A look at the current status of air travel

With all of the stay-at-home and quarantine orders around the world, I thought it would be fun to take a look at Flightaware.com and see what the sky looks like from a worldwide air traffic control standpoint. Here’s what Los Angeles International airport looks like right now.

The GREEN planes are all the flights that are currently in the air having departed LAX. The BLUE planes are all the flights currently inbound to LAX. This might look like a lot of flights, but it’s not even close to the volume that would be seen at one of the busiest airports in the world on a typical Saturday at 11:00 a.m. Even more noticeable is the lack of international flights, both arriving and departing. There are only four flights in the air right now inbound from Europe, two of which are coming from the United Kingdom–one Aeroflot flight from Moscow, and one Air France flight from Paris. I’m not sure why those last two are still flying when Trump has shut down all travel from Europe outside of the UK, but there they are.

Even more interesting is this look at Las Vegas’s McCarran International. On a typical Saturday morning, LAS would be swamped with arriving and departing flights, with a multitude of international flights as well. As we know, all casinos in the state are closed, along with most of the hotels attached to them. This makes Las Vegas decidedly undesirable. Here’s what LAS flights look like.

Again, green planes are outbound from LAS (fleeing the wasteland of a city that offers nothing at all when things are closed.) and blue planes are inbound to LAS. (I’m assuming mostly empty flights?) This is a pretty amazing look at the real status of things. There are around 25 flights inbound to Vegas, and the same number outbound. Normally right now there would be hundreds. Those hundreds would typically be completely full flights as well, and from what I’m hearing, many of the flights you see in the air right now are only flying to fill an FAA slot, operating at a big loss.

One thing you can see here is that there are no international flights save two from Mexico, one commercial flight from Guadalajara, and one private flight from Los Cabos. That’s it, everything else is domestic.

Looking at international flights, let’s take a peek at the normally jammed North Atlantic flight corridor between North America and Europe:

This is every flight in the air over the Atlantic right now. Normally, this area would be a huge mess of planes looking like an almost solid line of traffic going both directions. There are still plenty of flights traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Great Britain, but most of the other traffic is completely gone. It will be interesting to see what effect this travel ban ends up having on the total carbon emissions in the upper atmosphere, particularly if this ends up lasting for months.

Maybe at least something good will come from this?

What are Germany and Switzerland doing right in the fight against the coronavirus?

I want to get right into this one and take a look at some of the numbers behind both Switzerland and Germany’s apparent success in controlling coronavirus fatalities. This has been all over the news lately, with a lot of people trying to figure out what it is that those countries are doing right. Let’s start by taking a look at mortality growth rates for Germany and Switzerland, as well as some of the countries around them, with the United Kingdom and the United States also thrown in for comparison.


First recorded fatality: March 9th

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 9 13 17 26 28 44 68 84 94 123 159 206


As Europe has become the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic, Italy’s fatality rate hovers around 10%, France’s is around 5%, and yet right next door, Germany’s fatality rate from COVID-19 has remained remarkably low since cases started showing up there more than a month ago. As of March 25, there were 206 deaths and 37,323 cases, representing a fatality rate of .55%. Of course, this number is fairly meaningless, but it’s one being heavily quoted by those trying to figure out what Germany is doing right.

“I believe that we are just testing much more than in other countries, and we are detecting our outbreak early,” said Christian Drosten, director of the institute of virology at Berlin’s Charité hospital.

Drosten reported that Germany’s low fatality rate is because of his country’s ability to test early and often. He was part of a team that developed the first public domain Covid-19 test, and he estimates Germany has been testing around 120,000 people a week during the monthlong period from late February to now. That’s significant. It means that they are testing a significant number of the country’s youth, those much more likely to survive the coronavirus infection.

“We have a culture here in Germany that is actually not supporting a centralized diagnostic system,” said Drosten, “so Germany does not have a public health laboratory that would restrict other labs from doing the tests. So, we had an open market from the beginning.”

One of the problems with these low numbers is that they are likely to result in false premises and increased infection rates as people ignore lockdown orders because of a lack of awareness of the dangers. Just three days ago, on the 22nd of March, Germany finally implemented a national curfew, well behind those issued by most surrounding countries.

It was President Trump’s travel ban of March 11th that was actually the first wake-up call to Germany, surprising them and putting them into a scramble to catch up. It wasn’t until the 16th of March that the first German state (Bavaria) declared a state of emergency to be put into place for the next 14 days. Restrictions on restaurants began that same day, but were quite lax, just limiting dine-in options to any time after 3pm with five feet required separation between diners.

Bavaria was the first German state again to implement a curfew, this happening on March 20th.

It wasn’t until March 22nd, just three days ago, that Germany began forbidding group gatherings and closing businesses.



First recorded fatality: March 5th

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 13 14 19 27 33 43 56 80 98 120 122 153


Switzerland has the second-highest rate of coronavirus infection per capita in the world, after Italy. However, this is incredibly misleading as a stand-alone stat because they’re also testing more people than any country except South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Norway.

There’s no doubt that they have a very low death count at a current 153, but that is also very misleading. This is the problem with death counts by country. They don’t take into account so many factors, which I’ll go into in just a bit.

What steps has Switzerland taken to control the spread of the virus? The government has issued a recommendation to all citizens to stay at home, especially the sick and the elderly. It has announced a countrywide ban on gatherings of more than five people. An “extraordinary situation” has been declared, resulting in a ban on all private and public events and closing bars, restaurants, sports and cultural spaces; only businesses providing essential goods remain open. Schools are closed nationwide. The measures are in force until April 19. (https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/covid-19_coronavirus–the-situation-in-switzerland/45592192) Entry into the country was effectively banned starting just today. Only Swiss citizens, Swiss residents, those entering the country for professional reasons (e.g., those who work there and have a permit to prove it), and those transiting through, can enter. Even foreign partners of Swiss citizens, who do not have a right of residence in the country, will be turned away at the point of entry.

