COVID-19 #3: Mar 13 notes

First up, I have to acknowledge that I didn’t plan for my blog to become a COVID-19 update blog. But, this blog reflects what I’m learning and thinking about. And, this pandemic is definitely taking more mindshare than ever. So, I’d expect a few more posts in the coming weeks.

I had 5 notes about the virus today.

1. The White House’s overdue emergency declaration is a critical step forward. The White House At long last, the White House has declared an emergency. I am hugely grateful to the millions of traders/financiers who collectively moved the markets and spurred a response. We can finally do away from the nonsense about this being similar to the flu and move on to the work that needs to get done.

As the graph below shows, we are well into exponential growth territory in the US. The key question right now is – how quickly can we flatten this curve?

2. When this passes, I am hopeful Representative Katie Porter is celebrated as the heroine she is. If you haven’t see the video yet, you should.

She gets at the root of the biggest problem – the cost, without isolation, for a single individual without insurance to get tested are $1331. For a family, that can go up to $3000-$5000. A lot of front-line workers would be worried about these costs. And, yet, staying at home would only make things worse for the community.

To top it all, it takes five days for symptoms to show. So, who knows what’s happening already?

This is why she pushed the CDC to make testing free. This is also why the state of emergency is critical – it unlocks immediate funds for widespread testing. Until we test, we won’t know what the reality is. And, it is key to understand reality to then deal with it.

3. We moved into lock down where we are in Santa Clara County. The inevitability of exponential growth means this should ideally have happened a week ago.

But, as things stand, we’re currently looking at this familiar looking graph. The key, again, will be how the lock down + increased testing shapes this graph. We’ll have a better sense in 3 weeks.

4. Lock down measures are important because people can be daft. If you haven’t heard about the genius who took a flight from New York to Miami knowing he might have the COVID-19 virus, it is worth a read for a simple reminder of how dangerous daft behavior can be.

The result of such behavior is that we have several others who are likely to be carrying the virus without symptoms over the next 5 days to different parts of the country/world.

5. If early drastic measures work, they look overly cautious. It’s been fascinating having a few conversations with family members in India. The initial reactions have been one of relative indifference. The challenge, of course, is the case curve in India isn’t all that different from the one I shared above for Santa Clara (in reality, a few days behind).

So, it doesn’t feel serious. But, from what we know about this virus, this is exactly the time to act. But, how do you act when it doesn’t feel serious?

This has been a fascinating insight into human behavior and gets to exactly why every climate crisis advocate has found it hard to make meaningful progress in the past year.


End note: Needless to say – avoid crowds and common areas, forget travel, wash your hands, avoid touching your face, etc. I’m having particular difficulty with the “don’t touch your face” part after getting a 3 year old’s elbow (accidentally) jam into my eye two days ago. So, maybe the message is – do the best you can. :-)

Also, while we’re at it, if someone can explain the rationale of stocking up on toilet paper, I’d appreciate that.

Posts: #1, #2