economists at University of Wyoming, that top flight school of economics suggest a financial modeling of human life value. the state owned by the Cheneys and Big Oil who, now doubt, have a say in the University. Gee, what a surprise at their "questioning."
skyfiber (melbourne, australia)
So, older men...the best advice is to stay at home all day with your wife. No golf, no NCAA basketball. Can you imagine the spike in the suicide rate? More than offsets death by corona, I bet...
Tony (NJ)
What a ridiculous statement. Everyone feels their voice needs to be heard at times like this. Had all of this been put in place sooner, we all would’ve been better for it. Let’s hope the government now tells the banking industry to lighten up on the consumers. Otherwise, we’ll see yet again - people walking away from their homes. Take Italy’s lead. They told the banking industry “nobody has to pay their mortgage for 60 days, minimum.” Hopefully our country wises up.
Anthony Salm (Salem, OR)
No one doubts the economic, social, and psychological consequences of prolonged social isolation—but the science quoted in the article clearly shows that these measures save significant numbers of lives. So it seems to me that we don’t really have a choice and that this is a sacrifice we must make. It’s that mentality of willingness to sacrifice that prevailed in WWII and it’s the best way, in my view, to frame the way we need to look at this as we offer any support we can to mobilization efforts yet to come. Our national response to this will be analyzed of course by generations of future historians. I very much doubt that “they overreacted” will be included in what they write.
hwarriorq (new york, ny)
social distancing is helpful, but the evidence showed that once China instituted rapid testing, it was much easier to identify those infected, even if they showed no symptoms and that is when the situation began to turn around. We need access to rapid testing, affordable/free, and ASAP.
DJY (San Francisco, CA)
TG somebody is asking sensible questions about how to handle the coronavirus outbreak. Our lives are being upended and shut down based on little solid knowledge about this virus. According to NYT today, there are 4,115 known cases in the US with 73 deaths. Of those known 4,115 cases, about 15% may be severe and another 5% may be potentially lethal. This is the prevalence of the disease in a country with about 330 million people. I acknowledge the rate of infection is harder to assess. I'm seeing best guesstimates and frankly, some of them are pretty wild. I share a serious cause for concern like everybody else. I'm also aware that health officials are on the line to do something so they may favor overcautious if not extreme measures. But still...!
Brookhawk (Maryland)
@DJY You catch these things early, or you don't catch them at all.
EB (Earth)
I'm sure that rich people holed up in their second homes, with access to everything they need--and also with nothing to do except watch their stock portfolios become less and less valuable--think that the rest of us are overreacting. Of course, it's not only the rich who will be out of pocket. Workers who have to go without pay as a result of the containment efforts will suffer greatly. This is easily solved, though: we provide every America citizen with net worth below a certain amount (as determined by economists) with a guaranteed monthly income for up to a year after we go back to "normal." Pay for this with money we normally give to the military (maybe they will have to make do with only $400 billion this year instead of $600 billion--54% of the federal budget!). Also, massively tax billionaires to make them merely millionaires, and use that tax revenue for monthly incomes for the poor. Still, rich people everywhere: the rest of us are very sorry for any damage to your portfolios. (Not)
Julia (NY,NY)
I'm staying in my apartment and not leaving even though I feel fine, for now. You have to take this seriously.
Julia (Milano)
Why not ask those of us in the EU right now if we are overreacting? Or, ask the doctors in Italy and Spain, and rest of the EU if they are overreacting. I mean, just a month ago, Italians were out in the street enjoying themselves - drinking coffee in our cafes, thinking that people in China were overreacting. Today, we don’t even have enough space to cremate or bury the dead.
Bhaskar (Dallas, TX)
Overreacting or not, let's get to some real and tough questions: - Why did the epidemic start and accelerate in NY, and CA (+WA), than the rest of the country? - What extent are coastal states an epidemic threat to the rest of the country? - What role did sanctuary cities play in community spread infection? - Why did NY take so long to close schools while TX did in in a couple of days? Are NY people that dependent on their state government? - If gatherings must be kept to less than 10 people, will bigger illegal caravans not be allowed to stroll across our border?
TophG (Florida)
It’s unfortunate, Bhaskar, that you see an important public health issue discussion as merely an opportunity to troll.
Brookhawk (Maryland)
@Bhaskar Because CA and NY are where most people come in from out of country, not TX. Sanctuary cities play no role - the disease came in by plane and cruise ship and now it's community spread. Coastal states a threat to the country? what are you going to do? can't build a wall and we already have mountains anyway. Your questions are nothing but right wing talking points. Diseases ignore borders of all kinds, all the time. Turn Fox off for a while.
Sanjay (New York)
Are you suggesting that undocumented immigrants brought the virus back from their Italian ski vacations? New York and California are two international business centers, Texas is not. People from all over the world go to New York and California to do business, many from Italy and China.
Not 99pct (NY, NY)
It is a novel virus in which we have no immunity, vaccine or therapeutic. Had the global population went on their way and treated it like "another flu" like so many people said, the hospitals would be overrun across the country and a lot of people's parents and grandparents would be in the morgue. So you tell me,do we accept that or do we self-isolate until we can get rid of this or contain it long enough for a therapeutic (6 months) and vaccine (1-2 years)?
CitizenTM (NYC)
The global economy will be in smithereens if this becomes a six months lockdown. Millions of young will die from a global economic meltdown if this continues beyond four - six weeks.
Jack matiia (Ray Claire wi)
The question raised by this piece seems to be, bluntly stated, “Should we massively disrupt the lives and livelihoods of the whole nation to add a few years to the lives of the already health-compromised elderly?
Brookhawk (Maryland)
@Jack matiia You're kidding yourself. Young people get sick too and have their lives disrupted and take up hospital beds, and some people don't die but get permanent damage.
Bill P. (Naperville, IL)
I have the luxury of working from home as a routine part of my job. But I cannot help but think about the hourly workers like my daughter who work for small businesses that will not have the financial wherewithal to weather this forced closure. Congress makes noise about finding the funding to insure that no worker or business suffers the consequences of this shut down that is totally out of their control, but how do we trust that any money supposedly set aside for the vulnerable will not once again land in the pockets of the well-connected .1%.?
Not 99pct (NY, NY)
@Bill P. There's helicopter money on the way to the masses. Not sure if it saves everyone though.
Senator Blutarski, PhD (Boulder, CO)
My strategy is to get the virus early and get through it now, while their appear to be adequate medical resources should that be necessary. “We’re all in it together?” Well we weren’t in it together before the pandemic, why now? Because now the elites share the risk even though they never shared the wealth? Not me, I’m in it to win it, just like them. The pandemic just levels the bio-playing field and that’s making the entitled classes crazy. Game on baby.
badman (Detroit)
The economy has been vulnerable since the 2007 debacle. We have pumped up markets (false wealth) with massive credit expansion. As a result, we have less options than we might have. Shutting down the economy (as we are) is suicide - we have to keep things functioning or the bottom will fall out.