Fairly severe for a country that has only 153 fatalities.

One of Switzerland’s biggest problems is that there are only 1000 ventilators in the entire country. At a critical infection rate that is probably 5%, that means with just 20,000 infections, their ventilator capacity will be at maximum. And that’s assuming some aren’t already in use by people with other illnesses, which obviously is not the case. In fact, a large number of their ventilators are likely already in use. Switzerland currently has about 11,000 cases of Covid-19, which means they’re about to be in trouble if they can’t get more ventilators. And those aren’t too easy to find these days.



First recorded fatality: March 3rd

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
#of deaths 196 294 342 533 638 831 1093 1381 1772 2311 2991 3647


Most of daily life in Spain was fairly normal from the first fatality on March 3rd, until they reached almost 200 just a week-and-a-half later. On Saturday the 14th, Spain instituted a national quarantine. Everybody was ordered to stay home for the next two weeks. Things started to move quickly. All land borders were closed the next Monday, the 16th. Fines were implemented for quarantine violators. One person was interviewed by NPR about the restrictions. “Starting Monday, starting yesterday, we could face fines of more than $1,000 for not cooperating. And there are already – already seeing police all over the country patrolling streets, telling people to go home, to hurry up and, you know, when their dog does their business, to go back home immediately.” https://www.npr.org/2020/03/17/817021997/spain-hard-hit-by-coronavirus-pandemic-shuts-down

Things are pretty rough already in Spain. There are reports that the Spanish military—who have basically taken over law enforcement duties there—have found older residents of some care homes completely abandoned and even dead in their beds. Defense Minister Margarita Robles told television reporters that soldiers disinfecting homes and providing emergency health care services to residential homes across the country are finding dead bodies. She was unable to give an exact figure for the abandoned dead, but it sounds nightmarish. (https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/03/24/820711855/spanish-military-finds-dead-bodies-and-seniors-completely-abandoned-in-care-home)

Here’s a report from Madrid of one elder care home where twenty people were left abandoned and dead by health care workers. It’s not a pretty picture in Spain, and it’s only getting worse.


First recorded fatality: February 15th (This seems to be an anomaly though, so we should use the date of their second fatality, February 26th for comparison purposes.)

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 91 127 148 175 264 372 450 562 674 860 1100 1333


On Saturday, March 7th, 3550 people in France set the Guinness World Record for largest gathering of Smurfs. Yeah, those Smurfs, the blue little creatures from the old cartoons. While the rest of the world looked on in shock, French Smurfs were being interviewed at the gathering.

“We figured we wouldn’t worry and that as French people we wouldn’t give up on our attempt to break the record, and now we’re champions of the world!” One attendee told the AFP news agency.

“There’s no risk — we’re Smurfs! Yes, we’re going to Smurfize the coronavirus!” said another.

“(This) was more important. The coronavirus is no big deal, it’s nothing,” another said.

Some people in France finally got it when the first actual lockdown and movement restrictions were put into place on Saturday, March 14th. Unfortunately, some people—probably the same ones from the Smurf gathering—decided to flood social media with videos of themselves out and about in parks and squares and plazas on Sunday the 15th. That forced the French government to institute even stricter rules starting Monday the 16th. Today, anybody outside their home must have a signed document detailing their reasons for being out. French police drones fly overhead monitoring the quarantine orders. Exercise is allowed only as long as you remain within one kilometer of your home and you only do it for one hour maximum, one time per day. Many southern French cities have curfews in place that completely restrict movement during hours of darkness. Fines are progressive, starting at €135 and going up to €3700, with 4-time violators heading to prison for up to six months.

Sound severe enough? These restrictions are quite an upgrade from just a week or so prior when 3500 alleged adults put on blue paint and danced in a square. You think maybe, just maybe, France is regretting their flagrant little Smurfcapade? How many people will die in the chain-reaction of Smurfpidity that led to that gathering? Why didn’t anybody listen to any of the hundreds of Papa Smurfs, who surely could have told them all what an abso-smurf-ly stupid endeavor this world record attempt was? I know I’m being tough on them for this, but there’s no nice way to put it. And this is not hindsight. I tweeted about it and I talked about how dumb it was in an article the day after it happened. This was stupidity on the highest level possible.

If they held this rally today, I have a feeling there would be a disproportionate representation of Sneezy Smurf and Respiratory Failure Smurf in the group.



First recorded fatality: February 21st

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 1441 1809 2158 2503 2979 3405 4032 4825 5476 6077 6820 7503


A lot has been written about Italy, so I’m not going to go into detail here. They are immersed in an absolute disaster right now, the worst in the world. Unfortunately, I think the rest of the world isn’t too far behind.


United Kingdom

First recorded fatality: March 5th

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 21 35 55 71 104 144 177 233 281 335 422 466


In the UK, fatality rates are increasing at an alarming rate in relation to their population. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has only recently come to this realization, just a few days ago taking steps to close all of the UK’s bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, and schools. Why did it take so long for him to act, with the very obvious troubles the world was facing? According to this article in BuzzFeed, there were dayslong “heated” and “extremely difficult” arguments between top British scientists and high ranking members of the government over what steps needed to be taken to get control of the infection.

