Shelter in Place the New Normal
It’s hard keeping up with changes worldwide relating to COVID-19 outbreaks.
While not at epidemic or pandemic levels as falsely reported, there’s risk that things could reach these levels in the weeks and months ahead.
At times like now, the order of the day is clear. It’s far better to be safe than sorry.
Through Saturday, there were about 308,000 reported COVID-19 cases worldwide, around 13,000 deaths, far short of epidemic or pandemic levels — Italy, China, South Korea, and Iran hardest hit.
In the US, three states are on lockdown, California, New York and Illinois, affecting 73 million people.
Along with coming New Jersey and Connecticut shelter in place orders, around 85 million people are affected — about 26% of the nation’s population.
Given the trend of what’s happening, further shelter in place/social distancing orders are likely coming in other US states and abroad.
States are empowered to order them, not the federal government nationwide.
Nothing in the Constitution permits the latter. Its commerce clause lets Congress “regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states.”
Within their borders is the prerogative of their authorities to handle, free from federal interference. When state lines are crossed, it’s another issue entirely.
US borders with Canada and Mexico are closed, excluding commerce and essential travel that continues.
New Jersey, Connecticut are preparing similar shelter in place orders.
On Friday, Illinois Governor Pritzker issued a “stay-at-home” order for the entire state, effective 5:00 PM Saturday — even though only 585 confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported, only a handful of deaths.
The Illinois order is similar to other US states. Public gatherings are prohibited.
Schools, state parks, playgrounds, and other public facilities are closed. People may still shop for essentials, take walks, and care for relatives in need provided they social distance at least 6 feet from others in public.
Individuals involved in providing essential services are exempted, notably medical providers, food store and pharmacy employees, police, firefighters, and paramedics.
Lockdowns are in place for as long as considered necessary.
Banks remain open. Authorities are largely relying on self-discipline because there aren’t enough police to monitor streets and communities.
California, New York, Washington and Florida have the largest number of reported COVID-19 cases so far in the US.
Lockdowns, movement restrictions, and/or social distancing were ordered in numerous countries worldwide — so far not in hard hit Iran that’s relying on self-discipline for personal safety.
According to Lausanne, Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Technology epidemiologist Marcel Salathe, nations effectively controlling COVID-19 outbreaks achieved success by mass “testing and tracing, isolation and quarantining,” adding:
What’s necessary is “a determination to find every single infection and follow up on every potential exposure and break every possible chain of transmission.”
It’s unknown to what extent infections may spread nationally and internationally and when current outbreaks can be curbed.
University of Edinburgh epidemiologist Mark Woolhouse believes “(w)e will be living with this virus indefinitely.”
The same is true for seasonal flu/influenza, other infectious diseases, heart disease, cancer, and countless other health issues.
Key is the availability of remedial treatment that’s available for everyone in need.
There are many infectious diseases around, cures available for most, key to controlling them.
The world’s richest country USA is the only developed one without some form of universal healthcare — notably at a time when it’s vitally needed, no excuse existing for not enacting it into law straightaway as the nation’s top priority.
Though vital, economic conditions are secondary to public health. Financial and other markets reflect the economic health of the times.
Since February peak valuations, financial markets worldwide declined sharply.
The US Dow Jones Average is down 35.2% — 24% in March to date, its biggest one-month decline since September 1931.
The S & P 500 is down 32.1% — 22% in March to date, its worst monthly performance since May 1940.
The Nasdaq didn’t exist until 1971. It peaked in February at 9,817.18. On March 20, it stood at 7,150.58 — 27% below its peak valuation.
What’s going on today is dissimilar to how financial markets performed during the 1918-20 Spanish Flu, a bona fide pandemic that infected about one-fourth of the world’s population, killing tens of millions.
The outbreak began during the final year of WW I. Despite dropping about 10%, the Dow was up slightly more than 10% in 1918.
From its late 1919 peak, it dropped about 44% to its 2020 low, then rose around 18% before losing most of the gain by yearend.
From an early 1921 low to a 1922 high, the Dow soared about 60% before declining in 1923.
When Spanish Flu outbreaks occurred in 1918, WW I was raging in Europe until ending on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year — conflict taking a devastating human toll of much greater concern at the time than financial markets.
In the US, supply chains operated normally, very much not the case now.
A century ago, around half the US population was urban. Today it’s over 80%, heightening a greater risk of spreading infections without containment policies in place.
The Trump regime and Congress failed to act swiftly with wide-ranging public health and economic policies to help all Americans.
According to US public health experts, universal/single-payer healthcare is the most effective and efficient way to deal with an infectious disease outbreak like COVID-19.
The US pay or die system is the worst way, and it shows by continued dickering, dithering, and prioritizing help for monied interests over public health and welfare.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled a trillion dollar COVID-19 plan that features corporate tax cuts.
AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka slammed it, saying:
“It gives free money to corporations, ignores the health crisis, and does nothing to keep people working or help the unemployed.”
“The labor movement will oppose this Main St. bailout of Wall St. with everything we have.”
Under the plan, America’s poor would get little to nothing, low-income households about half of what’s authorized for higher-income ones.
A Dem party statement said it’s “not at all pro-worker and instead puts corporations way ahead of workers.” Some Republican senators oppose the scheme.
It’s a wealth transferring scheme at a time when it’s vital to put thousands of dollars in the pockets of ordinary Americans — the unemployed and newly laid off workers most of all.
Warning of a severe recession, economist Nouriel Roubini called for fiscal pump-priming on the order of at least 3% of GDP.
That’s about $640 billion when multiples this amount is needed for ordinary Americans — not Wall Street that manufactured the dot.com and 2008-09 financial crisis.
Nor corporate favorites like Boeing, major airlines, and other businesses that used their cash flow for stock buybacks to elevate valuations to bubble levels and now ask for taxpayer bailout help.
Like earlier financial and other crisis conditions in the US and elsewhere, this one will end.
Ordinary people will be hardest hit, privileged ones benefitting like always before.
My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”