Patrick alexander (Oregon)
To some extent this kind of question was inevitable. How many times have “experts” predicted this kind of calamity or that kind of disaster. An example are the celebrity meteorologists who love to think up clever little names like “snowmaggedon” etc. Market pundits are also major culprits. Then, when the predicted calamity doesn’t occur, almost none of the experts admit that they were wrong (remind you of someone?). The public is relieved, yes, but a sense of trust is damaged. Who,to believe and what to believe? When does the ordinary person know that “this time is different, we really mean it)? Having said that, to me the cost of ignoring sound advice from medical experts is just too high for us as a nation as me as an individual . So, I adjust my life and muddle through.
Dr.E (Oregon)
I am so done with these people. Come sit in my ER. It’s full of people with severe respiratory symptoms, fevers, and we have no tests! This is not about economics or feel good get together. This is literally about a massive number of people dying or being crippled with lung damage for life. Let these people sip their free trade organic coffee in the safety of their kitchens. They don’t have to risk their lives intubating someone due to the virus being listed into the air for all to breathe in. Or watch as people drown in their own lung fluid, which is what ARDS is. If this isn’t dealt with NOW and swiftly we will have this for several years. If we deal with it up front we are looking at 12-18 months of pain and far fewer dead. There is zero treatment. There is no vaccine, I doubt one will be effective, no coronavirus has had a vaccine made yet. So stay home if you can. Also fill out a will. We are finding a lot of people don’t have a living will or a financial will.
Snowball (Manor Farm)
The cure can be worse than the disease. Young people do not die from this. They get mild symptoms most of the time, and something like the flu the rest of the time. Those over the age of 60 are at real risk, and the very elderly and immune-compromised, most of all. Aim the cure where it belongs. Figure out a way for seniors etc. to be safely quarantined in their homes, supported by a mix of neighbors, local institutions, food banks, and the like. As for those under 60, let them live their lives, but keep them away from seniors! As those under 60 get sick, they'll recover, and then have immunity. Within a few months, herd immunity will protect everyone. If seniors stay quarantined, the emergency rooms will NOT be overwhelmed.
Brookhawk (Maryland)
@Snowball A lot of people under 60 are health compromised and are no safer than those over 60. young people may not die as frequently, but they do die. And they do get sick and suffer even if they don't die.
Kristin (Portland, OR)
@Snowball - Why do you think young people don't die of this, or only get something like the normal flu? Just the other day in this paper there was an article about two young women in China, one a doctor, one a nurse. Both got critically ill, required hospitalization and intensive medical treatment. One died, the other eventually recovered. Both were only 29.
very sore loser (tampa fl)
Hopefully people will take preparedness more seriously, regarding natural disasters, power grid destruction, cyber warfare, viruses. It feels like we are all just supposed to put our head between our legs and hope for the best. A lot of the precautions don't make a lot of sense. If one questions the current policies, they are considered politically incorrect. There is a lot of conflicting information out there it seems regarding the effects of UV light for example the current virus situation. If people are coughing outside, wouldn't the sunlight kill any virus that was expelled on a sunny day? Wouldn't it be easier to just ask everyone to wear a mask of some sort and have one or many available, and by so doing eliminate the spread from a potentially infected person. Thereby a quarantine wouldn't be necessary. Older folks could be quarantined for their own safety. But if people were required to have masks on hand and not be in public spaces without one, wouldn't that greatly reduce the potential for transmission? Restaurants could stay open and just have their patrons eat outside in the sunlight at a safe social distance instead of just closing everything down.
VoR (San Francisco, CA)
Why would the US see a MINIMUM of 160K deaths when China has seen 3200 in 4 months with a population of 1.4 billion, a healthy dose of which resort to traditional Chinese medicine before eventually (if ever) turning to modern medicine? Not to mention it is the place of origin, which inevitably exacerbates the situation. Nor can the Trump administration be accused of delaying the initial reaction as much as Beijing did. I get that Trump is the antichrist, but real lives are being impacted here as the global economy plunges into recession. Perhaps it's time for a bit of perspective.
Jon (SF)
I'm all in on sacrifice for the greater good. I can stay home with my wife and kids. I can eliminate most trips outside of our home. Like Americans during WWII, I can make choices that are good for my family and other foks as well. I'm ok with losing some personal freedom if it means we are slowing the transfer of this deadly disease. I don't agree that we are overreacting. I simply believe a number of Americans are simply too self centered to think of the 'greater good'.
Paul R S (DC)
I'm in favor of very strong measures being taken but one SHOULD ask the question and weigh all factors. Asking the question doesn't presume an answer. If you don't like the idea of putting a price tag on life as part of the question, you might want to ask: how many people will die as a result of the measure being taken compared to how many will be saved? Not asking that question is INCREDIBLY irresponsible (it's murder by ignorance). Those arguing that you shouldn't ask questions are letting their authoritarianism show.
Reader In Wash, DC (Washington, DC)
Of course there is a massive over reaction. Bad news sells. And the liberal main stream media are perfectly fine creating panic with the hope of taking down Trump. (Their fake impeachment was a flop.) But does the left really think they can keep up the panic unitl Nov.? People will get bored / cabin fever and will want to get on with life. Every cloud has a silver lining. Stocks are on sale and I have been buying. Stocks have been too high for a while.
Doctor T (Arlington MA)
What is not mentioned is the health cost of social distancing. .Social isolation and self-quarantine can’t be good for our immune systems.
badman (Detroit)
@Doctor T Correct, it won't work. Have to keep on keepin' on. It will be messy but there really seems little choice. Social Science major.
cd (nyc)
You might say we are overreacting if the testing procedure were up and running. It is not, so everybody could have this virus, and be spreading it to others, who will then spread it to others ... Simple, no?
Jagan (Portland, OR)
Shutting down the economy with needless panic and fear-mongering to achieve a grand political objective (since November 2016) has become the rallying cry of the callous and irresponsible mainstream media. Mainstreet is paying a steep price for it. Wonder what is in store for them come November 2020 !
Matt (West of the Mississippi)
Everyone badgering on about how this is necessary is just as likely to be on the other side saying it wasn’t necessary whenever this may blow over — which it may not if it becomes endemic as so many have said it may! People like to be right, whether that’s going into a war with Iraq or saying that war was built on lies (when the reality of Iraq was bad information, not lies). You can already predict how this will look in a few months. The stats may very well demonstrate it was no worse than a bad flu season. How many millions of Americans will lose their place of living? How many will be able to feed their children? How many will go hungry? How many already hungry may die? These are non partisan political concerns. We are all affected. Maybe we are taking the right course of action, but there is no true control group because we live in in an effectively borderless world, so we will never meaningfully know. Everything people say in the next weeks and months should be replayed to them when we return to normal. But it will mean little, as everyone retreats to their political poles, just as this paper has done through it’s editorials on the virus.