While the scientific debate raged between experts, officials, and ministers, Johnson’s government was publicly insisting that the scientific advice showed the UK did not yet have to bring in more stringent measures to fight the virus. They realized how wrong they were when this chart was published showing a comparison of the path of infections in the UK and the very obviously hellish conditions in Italy:

This is pretty unequivocal evidence that the UK is headed right into an Italian-level crisis and Johnson finally took steps to stop it. Within the next few days, we’ll see if those steps are going to be successful. It’s almost certain they won’t be.

United States

First recorded fatality: March 1st

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 57 69 87 110 150 206 255 301 414 555 780 1042


The United States hit 4-digit death numbers today and is clearly following a doubling path that is three days or fewer. I had somebody ask me today what I thought of the over/under on maximum number of U.S. deaths in any one day would be, with the total being set at 1947 deaths. I would never bet on such a thing, but, if I was going to, over. Way over. I’ve written plenty about the state of the coronavirus in the U.S., and don’t want to rehash it, but with 362 deaths yesterday, it seems we are only two weeks away from days of 5000 or more deaths, and we are nowhere near reaching the peak of our mortality rate curve.


As you can see in the above charts, both Germany and Switzerland would seem at first glance to be doing something correctly. There have been many explanations for this, from a younger population, better quarantine procedures, better and more readily available testing, and better medical care. The problem with just looking at the total fatality numbers though, is that they don’t tell the whole story. We really need to look at a bunch more numbers in order to determine if the fatalities in these countries are truly better than they are in others.

One of the things that many people point to when they laud Germany and Switzerland for impressively low fatality rates, is the actual Case Fatality Rate (CFR). This does indeed appear to be very low in these two countries when compared with Italy, for example. In Germany, the CFR is just under .5%, whereas in Italy it is over 10%. This number is basically meaningless though, without knowing the demographics of everyone being tested. If you want a good primer on CFR, check out this article. Obviously, if Germany is testing a huge percentage of the youth of their country, and they’re finding a large number of people who are positive for Covid-19, those people are going to have a low fatality rate and it will skew the number downward. Conversely, perhaps Italy is testing an inordinate number of elderly people, or an inordinate number of people (as a percentage of the whole number of tests given) who are checking themselves into the hospital, already sick. This would cause their number to skew upward in an inaccurate manner.

There’s just not enough accurate information regarding the demographics behind testing metrics for us to make any valid assumptions. For that reason, I think all numbers regarding testing and positive case numbers should basically just be ignored. Even if those numbers are accurate, they’re fairly inconsequential without knowing exactly what percentage of the population has actually been tested, and then comparing countries using those numbers.

Although we don’t have accurate information for that, we do have mostly accurate information on fatality numbers, and we have completely accurate information on country-specific demographics, so let’s take a look at those numbers.


  United States United Kingdom Germany Spain France Italy Switzerland
Total population 331 million 67.8 million 83.7 million 46.7 million 65.2 million 60.5 million 8,600,000
Density (per sq mi) 94 727 623 243 309 532 567
Median Age 38.3  years 40.5  years 45.7  years 44.9 years 42.3 years 47.3 years 43.1 years
Percent urban population 82.8 83.2 76.3 80.3 81.5 69.5 74.0
Percent of world’s total fatalities 4.47 2.20 0.97 17.21 6.30 35.40 0.72
Fatalities per 1 million population 2.86 6.87 2.46 78.09 20.44 124.02 17.79



It’s fairly obvious from this chart that Switzerland at least, is not doing as well as it might appear by looking only at fatality numbers. The number of fatalities is certainly low, (currently at 153) but as a percentage of their entire population, with 17.79 deaths per million citizens, they are significantly ahead of the UK, the U.S., and Germany.

Germany, however, is doing well, the lowest mortality rate on this chart while having one of the higher population median ages, and the highest total population in Europe. If one of the given reasons for Italy’s high mortality rate is their aging population at a median of 47.3 years, then Germany at 45.7 years ought to be doing nearly as bad as Italy. A year-and-a-half isn’t too far off with regard to median age. So, what is the reason for their low mortality numbers?

Germany has a fairly high density rate, and we know the virus thrives on high population densities, so that would again indicate they’re doing something right. The U.S. has a very low density rate, but that number is very misleading because huge states with small populations like Alaska, Texas, and Montana really skew those numbers. If you look a little closer at some of the worst-hit states in the U.S., New York has a population density of 421 per square mile, with New York City at a staggering 26,400 per. California is at 251 per square mile, and Washington State, the original U.S. viral epicenter has an average density of 750 per square mile in its three most populous counties where the virus has hit the hardest. Earlier, I mentioned evidence of the trajectory that the UK was on, matching Italy’s fatality chart, and so, with a population density nearly as high as the UK, and a median age even higher, why has Germany been so successful?

I don’t think they actually are. I think they’re just behind most of their neighbors through nothing more than pure variance or luck. And, I think they’re going to catch up quickly.

Germany didn’t hit 30 coronavirus deaths until March 19th. France and Spain both hit that number on March 9th, ten days earlier. A week after hitting the 30-death mark, France had 148 deaths, and Spain had 342. Today, on the 25th, a week after hitting the 30-death mark, Germany has 206 deaths, putting them right near the middle between France and Spain. The worst hit country in the world, Italy, had 30 deaths on February 29th. A week later, March 7th, they had 233 deaths. That’s very close to Germany’s 206 deaths.

Germany doesn’t seem to actually be far behind Italy or Spain, and they’re well ahead of France when looking at first coronavirus fatality to total deaths a week later, the most recent comparable figure for Germany. In the next week or so, we’ll be able to track this line further. If Germany is going to see a mortality explosion, it’s going to start happening early next week, and their fatality line will project upwards at the same rate as the countries around them. With the lack of isolation efforts and the lackadaisical attitude of a population that has been convinced by the media that they have some kind of special immunity, it’s likely that Germany is going to actually end up being the hotspot of Europe in about two weeks.

