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VP Call to Conservative Leaders Thursday: I Don't Think It Will Be as Bad as They Say

I participated in the VP phone call to conservative leaders on Thursday afternoon. Most of it was just the usual stuff. It was off the record but the Vice President did want everyone on the call to share the administration's new 30-day Coronavirus guidelines. You may have seen the guideline sheet as shown below. If you want the actual document, click HERE.

While it is important to recognize how contagious this disease is, it is extremely important that we return to work and reopen the economy as soon as possible. While President Trump has been doing a fantastic job of shepherding our nation through this crisis, if the economy doesn't recover, his presidency - not to mention our nation - will be in jeopardy. As usual the House Democrats are up to their repulsive games - now announcing a new Coronavirus Investigating Committee. You simply can't make this stuff up.


The voluntary quarantining we are all doing, and this social distancing will very likely bring this crisis to an end sooner rather than later, and it looks like the actual fatalities will be similar to the typical flu season. I do not believe we will see 100,000 or more deaths as the president warned.


Admittedly there are a lot of variables and unknowns, and I am an economist, not a doctor, but I have been tracking cases and the fatality rate for some time now. Prior to widespread testing, new cases were identified usually when people sought medical help. So the fatality rate has been based mostly on those identified as sick. The added testing will doubtless expand the number of infections identified, but many of those will have no symptoms, so the case fatality rate, (CFR), which is simply the number of deaths divided by the number of infected, should decline. If, on the other hand, cases explode, and the CFR remains constant, then we really could be in for something bad. As it stands today, the CFR for the U.S. is about 2.5 percent, which is very high compared to influenza (about 0.1 percent), and given its highly contagious nature, the President has taken prudent steps.


The charts below are simple extrapolations of current case growth rates. (Data was compiled from USA Facts, https://usafacts.org/visualizations/coronavirus-covid-19-spread-map/, Worldometer, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ and the Maryland Department of Health, https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/.) And while growth rates may go up again because of more widespread testing, it is impossible to know by how much and to what extent, if any, it will affect the number of fatalities from the disease. As shown in the chart, the growth rate of new cases has been falling since shortly after the national quarantine program began in mid-March. The new cases beyond April 2 are based on the projected continued decline in the growth rate of cases. New case rates are unlikely to fall to zero as suggested in the chart, but they will be low.

If this projection is accurate, there will be about 1.5 million cases in the U.S. by the end of April, with 37,000 deaths, and a very slow increase after that. It is difficult to talk dispassionately about this subject, but this is nowhere near the 100,000 or more projected by the Trump administration.


And case rates have been falling everywhere. Maryland is on target to identify 12,000 cases by the last week of the month. Maryland's CFR has been hovering between about 1 and 1.5 percent so far. If that rate continues, then Maryland will see about 200 die from the disease by the end of the month. I would not want to be part of that statistic, but it remains a relatively small number compared to deaths by other illnesses.

It has been reported that the number of cases in New York are declining. This is not true. However, the growth rate is slowing down. If projections in the chart below are accurate, then New York, the worst hit state by far, will have 367,000 cases with about 10,000 dead by May 1. This tracks with New York's share of U.S. cases and fatalities at present.


These are back of the envelope educated guesses, folks. Consider them in light of all the unknowns, but I think we will come out of this okay. The most important thing is that we get back to work asap. If these trends hold then we should seriously consider reopening everything by the end of the month. We have already heard the horror stories of business bankruptcies, suicide and such. If we wait any longer, the cure will be worse than the disease.

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