Tom (Glendale, WI)
Yes we overreacting. This being made out to to be the plague that's going to kill us all. This being made to sound as though martial law will soon be declared and anyone violating it will be shot. There, how's that for overreacting.
John (New York)
I get the whole thing about second guessing our approach to this. But when you take a step back and look at how poorly the federal government continues to handle it we should, in my opinion continue to err on the side of caution. Let testing continue to be ramped up as quickly as possible. Continue to listen to experts, not politicians. Watch the trajectory statistics, and be aware of the hot spots. Be mindful of those who are at greatest risk. Be patient and don't panic. Be prudent but don't hoard. Be of help, not a hindrance. We are in the first inning of a nine inning game. This virus will be with us until we are able to find a viable vaccine.
texsun (usa)
All doubt erased by learning from Italy.
ZOPK55 (Sunnyvale)
China stopped or significantly slowed the progression via these kind of drastic measures that inconvenienced a lot of people . They may be authoritarians, but they are not stupid.
Kevin (Austin)
I wonder what would happen if the government said "all non-essential services to cease." The government will pay for all food and medicine people need. Fuel will be paid for those who need to travel. All utility and food workers will be taken care of. No rent payments, taxes, insurance payments, mortgage payments, no payments at all will be owed to anyone. Once this clears up, we will all get back to work, as close to a zero sum gain we can expect.
DJK. (Cleveland, OH)
Maybe to the headline question. But aren't you going to be glad if not. We never know at a time like this. It's only in hindsight.
Stephen (New York)
Plunging the world into an economic implosion will lead to many adverse health outcomes lasting years, and these need to be balanced against the health risks of COVID-19. Everything is a trade-off. It would seem reasonable for this to be thoughtfully addressed by the government, economists, and public health experts.
Cathy Smith (Boulder Colorado)
If you question anything, you are a terrible person who wants everyone to die. It doesn't matter that most people won't die or some things against the rules are safer overall than those that aren't. Dying of coronavirus or dying of diabetes complications caused by the various shutdowns are both deaths. I know it's not clear what to do. One thing that would help is if people wouldn't imply that others are not making tremendous sacrifices. Examples of sacrifices that given are often minor like missing a baseball game but not I no longer can have my kids go to college or I can't pay for health insurance or I'm now homeless.
rabbit (nyc)
For God's Sake! This contrarian response is materialist and utilitarian and definitely post Christian. There are more attractive and constructive ways to be contrarian. Regarding quarantining student age people together... That's maybe not such a terrible idea, though the university lawyers might not go for it, and one would probably have to build a wall around the ivory tower. Doesn't really work for young students living at home unless we embrace the socialist youth camp model. I suspect that unspoken in this article is the darwinist triage model... sacrifice the elderly and infirm. Just as the Nazis would do. No, I think choosing the family as the basic unit, as we have done, may be the healthiest and most secure choice.
Nate (CA)
Very clear answer from back of the envelope calculations: yes the benefits of social distancing vastly exceed the costs.
Hillary Rettig (Kalamazoo, MI)
Research shows that studying economics makes people more selfish. This pair of economists casually sipping coffee while ignorantly proposing theories that could harm people (other than their privileged selves) is yet another indictment of the field.
Chunky Peterson (Rapids Grand)
Is it better to be overprepared or underprepared?
Ed (Colorado)
"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” --Blaise Pascal, philosohper and scientist (1623-1662)
Kenneth Miles (Hawaiian Islands)
It is reassuring to read that an overwhelming percentage of commentators here emphatically do not believe we are over-reacting. Viruses are primordial entities, and they do not know of care about our frail human constructs or societies or economic networks. They will take advantage of any vector open to them to spread — and in this case we are the superhighway. I have a hunch that in a few years, when this is all over, we will read technical histories and scientific/medical papers about this particular coronavirus and we will all be shocked by just how ‘novel’ this virus was, and how much we did not know at the time. Regarding claims that we are over-reacting to this pandemic, let’s use a popular culture analogy most Americans can grasp. In the science fiction film “Alien” the crew of the Nostromo, after being contaminated by the parasitical xenomorph ‘alien’ (and following a disastrous attempt at quarantine), they initially set out to contain the amorphous threat with flashlights and pet carriers. A few hours later, with all crew dead save Warrant Officer Ripley, she chose the extreme measure of destroying the Nostromo with a nuclear overload of the powerplant in order to ensure the alien’s annihilation. Was this an over-reaction? In the beginning of the sequel, “Aliens,” Ripley’s employers at the Weyland-Yutani Corporation sure thought so. But ... I guess you had to be on the Nostromo, right?
Nominae (Santa Fe, NM)
We are clearly over-reacting in a full-on Chicken Little response. Similar to the Spanish Flu in 1918, it is now known that the Strain of Flu in 1918 was not particularly more virulent than any other annual strain, but the cramming of people into "social distancing" camps and other foolhardy responses to the bug resulted in truly impossible-to-comprehend numbers of deaths around the Globe. This time it is just the general Federal bone-headedness and the failure to *follow what Scientists *tell our "leadership" NEEDS to be done that will compound and exacerbate the number of fellow humans taking their leave of the Earth.
Leigh (Qc)
@Nominae So said the doomed general that (apocryphally) led the Pharaoh's armies into oblivion chasing the Jews into the Red Sea. People are free to reject reality to their heart's content - reality has no such latitude in accommodating our fanciful whims and dearest wishes.
AGoldstein (Pdx)
“Are we overreacting?’’ to the Covid-19 pandemic is like asking if we are overreacting to climate change. There is only one answer to both, unless you are a science denier, believer in misinformation and/or wishful thinking.
Heather (San Diego, CA)
If our financial leaders use the right measures, we really ought to be able to get thorough a couple of months of isolation. With the economy, it's a combination of maintaining confidence that the end is in view and providing real-time financing to businesses and families. If we let the disease burn through communities, we'll come out after a couple of months having lost many of our elders and many of our doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals. That will hurt society for generations. This is not going to be easy, but with have more options for dealing with global finances than we do for dealing with global death. As we've seen with China and South Korea, this is something that can definitely be turned around within a couple of months. Finances can rebound. The dead cannot.
WJP1940 (Indiana)
Of course, the effort is overkill and wasted. As writer pointed out for one victim, people have the virus and show no symptoms. Recent research has shown this to be true. They will continue to spread it for weeks or months or years. Will governments hunt them down and put them in concentration camps? The major falsehood in her writing is that it is a deadly virus. The virus is deadly to some people with underlying health issues and debilitated condition. For nearly all other suffers it is less troublesome than the flu. Got COPD? Chemo treatment for cancer? Severe heart disease? Genetic issues? And other conditions? You're at risk. The one sure thing the overkill is doing is destroying the economy and lifes along with it. A world wide depression will soon be upon us that will cost far more lifes than this virus ever will!
ondelette (San Jose)
Can I ask another "taboo question"? Why is it banned at the highest levels to mention China at all in relation to this virus, but quite fine to talk about how we don't want to end up as "Italy"? Are Italians entitled to less than Chinese?