This Covid-19 virus is the same virus everywhere. The people in Germany are sick with the exact same virus as the people in Italy, as the people in China, as the people in the United States. If you see CFR numbers that don’t seem to match, it has nothing to do with arbitrary land borders. There’s usually going to be a reasonable explanation if you just look at the math and analyze the situation.

Maybe with the exception of France. Their numbers are going to be off the Smurfing charts before this is over.

Will President Trump actually decide to reopen the United States on Easter Sunday?

Setting aside the semantical difficulties of declaring a grand re-opening of a country that isn’t actually closed, the real question is, will President Trump make the decision that American lives are worth less than the economy?

And, it’s actually a legitimate question.

If you’re one of those people who says, “You can’t put a price on a human life,” please just stop reading now. This article is not going to go your way. In fact, nothing I write is going to go your way. The reason, of course, is that that line of thinking is just ridiculous. If plunging this nation into a recession, and quite possibly a depression, required signing a death warrant on one single person for example, the choice would be obvious. Bad luck for you, random person that I hopefully don’t know.

So, as long as we agree that human life does indeed have a monetary value, then we just need to figure out what that value is. I think that everyone still reading would agree—though they may not like admitting it—that if the cost of saving the entire United States economy was that .00001% of the population (33 lives) would have to die from Covid-19, we should probably get the lottery process started. So, how about .0001% (332 lives)? How about .001% (3320 lives)? How about .01% (33200 lives?) Or, how about 10% (33.2 million lives)? It’s like the old joke with the guy asking a woman if she would sleep with him for increasing dollar amounts, and when he gets up to 100 billion dollars and she finally says that she guesses she would sleep with him for that amount, he replies, “Okay, ma’am, so we’ve determined that you are indeed a prostitute, now we’re just negotiating price.”

Right now, Donald Trump is just simply trying to figure out how expensive of a prostitute he is.

At some number of lives it’s definitely time to pull the plug on this economic shutdown. You see, as dumb as he may be, President Trump certainly has the intelligence to hear the words that the experts are speaking, and the ability to interpret those words and come to the inevitable conclusion that this coronavirus is not going to be marching down the primrose path to obscurity come the completely arbitrary date of Easter morning, April 12th, 2020. No, in spite of the sunny picture he portrayed in the town hall and press conference yesterday, President Trump can’t possibly believe that lunacy.

I believe he’s actually currently trying to decide how many American lives are worth sacrificing in order to save the economy from disaster. And, more importantly, he’s trying to decide how many American lives he can sign death warrants for and still win reelection in November. Because, whatever you think about him, when it comes to winning another four years in the White House, he’s pragmatic, and let’s face it, politicians gonna politic, and sadly, reelection is really all most of them care anything about.

I don’t know at what conclusion he’s going to arrive. I’m actually really glad it’s not me that has to make that decision. Because, in spite of media reports that seem to think he truly believes things will be better by April 12th, I’m just not buying it. Basically, I’m operating on the “nobody is that dumb” principle, particularly not somebody with every available expert resource on the planet at his fingertips and his beck and call. Trump surely understands the enormity of his upcoming decision much the same way that President Franklin D. Roosevelt understood the magnitude of his decisions preceding the news out of Hawaii on December 7th, 1941. Roosevelt knew that voluntarily going to war in Europe would be tantamount to signing hundreds of thousands of American death certificates. He was spared the brutal weight of making that painful decision by the Japanese forcing his hand that fateful day.

Nobody is going to be there to bail out President Trump in this upcoming, monstrous decision.

This decision will ultimately be his alone. Though governors across the nation will fight him on that decision, whichever way it falls, it will still be his call in the end. And let’s be clear, it’s not an easy call to make. Both decisions—to maintain the status quo and fight the virus through social isolation while our economy slips into oblivion—or to tap out, to retire to the corner and concede victory, hoping to recover and regroup, will result in many fatalities. People will die as we remain in isolation and our economy tumbles into the gutter. Suicide rates will skyrocket. Homelessness will soar. Jobs will be lost, some forever. Domestic violence murders will rise. There’s a real chance of civil unrest, riots, looting, murder, and mayhem. The ramifications of pulling us out of the bonds of our isolation orders are obvious.

The only decisions that land on the president’s desk are the tough ones though. When you run for the presidency, you accept that you’re going to have to make very difficult decisions. Decisions that will cost many lives.

If he does decide to “reopen” and return to business as usual, the death rate will be higher than the current 1% or so estimated fatality rate from the virus alone. Health care systems will be overloaded, even if we do get more than two weeks to prepare. Our health care infrastructure is just too decimated to handle an influx of the magnitude we’ll see with a full return to normal function. People that otherwise could have been saved had there been resources available, will instead die. It will be ugly. As if 1% of the population (3.32 million deaths) wasn’t ugly enough.

The good news behind a return to normalcy is that it’s very likely the second wave of infections that’s almost certainly coming next November will be much more controllable. Both choices are going to result in many, many deaths. Remaining in lockdown is just going to make that next viral infection surge another national emergency. And that national emergency will be much more difficult to control, with the economy already in full decimation due to the effects of this current lockdown. Not to mention, the election is next November. What chance will Trump have of winning another four years if the economy is in shambles, America is in a recession, and a second wave of coronavirus infections is decimating the population?

What’s a number that’s close to zero?

