Ego wrote: ↑
Fri Mar 20, 2020 1:58 pm
Moving forward would it be possible to do a strict quarantine on those most at risk coupled with testing for all so that the economy can at least partially function?
I'm not sure I have an answer, but here are some (hopefully) related thoughts. The main dilemma is (minimizing health impacts) vs. (minimizing economic impacts). We might imagine two extreme scenarios where governments go all-in on one or the other and get ideal outcomes for that strategy. I'll use a simplistic notation of "negative impact" in this form, with each ranging from 0 (no impact) to 1 (maximum negative impact): [Health=(0 to 1),Economy=(0 to 1)].
For (minimizing health impacts), we would see a complete and total lockdown of the population such that the curve is sufficiently flattened and no health care system is overwhelmed. The Medium article posted a few days back that did some math on this suggests that this would require the curve to be stretched out many years
, because the capacity of the health care system is comparatively very low relative to the demands resulting from COVID-19. This would probably be the most disruptive scenario I can think of for economic impact* because it is so drawn out that any debts at all (and our world is awash in debt) would default or have to be nationalized. This scenario is [0,1].
*Unless it was caught really early
when testing, isolation, and contact tracing could keep up. This is no longer possible for most places, certainly not in the US.
For (minimizing economic impacts), we would see a policy that allows COVID-19 to "burn through" the population. Hell, maybe even inoculate the population so that the sickness isn't drawn out in time. One month haitus, then everything turns back on at full speed, with society severely traumatized and a good deal of people dead. This scenario is [1,0].
Now let's consider what we might call "mixed" scenarios, that try to balance health and economic concerns. Every country on earth will follow a mixed scenario because none of the two scenarios described above are possible or palatable at this point. What is completely unknown is what possible solutions really look like between [0,1] and [1,0]. One might assume that the tradeoffs are linear, meaning that no matter what balance is struck, the sum is 1... for example [0.3,0.7] or [0.5,0.5]. However you want to calculate things, I doubt that is true. Rather, ideally, we can figure out a set of policies that sum < 1, e.g. [0.2,0.6] or something like that. What I am particularly worried about is a set of policies that is > 1. Something like an unholy compromise where the economy is damaged enough to blow itself up, but the health care system is also still overwhelmed for a long time.
The problem with health care capacity is that it is very low relative to the problem, such that even if the curve was flattened a lot but not enough
(and at great expense to the economy), the number of excessive deaths would be essentially the same* assuming the same area under the curve. There are a lot of assumptions in this thinking, and time can bring with it several solutions (like a vaccine, ramped up health care capacity), but this is my nightmare. This is [0.8,0.8].
*If health care capacity = 1, and no flattening = 100 demand, then 100-1= 99 out of every 100 are impacted. But with flattening = 30 demand, then still 30-1=29 out of 30 still impacted! And the economy is crushed much longer.