Opinioned! (NYC)
Dr. Fauci, minutes ago: “These measures may seem like over reactions but they are not. We are already behind, and we don’t even know how far behind. We are just catching up.”
Chicago Guy (Chicago, Il)
If you think there is an even chance that the sun will or won't rise tomorrow, then the question of whether or not Americans are overreacting is valid. However... if you see reality as a "probability matrix" the way I do - meaning that reality tends to comport with mathematics, scientific observations, the laws of physics, etc, etc, etc. - then the question of whether or not Americans are overreacting is absolutely ludicrous. (Not to mention dangerous and irresponsible) Of course, over the years, this country has seen, and continues to see, it's fair share of such questions from people (some of which are on television and radio shows with large audiences) for whom science, and the predictable repeatability that comes with it, means absolutely nothing. For them, all questions and outlooks are equally valid. (And they are usually accompanied with the dismissive hedge, "Who knows? As in, "Will the sun rise tomorrow?", "Who knows? No one really knows!") But, if you do believe in math and science, etc, here's a thought: if the infection rate reaches 50%, which is not unlikely, and the mortality rate is 3.5%, which it currently is, then the death toll in the U.S. alone would be ~6,000,000 people, and over 130,000,000 globally. Now, if, in light of those scientifically based figures, someone has the temerity to ask whether or not people are "over reacting", the response from anyone with half-a-brain would necessarily be, "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND???!!!".
Brunella (Brooklyn)
Err on the side of caution. Distancing will slow spread, give health workers better odds to combat the disease, and help all vulnerable parts of the population — the elderly, those with compromised health — stay alive. Don't be selfish, don't dismiss the seriousness of this. It's called global pandemic for a reason. Those ignorant public officials like Devin Nunes should really know better — and just zip it.
David Doney (I.O.U.S.A.)
We will face pandemics every few years and have to modify our system accordingly. Pandemic insurance for businesses, dedicated taxes to fund pandemic responses by government, much better testing capability, special capacity for healthcare supplies kept ready, etc. We should be treating pandemic readiness like military readiness and spend a lot more money on it. Further, the Fed will need special capabilities when pandemics are declared to print money and inject it right into people's bank accounts. The Fed can print an unlimited amount and once we declare a national pandemic emergency that line of credit should be opened.
DBR (Los Angeles)
Reading this suggests we accept the bungled, ignorant and incompetent approach to planning for for such emergencies, as we experienced with the Trump administration. How about we revisit this issue after policies and plans are in place to minimize risk to human life and its global cost, before the fact, and by more intelligent, knowledgeable and empathetic people?
Laume (Chicago)
Ok, an economist and a philosophy professor- IRRELEVANT opinions for public health policy for containing pandemic.
Susan H Llewellyn (NYC)
As one who turned 80 last week and has long had problems applying the words “elderly” and “senior” to herself, my answer to the title is a resounding “NO!” In this context the sooner we accept that there ARE no “taboo questions,” the better for all of us—no matter how often we have to slap ourselves figuratively on the wrist to stop ourselves in, say, a “I’ll just run out to pick up some...” situation. And the sooner we learn that NO precautions are either excessive or futile, the more we MAY be helping to lessen the Corona threat to everyone.
nickchop (ohio)
Maybe. But we don't have a government or media we can trust, so everyone is just preparing for the worst. So who knows. Maybe we shouldn't elect anti-science muppets to public office.
WH (Yonkers)
The brits, looks hard at this question: they assume it is unstoppable, but manageable. But a iron upper lip, be prepared to be sick. But to this horror and terror, if managed, the economy can be kept from collapsing, worst can be prevented. it is time, for adults: it is also true: their medical system does not discriminate based on money.
allentown (Allentown, PA)
The restrictions will seem very necessary and we will deeply regret that they were delayed too long and testing began too late at way too low a capacity when we start experiencing 500-1000 deaths per day, as the Italian experience says we will. Angela Merkel over a week ago matter-of-factly stated that a majority of the German populace would contract the virus. At the calculated death rates that is 1 - 2 % of the German population gone within the half year, on top of normal death rates. That's what happens when governments give absolute priority to continuing the economic expansion, as our government also has done. We are not in a good place today.
Paul (Phoenix, AZ)
What social distancing? The beaches of Florida are full of people on spring break. Cruise ships are still leaving port with passengers on cruises. Hotels are still hosting pool parties. Devin Nunes still thinks it's OK to go out to the bar for a drink. The photos of the sardines at Disneyland just before it closed was shocking. And soon all bets will be off as Trump, his poll numbers sinking, will no longer be able to contain his primitive instincts and he will go back to his rent-a-mob rallies.
AhBrightWings (Cleveland)
What we need now are rules designed to break the back of hoarding. I went to one Walgreens that had a surprising number of toilet paper packs on the shelves for a very logical reason. There was a prominent sign that said "one pack per person, and we mean it." How civilized. Out of curiosity, I went to the one across the street...every shelf wiped clean. I suggested to the manager that they adopt the other store's policy. He told me "People are behaving like animals" and I thought, "Then help them stop." He was, btw, the third store manager that day to use that phrase to describe the behaviors stores are witnessing. What preppers always knew and clearly got right is that it's not the precipitating event. It's the panic and greed that the event engenders. Someone needs to step in, take control, and ensure that goods are fairly distributed. Now. This notion that we're "rugged individuals" (what rot and nonsense) and it's a free-for-all needs to be curbed just as urgently as the disease itself. It's clear we're in this for the long haul. We cannot have a situation where some are desperate because others were greedy. It's long past time to impose limits. I've said this since the outbreak began: It's never just the disease. We have to stop thinking hoarding, fear and panic are ancillary problems. They are inextricably linked to the virus and must be accounted and planned for and controlled.
David (Seattle)
The statistical value of a life is 9 million. Who would accept 9 million to be killed? My point is that such a number is what economists measure when asking people about someone else's life, not our own. Even if people are willing to take a risk on my life, I wouldn't accept that, and that is why this conversation is a non-starter. Life and money are incommensurable, when talking about ouselves.
An Accurate Psychic’s Thoughts (Colorado)
My daughter is a psychic. A very accurate one. She’s worked with many government agencies in her young 26 years. And while my comment may be laughed off by many - I don’t care. I’m still going to post it. She was asked three days ago by a person who works at one of these three letter agencies - what she felt the projected number of US cases would be. Her answer? “Over one-hundred thousand”. Let that swirl around then ask yourself if we’re overreacting. Mr. Trump IS the national emergency.
L Hill (Owensboro, KY)
@An Accurate Psychic’s Thoughts We will have 160 million cases here in the next two years as a predicted 50% of us will get this. We could have between 3.2 million and 6.4 million dead in the next two years. Most of those will be people who are very old and sick, but, still dying before their time. The model is 1917 and 1918, a 2 to 4 percent death rate among those with the disease.