Since reelection and the economy are Trump’s primary concerns at all times, what decision will he make?

I have a feeling this lockdown is going to last exactly another 18 days. I suspect we’ll get the news on Good Friday, the 10th of April, that all isolation orders are canceled and that the population should return to a normal routine effective Easter Sunday. Possibly there will be requests for the elderly and the vulnerable to remain quarantined in place, an attempt to keep the most susceptible of our population safe. The rest of us though, will be released. I suspect this will be the decision that Trump eventually makes. You see, because as the economy goes, so does Trump’s electability. And that’s going to mean that the decision makes itself. I guess there is a bailout for him—the economy, in tandem with the election. In that case, the decision seems already made.

I just don’t know if it’s the right one.

See you guys on April 12th.


What the F**k is going on with Italy’s coronavirus nightmare?

Although the Covid-19 coronavirus started in Wuhan, China, and ran rampant through the entire Hubei province, it is quickly becoming obvious that Italy has overtaken China as the current viral hotspot of this outbreak. Why is this? What happened in Italy that caused this historical tourist destination full of vibrancy and joie de vivre to see a such a virulent outbreak that is decimating their country?

When a 38-year-old man with severe flu symptoms and respiratory problems walked into the emergency room at a hospital in Codogno, a small town in the Lombardy province of northern Italy on February 18th, medical professionals were not too concerned. Despite the well-documented and dangerous spread of what was then called the Wuhan Coronavirus in China, this man reported that he had not recently traveled nor had any direct contact with anybody who had recently traveled to China, with the exception of one friend who had returned from China but had already tested negative for the coronavirus.

Unfortunately, despite not traveling out of the country in recent weeks, this patient had had an incredibly busy month.

In the last couple of weeks, he’d attended at least three very social and busy dinners with numerous guests. He’d played soccer a few times and traveled with his team to different matches. In between, he had maintained an active and full social life full of meetings with friends for drinks, coffee, and lunch. When, on February 14th, he finally began developing symptoms and feeling unwell, he visited a local doctor where he was prescribed standard treatments for influenza. He resumed his lifestyle on a slightly muted level. It was later discovered that during all of this time and through all of his social contacts, he’d been Covid-19 positive and asymptomatic.

Even after his initial visit to the emergency room on February 18th, he didn’t isolate himself, perhaps lulled by the false sense of security in doctors telling him he just had the flu. He declined hospitalization and decided to get better at home. Later that same day, he was much sicker and returned to the hospital where he was admitted into a general medical ward. He was kept in close proximity to other patients and had a constant stream of nurses and doctors checking on him. Two days later, on February 20th, he was finally transferred to the intensive care unit where he finally received a positive test for the coronavirus and was put into isolation.

His wasn’t the first case of the coronavirus in Italy. On January 31st, two Chinese tourists in Rome tested positive, and a week later, an Italian who had been repatriated from Wuhan also tested positive. The Italian government had already suspended all flights to and from China, and there had been an uneasy silence as the health ministry waited to see if the virus had been contained. The case in Codogno squashed those dreams quickly.

Because of his very active lifestyle, specialists began calling this man a Super Spreader. It’s estimated that he personally infected scores, if not hundreds of people prior to his diagnosis. Although identifying Patient Zero in Italy has been impossible due to open borders in the European Union, Italian authorities have determined that this man is probably Patient One in the spread chart, having likely contracted the virus from another unknown European.

Without a traceable source of the contagion, and with the incredibly high number of contacts from this patient, Italy had no chance of containing the virus.

Doctor Walter Ricciardi, the scientific adviser to Italy’s Minister of Health, said that it was incredibly bad luck that this man, the Super Spreader, lived such an active lifestyle in one of the most densely populated and dynamic areas in all of Italy, and that he went to the hospital in Codogno not once, but twice, infecting hundreds of people including many doctors and nurses. “He was incredibly active,” Ricciardi said.

On Sunday, February 23rd, just a few days after the Super Spreader was officially diagnosed, Italians watched as the number of infected clicked stealthily into triple digits and authorities began to get worried. Eleven municipalities in Lombardy province were identified as coronavirus clusters and were placed under quarantine, locked down by police and military roadblocks. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte canceled all sporting events in Lombardy Province.

Police man a roadblock in a sealed off town in northern Italy. credit…Piero Cruciatti Agence France-Presse

The next day, infections climbed over 200, seven deaths attributed to the virus had been recorded, the Italian stock market was in freefall, and PM Conte was looking for a scapegoat. He blamed the hospital in Codogno for contributing to the spread by not isolating the Super Spreader immediately, and also blamed them for instituting aggressive testing of even those patients without symptoms, something he claimed was exaggerating the severity of the problem by falsely bloating the case numbers. His concern? The economic damage to the country through what he thought was an unfair representation of the severity of the problem.

Sound familiar, Americans?

On February 27th in Milan, the largest city in the Lombardo region, only about forty miles from the center of the outbreak in Codogno, the mayor, Beppe Sala, began publicizing a campaign with the slogan, “Milan Does Not Stop.” He shared a Milan promotional video he’d had created that contained images of people hugging each other, eating in restaurants, walking in parks and waiting at train stations. The most famous square in Milan, Duomo Square, anchored by the landmark cathedral that is a major tourist destination, had been closed since the February 23rd lockdown instituted by PM Conte. Sala reopened it, declaring that the Milanese people would not let the virus interfere with their way of life. People came out of their homes and resumed their lives.