99percent (downtown)
@An Accurate Psychic’s Thoughts That's just another year of the flu! Ask your daughter how many will die from the flu! CDC estimates 22,000-55,000 will die from flu this season.
Fred Simkin (New Jersey)
It is completely valid to conduct a rigorous examination of all policies originated during this event. The problem comes from the continued lack of the most critical number "the rate of infection". Without this number everything becomes "by guess and by by gosh". We are here because of the ineptitude and incompetence of some member s of the executive branch in deploying testing nationwide. But we are here.
TH (SF Bay Area)
6 Bay Area Counties, home to several million people, have just been told to shelter in place from midnight tonight through April 7, at least. It is about time. At the same time, I've been talking to parents of the second-graders I teach. Many are VERY concerned about this economic impact this will have on their families, starting very soon. It's time to a) donate money to food banks, etc. if you can, b) contact our elected officials to demand that we pass legislation to help hourly workers, small business owners, the self-employed to weather this storm. I also got news that at least two students and the parent of another student have come down with a fever and a cough since end of school on Friday. FLATTEN the CURVE
Chris (Chicago)
Best guess, probably not. Unless, of course, we would prefer to see bunches of dead people in the street and knowing that more are behind doors. Social isolation is serious; but if you want quality scaring, try walking around a corpse or two while going to the store. The even better guess? Perhaps the reason almost none of us knew a lot about the Spanish flu was because it was so traumatic that few wanted to remember it in words. And that's some real scar tissue.
Beth (Colorado)
It now seems clear from his press conference on Monday that Mr Trump has switched gears and now imagines that he will go down in history as the president who saved us from the coronavirus. He pretended to be ahead of the curve and he issued advice that was more restrictive than that of any the state governors who took decisive actions while he was still in denial. He is posing as the leader who is steering the ship. It does not fool me, but we'll see who is fooled.
Paul Bertorelli (Sarasota)
It's certainly fair to ask if the countermeasures are worse than the damage caused by the disease. So, do nothing? Do everything? Something in between? Who set the needle and how to measure the economic damage against the death toll? Leave this virus unchecked, and the math is relentless: Millions will die and at great cost. I have no answers. But anyone paying attention to what happened in China and now in Italy ought to ask themselves if that's acceptable.
Garagesaler (Sunnyvale, CA)
Let's hope that in the months and years to come there are extensive investigations and reports detailing, in the US (not China, not Italy, not Korea): 1) the origins of the mass hysteria surrounding this virus 2) the actual numbers of deaths and serious cases in terms of % of popular and in terms of age and health groups most seriously affected 3) the economic damage to small businesses in terms of income loss and bankruptcies. 4) the adverse economic impact to individuals of all income and social classes We needs serious investigations and reports so this doesn't happen again when another flu-like virus pops up in China.
99percent (downtown)
@Garagesaler So far, 81,000 cases in China with 67,000 (82%) of those recovered, leaving 14,000 sick and 3,200 dead in a country of 1.4 billion people. The USA has 1/4 the population, so maybe 20,000 cases and 16,000 recoveries and 4,000 sick and 800 dead.
The Hawk (Arizona)
Interesting article. Let's see. Several people I know were furloughed without pay already last week. They were encouraged to seek unemployment so I assume that those funds will dry out soon. It will not be feasible support tens of millions of people from government funds for too long. Many of these people do not have health insurance and the possibility of free health care if they happen to have COVID-19 will do little to encourage them to seek treatment or testing, with most cases being mild anyway. Sooner or later, desperation will step in. I can anticipate that some will begin to break into houses in search of supplies. In short, this could quickly blossom into something worse than a death rate of about 0.33% from the coronavirus (if I am to believe the NYT claim today that there are 6 to 7 undetected cases for each detected case). I think that we need to be careful and follow the instructions but also try to make sure that our treatment does not kill the patient.
Some Dude (CA Sierra Country)
The answer depends on the value placed on a human life. Economists use all kinds of weird proxies, like earning potential (as if the only value a person represents its as a cog in the big machine). None of them are close to a personal view of one's own life. Economists don't ever, to my knowledge, value altruism or other civic responsibilities to our fellow man. The golden rule seems like the right way to go (not Trump's version where he with the gold rules). If you would want others to refrain from activities that would put you or your loved ones at risk, then you ought to refrain from those activities. What ever that costs is irrelevant.
Herr Andersson (Grönköping)
The shuttering of businesses is causing physical stress to business owners and employees. The economic stress is deadly, and may cause more deaths than the coronavirus. How many people died because of the stress in the 2008 financial crisis, or during the great depression. Many more than the virus will kill.
HenryParsons (San Francisco, CA)
These are entirely fair questions to ask. By all accounts the highest risk slice of the population is the frail elderly. I wish for zero of them to expire any sooner they would have anyway, but let's face it: The frail elderly consume vastly more in economic resources than they contribute. From a purely economic standpoint we would be better off without them.
DW (Philly)
More than they contribute, eh. I suspect when you reach old age, you may feel your several decades of hard work represented a contribution of some sort.
FJF (Palo Alto, California)
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.
Slann (CA)
@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.
CowtownShooter (Denver)
Go big and go home. It appears that maximizing short term pain will minimize total long term damage to people and the economy.
GO (New York)
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.
HG (Bowie, MD)
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.
kirk (montana)
The short answer is yes. But,,,, we do not have the testing capability to survey the population and obviously ill in order to give real time recommendations on best hygienic practices. This is the fault of the trump and republican administration that the American people elected. What to do now? We need testing. We need testing. We need data. We need data. Then make informed decisions. Immediately, the administration of this country needs to call an emergency tele-meeting of the G-20, to include China, in order to reassure world markets that everything that can be done will be done to stabilize and protect the markets. WHO needs to have publicized meetings with major country health departments to give the world concrete data on where we are, where we are going and the time frame based on the 200,000 cases to date. This without finger pointing and aggression. Without these steps, the markets will continue to collapse, bankruptcies will start and the house of cards will come tumbling down.
Cephalus (Vancouver, Canada)
We can't have the farmers, the truck drivers, the food warehouse and grocery retailer's staff, the people who collect our garbage and those who run our drinking water, sewage treatment plants and electrical generation plants stay home. We can't furlough fire fighters, ambulance drivers and attendants, people who service our telecommunications and electrical infrastructures, our plumbers, electricians, our pharmacists, doctors and nurses. So we shut bars, restaurants, casinos, cinemas and shops selling non-essentials? Sure that reduces mingling and thus virus transmission but by how much? Will it really make a difference? How many people for how long will reliably stay indoors in their own company? Sure, maybe we can flatten the curve a bit, but pretty much everyone susceptible to this virus (which appears to be pretty much everyone except possibly children) is likely to contract it sooner or later.
Daniel (CA)
There is one point I want to make. If we lock down everything until July or August as Trump suggested, it will kill more people than coronavirus by a factor of 10 at least in terms of a nuclear explosion of homelessness, starvation, fighting over resources, etc. End of April may be ok for re-opening businesses, but July or August will plunge the world into what Trump may call the "greatest depression in history" and probably a million people will die as a result. That's my prediction, take it however you will, including calling me heartless or any other type of reaction. But I ask you to take the time to think about it first.