Duomo square in Milan credit Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters

Additionally, Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of the co-ruling democratic party in Italy began his own campaign of disinformation. On February 27th, he traveled to Milan where he posted pictures to his Instagram account that showed him eating and drinking with people in Milan with the following translated slogan, “Let’s not lose our habits, we can’t stop Milan and Italy. Our economy is stronger than fear: we go out to drink an aperitif, a coffee or to eat a pizza.” On the 28th of February, he returned to Rome where he met for hours with party leaders, jammed together in a close room, shaking hands and quite possibly discussing the overreaction of the Prime Minister. On March 6th, he held a press conference about the virus in a crowded room with associates and reporters.

On March 7th, he announced he had tested positive for Covid-19.

Drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may be dead.
Hmmm…why does my throat feel so scratchy?

By March 8th, it was readily apparent that Italy had a huge problem on its hands. Total confirmed cases had blossomed to almost 6000. Deaths grew in a 24- hour period from 233 to 366, an increase of more than 50%. Prime Minister Conte ordered the entirety of Lombardy province and 14 other provinces in the heavily infected northern Italy to be quarantined. The news of the imminent quarantine leaked before it could be fully implemented, and thousands of southern Italians who were on holiday in the north fled in a panicked rush to their homes in the south, jamming onto trains and furthering the spread of the infection throughout the country. Holding an impromptu press conference at 2 a.m., Conte urged the population not to panic. He was optimistic about the future and the success they would have in defeating the virus. He warned them to isolate and practice good social distancing. He urged them not to be clever and look for loopholes, but to do what they must to protect their aging population.

The quarantine was instituted and the 25% of Italians were completely locked down.

Police check travel documents and enforce quarantines at a train station in Italy credit Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

It didn’t work. A day later, Italians were basically ignoring the orders and going about their business, huddled up in coffee shops and restaurants for their daily breakfast and lunch meetings, packing public squares, and hugging and kissing each other in greetings on the streets.

On March 10th, fatalities had nearly doubled from two days prior, hitting a total of 631, and Conte put the entire country into a national lockdown. A few days later, bars, restaurants, theaters, and all other non-essential businesses were finally ordered closed across the country. Conte addressed the nation and thanked them for their sacrifices in a very somber tone, far different from the earlier optimism he’d exhibited.

All the steps he’d taken had been reactionary, and those measures had lagged behind the lethal explosion of the infection rate. Italy was in a lot of trouble and Conte knew it.

“It is not easy in a liberal democracy,” said Doctor Ricciardi, at a press conference. He argued that the Italian government acted on the scientific evidence made available to it, and that they took the appropriate steps. Italy’s efforts to contain the virus were piecemeal though, shutting down first small towns, then provinces, then finally the entire country, while slowly closing businesses in the same lackadaisical manner, leaving enough loopholes to make the U.S. tax code look as sound as the vaults of Fort Knox.

All of their efforts just seemed to constantly lag slightly behind the virus’s lethal trajectory.

Sandra Zampa, the undersecretary of health in Italy admitted as much. “Now we are running after it. We closed gradually, as Europe is doing. France, Spain, Germany, the U.S. are doing the same. Every day you close a bit, you give up on a bit of normal life. Because the virus does not allow normal life.” Although she admitted they’d been constantly chasing the virus and had gotten caught in a complacency rut, she said she didn’t know what steps they could have taken differently given the difficulties faced by a democratic republic in instituting drastic and draconian measures.

Other Italian officials agreed, responding defensively to criticism, stating that they had done as much or more than any other democratic state to attempt to stop the coronavirus from spreading. They claimed they immediately acted on the advice of scientists and specialists and implemented unprecedented steps sooner than anyone. They’re only partially right of course, as the examples from earlier have shown. And the fact is, most of their drastic steps were reactive instead of proactive, and they missed many opportunities out of complacency.

And this coronavirus thrives on complacency.

In the United States, the population has much the same problem abiding by shelter-in-place and quarantine orders as Italy. In fact, it’s possible we have an even bigger problem. We’re far less family-centric than Italy, where grandparents live in generational family units and are revered. Much of the youthful population of the U.S. seems decidedly unconcerned with the effect of the coronavirus on the elderly of our community. They also seem to resent the authority of government to enforce stay-at-home orders, flauntingly ignoring the isolation pleas of governors by congregating on beaches, parks, and underground clubs. The complacency seen here in the United States seems to top that seen in Italy at the beginning of their growing struggle, and, as mentioned earlier, the coronavirus thrives on complacency.

The steps taken in Italy are arguably much more stringent than those taken in the United States. Here, we have only instituted shelter-in-place or stay-at-home type lockdowns in sixteen of our fifty states, with Washington State instituting that policy as I type this. Italy locked down their entire country. In the U.S., enforcement of the lock downs is sparse or non-existent. In Italy, travel authorizations are being checked by police at train and bus stations, and the military has been called in to support police with quarantine roadblocks around cities and towns. Will those militaristic and oppressive steps be implemented here in the U.S.? It seems really likely that our near future lies on exactly that path.

The inability of our leadership to present a unified front doesn’t help, much like it didn’t help in Italy with the Prime Minister telling people to isolate while the democratic leadership and the mayor at the epicenter of the outbreak declared, “We Won’t Stop.” President Trump tweeted the following on March 9th, just two weeks ago today, comparing the coronavirus to the flu in an insinuation that the flu was worse:

Just TODAY in a press conference to the nation, he made mention again of the death rate of the flu and even threw in the death rate of automobile accidents in order to minimize the fatality rate of the coronavirus. He also has been hinting that this lockdown will not last more than another week or so, the magical “fifteen-day” mark when he will reevaluate the impact on the economy and decide how best to proceed, hinting that he will probably choose to end the lockdown and restore the status quo. This is incredibly dangerous as studies like the one in one of my previous blogs shows. This lockdown will need to last for months, not a couple of weeks in order to be successful.

So, the real question is, what is the likelihood that we’re going to see a coronavirus path similar to the one seen in Italy? It’s a little difficult to make a true comparison because of a number of differences in our population:

  1. The median age in Italy is 47.3 years, where in the U.S. it is 38.3. Since the virus infects older people at a higher rate and more severely, it is less likely the U.S. will see the same fatality rate. On the other hand, people in Italy are generally healthier than in America, with obesity and heart disease issues significantly higher here. The coronavirus feeds on the unhealthy at an even greater disparity than it feeds on the elderly. That may mitigate the age spread factor, however, it’s impossible to do more than speculate as to how much.
  2. The population of Italy is 60.5 million while in the U.S. it is 331 million. The U.S. has about 5.5 times as many people, which means when comparing numbers, it’s necessary to multiply Italy’s numbers by 5.5 to get comparable numbers for the U.S.
  3. Although the population is significantly lower in Italy, the population density is higher. The virus spreads more merrily through a dense population, so while the results of cities like New York and L.A. may mimic the numbers of the population centers of Italy, taken as a whole for the country, it’s not likely the United States will see comparable fatality figures, especially away from the coastal population centers.

Let’s take a look at a weekly chart of cases and fatalities in both Italy and in the United States. Keep in mind that Italy was way ahead of the U.S. with regard to testing. As the U.S. finally ramps up testing, we can expect to see our confirmed case numbers explode in a way that’s difficult to compare. They’re still listed here for information, but mainly we should focus on the deaths as opposed to the cases.


Weekly growth of cases and fatalities in ITALY Weekly growth of cases and fatalities in the U.S.A.
February 23rd 157 cases and 3 deaths February 23rd 35 cases and 0 deaths
March 1st 1701 cases and 41 deaths March 1st 75 cases and 1 death
March 8th 7375 cases and 366 deaths March 8th 531 cases and 22 deaths
March 15th 24747 cases and 1809 deaths March 15th 3680 cases and 68 deaths
March 22nd 59138 cases and 5476 deaths March 22nd 33566 cases and 413 deaths
March 23rd 63927 cases and 6077 deaths March 23rd 43718 cases and 552 deaths


It’s somewhat difficult to see here on a weekly scale, but the fatality doubling rate in Italy has an average time span of about four days. The United States has about the same doubling rate. If you multiply Italy’s fatalities by a factor of 5.5 to account for total population difference, you can see that at the current number as of the time of this writing, the U.S. at 552 deaths would be equal to Italy at 100 deaths, which (not on this chart) was reached on March 4th, putting us 19 days behind them. Our death total yesterday, March 22nd, was 413, which would equal Italy’s 75 deaths which occurred on March 3rd, again, exactly 19 days behind them. Going back further, the U.S. had 68 deaths on March 15th which would equal Italy’s 12 deaths, and that occurred on February 26th, exactly 19 days earlier.

It’s impossible to say if this 19-day trend is going to continue, as there just aren’t enough data points to be certain, but the fatality rate sure seems to be following the exact path with the few data points that we have. In fact, if you look at a graph of fatality rates on a logarithmic scale, you can see that they look very similar, as you can see in this not-very-well-constructed overlay. In fact, though the comparison is not quite to the exact scale, the U.S. log track actually appears steeper, and that’s pretty terrifying.

If this rate remains identical, Italy’s 6077 deaths today, March 23rd, will mean 33,423 U.S. deaths 19 days from now, on April 11th, a number that is significantly higher than the number expected through the 4-day doubling average I observed and recorded in earlier blogs. 33,423 would represent a doubling average of about every three days instead, and the rapidly exploding numbers we’ve seen in the last five days or so would seem to support that rate.

If this holds true, it puts us on track to hit 1 million deaths here in the U.S. on April 26th, a good two weeks earlier than the mid-May timeframe I predicted for that ghastly number just two weeks ago.

This is not a prediction, it’s just simply an overview of the mathematical rate of expected fatalities, and a warning of what we might expect after analyzing what’s happening in Italy right now. It’s what we can look forward to if it is indeed true that the actions of the Italian people seem to mimic very closely what has taken place here in America. In Italy they are stacking up bodies because the morgue can’t handle the number of dead. There are reports of bodies lying in apartments for days, with nobody to pick them up to even take them to the morgue. There are reports of hospitals running out of supplies and instituting triage efforts to try to care for those they can still save. Doctors and nurses are catching the virus and dying, leading to even more desperation. It’s not a pretty picture and it’s been really bad there for at least the last 7 days.

If our infection rate and mortality path mimics theirs, it’s going to start getting really bad here about the middle of next week. That’s going to be right around the time Donald Trump is trying to get restrictions eased and isolation orders lifted. If he’s successful in that endeavor, things will be even worse.

It’s not going to be a great time to be anywhere in a major metropolitan center in America.

Let’s hope the numbers flatten out and don’t continue along this hellish and alarming path.



What exactly is MARTIAL LAW and will we see it declared during the coronavirus crisis?

There have been a lot of whispers lately about a possible declaration of Martial Law as a way of responding to the coronavirus crisis in which we currently find ourselves immersed. In order to get in front of fake news or misconceptions about what this means, I thought it might be a good idea to talk a little about what to expect if we do see such a declaration. Knowledge is power, and martial law can be incredibly frightening if you don’t understand what it means. Camouflaged military vehicles and armed soldiers in urban camo fatigues patrolling the streets with military weaponry is NOT something most Americans are used to seeing, and without knowing what those things actually mean, there’s a good chance that panic could erupt into chaos.