Kris (New Jersey)
Considering, that not taking the threat seriously is what overwhelmed the Italian healthcare system; which has a greater capacity than the American system, we should probably not be as nonchalant about this as some would like.
Craig Freedman (Sydney)
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.
David Rosen (Oakland)
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.
Z (North Carolina)
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.
Daniel (CA)
@Z Over Over 100,000 people have died today worldwide from all causes.
GoranLR (Trieste, Italy)
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.
AR (Virginia)
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.
Frantzie Couch (Oklahoma)
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.
Lane (Riverbank ca)
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.
Slann (CA)
@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".
Lane (Riverbank ca)
@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.
Blue Zone (USA)
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.
Stourley Kracklite (White Plains, NY)
@Blue Zone “Sense is my point of view,” Everyone said.
Jules M (Raleigh, NC)
@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.
sginvt (Vermont)
@Blue Zone Please take away Rush Limbaugh's Medal of Honor.
MorningInSeattle (Guess Where)
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?
Silence (Washington DC)
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."
Chelsea (Hillsborough, NC)
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.
M. Macaluso (L.I. NY)
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.
Jasper (Beijing)
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.
Alan (Los Angeles)
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.
@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.
allentown (Allentown, PA)
@Alan I doubt people will die because of this policy.
GI (Milwaukee)
@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."
John Krumm (Duluth)
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.
Lisa (NYC)
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?
Jenny (Virginia)
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.
Danny (Washington DC)
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.
MJ (Phoenix)
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.
AnnabelleLeigh (Virginia)
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.
Beach bum (Florida)
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.
Elizabeth (New York City)
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.
Karl (Thompson)
One thing is absolutely certain - this is setting up a great buying opportunity for those with some cash and interested in investing in equities.
Terry S (Las Vegas)
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.
Jem (Baltimore, MD)
Maybe those economists should ask Italy whether we are overreacting.
ml (usa)
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.
kumat (Raleigh, NC)
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.
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.
SteveRR (CA)
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.
R. Anderson (South Carolina)
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.
Dave (Albuquerque, NM)
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.
Jeff (NV)
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?
Commenter (SF)
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.)"
S North (Europe)
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'.
Malcolm (NYC)
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.
Hooey (Woods Hole)
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.
Mitch Lyle (Corvallis OR)
@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.
Brad Blumenstock (St. Louis)
Your inclusion of "stop drilling and using our guns" tells me all I need to know about your ability to acknowledge reality.
Commenter (SF)
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.
Paul Bertorelli (Sarasota)
@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.
RodS (Seattle, WA)
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.
Matt Andersson (Chicago)
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."
B (India)
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.
Alex (US)
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.
Toms Quill (Monticello)
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.
Jane K (Northern California)
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.
Chip Barnett (Manlius, NY)
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.
Brad Blumenstock (St. Louis)
Who's going to work in your new "miracle hospitals?"
Chip Barnett (Manlius, NY)
@Brad Blumenstock See point #4 above.
El (CT)
@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.
Wk (winslow, az)
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.
Commenter (SF)
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.
Chip Barnett (Manlius, NY)
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.
Tipton (Vancouver)
@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.
sj (Pennsylvania)
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.
bess (Minneapolis)
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.
rfb (LA CA)
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.
Ben (Florida)
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.
Richard Gordon (Toronto)
“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.
Michael Sorensen (New York, NY)
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.
RR (Madison)
@Michael Sorensen We are putting people over money. See: cancellations, closures, and other social distancing measures.
Badri Devalla (Plano TX)
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
Jessica (Denver)
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.
Margaret (Oakland)
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.
Lazyal (Indiana)
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??
Tipton (Vancouver)
@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.
Catherine (Ann Arbor)
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.
Erica (Boston, MA)
@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
Pillai (St.Louis, MO)
@Catherine Would love to know what your husband thinks in another 5-6 days.
Robert L Smalser (Seabeck, WA)
That Trump tried to save his economy is no surprise, but the benefits of domestic manufacturing and well-controlled borders, trade and immigration are being chiseled in stone with this. As I recall, you are against ALL of that, and we won't forget.
Kiska (Alaska)
@Robert L Smalser Who's "we"? Do you *really* have to issue threats at such a time?
Brad Blumenstock (St. Louis)
It's not "his economy," it's ours, and we don't trust him with it (or our lives).
Ben (Florida)
Trump’s border policies did nothing to keep the virus from infecting the American public. They are useless. That is what coronavirus has demonstrated.
R In The West (WA)
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.
Christopher (Los Angeles)
If you eat mostly rice, you can get by on one roll of Charmin a month.
tomjoad (New York)
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.
shar (WNY)
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!
Espen Larsen (Sydkoster, Sweden)
You always need somebody to see an issue from a different angle. It enlighten the discourse and enables a better approach.
Sue Kennedy (Washington)
Perhaps "some" ought to look at the world news.
Whole Grains (USA)
Maybe people are overreacting because we have a president who has consistently underreacted from the beginning.
JackM (Queens, NY)
@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.
Lilybell (Boston)
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.
Cjmesq0 (Bronx, NY)
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.
Mitch Lyle (Corvallis OR)
@Cjmesq0 Latest number of dead yesterday is 61. Do you expect the murder rate in Chicago to climb exponentially?
DeepNuclei (New Jersey)
It's not a "taboo" question, its a selfishly ignorant question.
Harvey Black (Madison, Wisconsin)
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.
Imisswalter34 (chicago)
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.
Theresa (Fl)
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.
J Jencks (Portland)
@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?
jb (ok)
@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.
Commenter (SF)
"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.
akin (minneapolis)
this was incredibly well put.
MKF (Tsfas, Israel and Baltimore, USA)
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.
Margaret (Oakland)
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.
Marie (Michigan)
In some towns in Italy, more people have died in the last 3 weeks than died in an entire year in 2019. So, no.
Danny J (MIddle GA)
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!
JackM (Queens, NY)
@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.
Greg (Michigan)
@Danny J I’d prefer to listen to Dr. Fauce’s Expertise, even though for some reason, you are more certain than he is.
Mike Benner (Avon, Oh)
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?
Laume (Chicago)
Because older lives matter and because younger people are dying too?
Mark Larsen (Cambria, CA)
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.
Brunella (Brooklyn)
Asymptomatic people can be carriers and spread the disease to vulnerable parts of the population.
Woof (NY)
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
Atheologian (New York, NY)
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.
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?
John Murray (Midland Park, NJ)
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.
Laume (Chicago)
By definition a “pandemic” is a worldwide new infection. So yes, this is a pandemic.
Zareen (Earth 🌍)
“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
J Jencks (Portland)
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?
Henry Miller, Libertarian (Cary, NC)
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...
Ben (Florida)
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?
Kiska (Alaska)
@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.
Concerned Citizen (San Francisco)
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.
DW99 (East Coast)
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.
zigful26 (Los Angeles, CA)
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.
Jon (Bronx)
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.
Silly (Rabbit)
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.
Jack (Raleigh NC)
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.
Rob (London)
The unhelpful reality is that if social distancing and other such measures work, then nothing will happen...
Christian Haesemeyer (Melbourne)
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.
John D (San Diego)
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.
jb (ok)
@John D , today the UK is locked down.
Sean Berry (Braselton, Ga)
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.
Leonard Davich (Italy)
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.
Matt (Colorado)
Of course we're overreacting. That's the safe bet when there's no leadership.
dairyfarmersdaughter (Washinton)
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.
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 ?
Concerned citizen in (Massachusetts)
How many more people have to suffer and die from this disease in order for the reaction to qualify as "overreacting"?
Matt (Denton)
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.
TheraP (Midwest)
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.
John Doe (Ohio)
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.
DB (San Francisco, CA)
@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.
jb (ok)
@John Doe , that is not true. Check out those under 50 dying, if only your age cohort matters to your self-regard.
L Hill (Owensboro, KY)
@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.
Meh (East Coast)
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.
Homebase (USA)
@Meh Such ridiculousness. If true why would China unleash this on its own people first?
Slann (CA)
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.
Joe Rockbottom (California)
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.
Al Jay (Baton Rouge, La)
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.
Space Oddity (Westerly, RI)
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?
jb (ok)
@Space Oddity , if we had minded casualties, we wouldn’t have gone to Vietnam at all.
AhBrightWings (Cleveland)
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.
John Murray (Midland Park, NJ)
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.
MorningInSeattle (Guess Where)
What number would you say is the tipping point? A million? I ask because it could easily happen.
Janice (NY)
@John Murray Way, way over. I've never seen anything like it.
Philz (Wilmington, NC)
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.
Mother (Central CA)
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.
Kiska (Alaska)
@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.
lou andrews (Portland Oregon)
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?
Opinioned! (NYC)
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.
lou andrews (Portland Oregon)
@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.
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.
CelestialVapor (Ma)
The one thing that is certain is that if current efforts are effective, they will be thought to have been excessive.
J Jencks (Portland)
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.
Kiska (Alaska)
@J Jencks I agree. He's got some nerve giving *any* recommendations. As we say here in Alaska, "more money than brains."
Nick R (Fremont, CA)
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.
Roy S (NH)
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.
NativeSon (USA)
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.
Prof. Yves A. Isidor (Cambridge, MA)
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.
The Woodwose (Florida)
I hope to God we are overreacting because the alternative is worse. But at some point, we have to continue to work, pay bills, be able to buy food and take care of ourselves. I can't help but wonder how many people are going to end up homeless because of this shutting down of restaurants, bars, theaters, sports leagues, etc, etc. A couple of weeks we can probably handle, but a couple of months? I doubt it.
Martin (London)
It’s going to be months, not weeks. And that is a problem.
Garrett Light (Bangor Maine)
Of course it’s overreacting. Our reaction is more toxic than the virus. We have a non functioning federal government. This must change.
Ignatz (Upper Ruralia)
WHy should we doubt Trump? He told us today that by July or August this will probably,maybe, might be over or flushed out....and the market will come roaring back better than ever... Trump stood at that same lectern Feb 26, and said there are fifteen cases, 14 are almost cured, one is bad, and soon it would be down to zero. Quote from Trump Feb 26: "When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done". Remember those words: Down to zero. Have faith in him about your beautiful 401K?
Chris (Florida)
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.
Slann (CA)
@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.
Chris (Florida)
@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.
chambolle (Bainbridge Island)
@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?
Marie (New York)
When will we learn? We cannot build fire departments when we see a spark. This is especially true when we sit and watch conflagrations devour other countries. We cannot feign ignorance when the flame knocks on our yet-to-be-built door.
John Sanchez (Bend, OR)
Who knows if these baby steps are the way to go or just shut everything down for two weeks and re-evaluate. We’re in uncharted territory. Shutting down, social distancing, and flattening the curve has never been put into practice like this. I’m concerned about parts of a total shut down...sending college kids home may not be the best thing to do, but neither is a cruise ship allowing thousands of passengers to disembark unchecked.
Roger (Switzerland)
From tomorrow on Switzerland is on lockdown. Only food shops, pharmacies, banks and post offices are allowed to be open. Schools, universities as well as all restaurants, cinemas, fitness centers, boutiques etc are closed until April 19th. Also 8’000 members of the Swiss army will help with logistics, transports and medical aid. I am glad that our government took this action to halt the further spreading of the virus. All this measures are also important to keep the other hospital treatments (cancer, injuries from accidents, heart surgery etc) ongoing.
Haveheart (NC)
Here is an idea. How about quarantine those highly at risk for morbidity/mortality with coronavirus, such as those immunocompromised, elderly, or with comorbid diseases. This may represent less than 10% of the population, ie much more doable than quarantining everyone. For the rest of the population (including college, high-school students) have a large scale "measles"-type party in order to get everyone exposed. Since the complication rate will likely be very low in the healthy (see mortality rate in germany, which appears to be less than 0.1%), this will not overwhelm the ICU bed capacity. On the other hand once the majority of the population recovers and becomes immune, coronavirus will not be able community-spread and the at-risk population will be safe.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
This pandemic is going to persist for a while. Meanwhile the social distancing will lose effectiveness after most people have been exposed. Then the issue will be resiliency in fighting off the infection. The most vulnerable are a relatively small percentage of the population but if they are all in need of care at once, then they can not all be helped so people will die. That is why the social distancing is important, to keep those needing care within the capacities of our health care system. But there will be many marginally in good health individuals who require exercise, good nutrition, and social interactions to remain resilient and to be able to get over the infection free of medical interventions. The current tactics can compromise this group of people, so there must be a relaxation of these restrictions at some point to keep them out of the medical system.
Erica (Boston, MA)
I think this article misses one important point. These measures are not in place solely to avoid loss of life - as mentioned by the author, there are illnesses and practices like driving cars that result in higher numbers of fatalities (well, until now). But I believe the major driving force for these restrictions is the imperative need to protect hospitals and medical professionals. And we must all do what we can to protect them too. Hospitals that are overwhelmed will offer lesser care to everyone, and will be unable to cope with the normal diseases and accidents that might affect anyone during the coming months. Doctors and nurses contracting Covid-19 during such a situation would worsen the issue, and many would die due to lack of care. Such a situation must be avoided at all cost. Being able to delay the infections would also allow hospitals to procure more needed materials, as well as allowing doctors to learn from the trials happening around the world how to best treat Covid-19. I truly believe this is what has convinced most world leaders to take these unprecedented steps. As such, I do not agree with the conclusion of the article that the response is mostly driven by a desire to save face and avoid looking like a heartless superstate entity.
Aravinda (Bel Air, MD)
Those of us who are merely "inconvenienced" by the outbreak can use this break from business as usual to pursue creative outlets, find ways of interacting at a distance and help our neighbors, whom we might not even have met but for the "social distancing" we are all going through together.
Michael Tyndall (San Francisco)
We are extremely unlikely to hit all the preventive measures just right in all places and at all times. That means we err either on the side of more or less prevention. It's common sense but decision science says both the good and bad consequences of divergent choices have to be factored in. The downside of under reaction could be catastrophic with CV19, and, based on a consensus of expert opinion, more aggressive actions are logically the way to go. And to guide us we have the real life experiences of Wuhan, Iran, and Italy versus South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan. That also means second guessing is not appropriate after things play out. We won't know the consequences of lesser actions in our particular context. The focus afterwards needs to be on learning better lessons ahead of the next pandemic.
Karl (Virginia)
I think that this is an important and appropriate question. If the statistics are correct that the mortality associated with this virus disproportionately affects the elderly, perhaps we should measure its effect in terms of actuarial life-years lost rather than regarding each death equally. This may present a very different picture than the 1919 flu which disproportionately killed young adults. Viewed in this way, the question of how to respond to the virus may be seen as a subset of the broader question as to what resources a society should expend in order to extend the lives of the elderly. (Full disclosure: I will be 69 in May)
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
The disease has affected physicians in practice over seventy, highly productive members of society. Consider that in determining the policies you think are appropriate.
DB (San Francisco, CA)
The most important thing is the development of a rapid test for the virus. A test that can be given to EVERYONE at the same time in an area and then quarantine the people who are positive. THAT is the only way to stop the spread and tamp down the hotspots. Social distancing will help only is slowing the advance of the virus. We also need a test to tell us if we have HAD the virus. Something went around the bay area last December that was a fever and dry cough. The shelter in place and the social distancing only helps to stretch out and dilute the impact on an area. Without the rapid testing we are just waiting for the time when they stop the social distancing and the hot spots flare up again.
fromnyctofll (New York, NY)
@DB I've thought exactly the same thing.
Georgia (Kirkland, WA)
I wonder how many of the folks resisting The Covid-19 Protocols are also part of anti-vaccine groups. If a Covid-19 vaccine is created, will septics refuse to use it. Will they refuse to vaccinate their children? Just guessing, but as one person here pointed out, if all the self-isolating measures help to flatten the curve, the doubters can always claim we didn't need all these actions anyway, and we have no control group to prove otherwise. My daily radiation treatments for cancer, prognosis good so far, oblige me to go down to Swedish Hospital. I'd rather not encounter along the way people who been careless and how they react to this emergency.
fromnyctofll (New York, NY)
@Georgia Well if the anti-vaxxers refuse the vaccine for their kids, luckily it appears that children appear to take it ok so then they'd be immune -- unlike measles and the rest that can kill them.
mijosc (brooklyn)
It's interesting that nobody's asking: what do our individual reactions to Covid-19 say about the sense that our own, individual, actions matter when it comes to global warming? It seems the latter is ultimately the greater threat, yet few would claim there's much an individual can do about it.
J Jencks (Portland)
@mijosc - it seems to be the old fable of the frog in the pot of water.
jb (ok)
@J Jencks , that is a fable, yes. They actually jump out if you let them.
Joshua Krause (Houston)
If our efforts to practice social distancing succeed, it will be impossible to know for certain if we’ve overreacted. But we will definitely know if we didn’t do enough.
lake (Michigan)
The question is, I guess, reasonable, but suggests a position of luxury to be able to ask, does it not? Without adequate testing, and we are not even close in the US (and efforts have been blocked by our own president to provide testing & access), how can we possibly consider that the safest, best health precautions, are not the wisest to safeguard the worth of every one of us? We have absolutely no idea what our numbers are, what parameters we're facing, to inform a decision other than severe precaution. By all means ask, but also put down the cup of coffee, please, and listen to the answers, data and science. And see if you can assist in someone in need in a more meaningful way.
Matt (Wisconsin)
It remains to be seen if the preventive measures were an overreaction, but the media response has been an overreaction. While this clearly a serious situation, it seems we could tone down the rhetoric that suggests this is the end of the world, leading to unnecessary hoarding and fear. I'm definitely not a fan of Donald Trump, in fact I can't wait to see him voted out of office, but I struggle with the news coverage that clearly is half driven by the desire to make it look like he's not doing enough. Perhaps he could do more, but we need to be careful to not cause wide-spread panic simply to ensure he loses the next election.
Garrett Light (Bangor Maine)
Trump is much more dangerous than the virus. Same with Congress. We have no functioning federal government. We haven’t had one for years.
Carsafrica (California)
Only time will tell if we are over reacting , however what is clear we the elderly are the most vulnerable and we should self isolate if we can My wife and I are effectively doing this because we can with the minimum of inconvenience but we are concerned for those who cannot and we need specific assistance and this should be the focus of the Federal Government, local authorities and communities. We are in this together and together we can win through.
Vin (Nyc)
You're looking at the results of a country that's been dumbed down for decades.
Jessica Mayorga (San Jose)
You know, it's fair to ask these questions. What I want to know is... how many infections to scientists think actually exist in the country? Versus the number reported?
AM (Stamford, CT)
@Jessica Mayorga we don't have those numbers because we don't have enough tests, but they estimate 60% of the population will be infected.
Yuri Pelham (Bronx)
Ten times the reported number at least. Whoever is responsible for lack of testing should be fired. They are a threat to national security and ultimately responsible for hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths plus the coming second Great Depression. Trumps finest explosive bankruptcy like the spectacular ending of the Forth of July fireworks.
Slann (CA)
@Jessica Mayorga There's no way to know, or guess, at this number without testing. There has been no real ground gained here yet, and we've heard nothing but promises of a "tremendous" future form the idiotic WH. After we can get through the initial testing phase, i.e., testing people who think they've been exposed, but aren't showing symptoms, we'll be closer to the "surveillance" phase, which will give us a more accurate picture of where the infections are, and, just as important, where they are not, so we can map the infections, nationwide. It's early yet, so the only numbers we have to use as the basis for estimates are the hard data of deaths, and of how many have been tested. The "social distancing" effort is critical. This will retard the spread of the virus NOW. Don't go out if you don't need to.
Susan (Boston, MA)
If you want to see what this will become in the next 2 to 3 weeks, you have only to look at Italy. We are NOT overreacting. If anything, we have underreacted over the past 2 weeks, and I pray we didn't start too late.
Illuminati Reptilian Overlord #14 (Space marauders hiding under polar ice)
I object to the editorial doom-and-gloom stuff, and the petty attacks at Trump. I didn't vote for the guy, but for news organizations to continuously try to cultivate their usual childish bread-and-butter rancor towards him among their readership at this time is opportunism at it's ugliest. Under the circumstances, I wonder which bug is worse for the society?
See also