This article is going to deal with martial law as it is defined and implemented in the United States only. If you live in another jurisdiction, the implications are probably similar, particularly if you live in a democracy, but many things may be different, especially with regard to powers of the governors of the individual states here in the U.S.

Martial law is simply some form of military control over all of a country’s activities, mostly with regard to law enforcement and peacekeeping, and only during wartime or due to an emergency or widespread disaster. Martial law can be absolute, or it can also be limited in nature or scope for example, to a particular state only, or even to a county or small area within a state. Per United States law, martial law for the entire country can only be ordered by the president as commander-in-chief and must be limited to the duration of the emergency. The president has the power to use either the U.S. military to enforce martial law, or to co-opt the National Guards of each state to take control.

In addition to a full declaration of martial law in the United States by the president, governors of each state can impose full or limited martial law in their jurisdictions by utilizing the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard troops under their command to take control of law enforcement duties within their states or a portion of their states.

The reason that a declaration of martial law is needed to deploy guard or military troops is because those forces are prohibited from taking any legal action on U.S. soil or against U.S. citizens by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.  The Posse Comitatus Act was written into federal law expressly to limit the powers of the federal government to use federal troops to enforce domestic policies in the United States. Posse Comitatus applies specifically to just the U.S. Army and Air Force, which is why you see the Coast Guard, and sometimes even the U.S. Navy doing things like making arrests during drug interdiction and Customs enforcement along oceanic borders. There are some exceptions to Posse Comitatus such as the Enforcement Acts which were bills written to protect the rights of African Americans. Eisenhower used those exceptions to send federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas to protect civil rights in 1957. A declaration of martial law in an emergency situation suspends Posse Comitatus during the time frame of the emergency.

If we see martial law here in this country, the main thing we’ll notice will be that military troops will take the place of police officers to enforce the law or to keep the peace. In most instances they will work alongside the officers, supplementing their forces, however, the civilian police officers will be subject to the orders of the military commanders in this case. They most likely will implement some sort of curfew or forced quarantine of the population as well. These things become legal, and, in fact, martial law is usually declared in order to make these things legal, because the very important thing that a martial law declaration does is suspend habeas corpus.

It is this suspension of habeas corpus that makes martial law such a daunting declaration. Habeas corpus is the basis of our rights against unlawful arrest and detention. It is in fact, one of the underlying cornerstones of our democracy and our constitution, and represents one of the fundamental rights that we recognize as American citizens. Habeas corpus is the writ of law that guarantees us protection against unlawful arrest and the right to contest that arrest in an impartial court of law. These guarantees are so important that the writers of the constitution limited the ability of the government to suspend them right in Article One, Section Nine, which reads,

“The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”

So basically, if martial law is declared, in addition to military troops enforcing laws, they’ll also be able to arrest and detain people for pretty much any reason they want, and there will be no legal recourse like a court hearing or trial to dispute that arrest. So, yeah, declaring martial law is a pretty big deal.

Now, that’s not likely to be what happens in such a declaration. The troops are still accountable to their commanding officers, who are accountable to the governor, and military tribunals will still be convened to deal with any malfeasance, however, this suspension of habeas corpus is what allows them to enforce things like curfews or quarantines. With a state of martial law, civilian courts are shut down and military courts take over. This means that all citizens are subject to military law and can be tried in military courts. So, if you do see a martial law declaration you might want to get those shoes shined up, soldier.

Martial law has been declared several times in this country in the last hundred years:

West Virginia Coal Wars of 1920-1921. Governor Cornwell dispatched federal troops to deal with striking miners. This was a prime example of the suspension of habeas corpus as many striking union miners were arrested and jailed without any sort of trial or court order, and without having violated any written law.

In San Francisco, California in 1934, Governor Frank Merriam placed a very limited area of San Francisco under martial law, mostly relating to the area around the docks. This was in response to the riots resulting from a dock worker’s strike. The National Guard was used in this case, as opposed to federal troops.

In Hawaii, the state was held under martial law for almost three years following the Pearl Harbor attacks of December 7th, 1941. For those three years, Hawaii was effectively governed like enemy territory with the Army taking full control of all state government and law enforcement.

In Russell County, Alabama in July of 1954, Governor Persons declared limited martial law due to vast corruption by law enforcement officers in that county. The entire police force of the county, including the cities in that county were forced to stand down and the Alabama National Guard took over those duties. Major General Walter Hanna disarmed the citizenry, closed down illegal gambling establishments and businesses serving alcohol, and helped to bring about free elections, an establishment that had been corrupted for decades by the police force who were apparently all on the take from the illegal gambling rings.

So, will we see martial law declared during this coronavirus crisis?

I think the most likely scenario for a declaration of martial law would be the inability of police forces and emergency personnel to respond to developing scenarios. This could happen for a couple of reasons:

  1. The coronavirus could begin to spread through police or fire departments, cutting down on available manpower. This is a big possibility. As we all know by now, Covid-19 is highly contagious and spreads asymptomatically. If a single officer contracts the virus, he or she probably spreads that to others in his division, and those officers spread it on to still others. This could result in quarantine or isolation of huge chunks of these infected departments. We saw this in Kirkland, Washington, the epicenter of the virus in the United States. Twenty or more police officers and firefighters were quarantined for two weeks when a couple of them tested positive. We’re seeing it right now in other jurisdictions like NYPD, and in Washington D.C. where over 200 emergency personnel are currently being quarantined. If coronavirus begins to spread through large police and fire departments, the governors will have no choice but to begin sending in national guard troops to help out. This will be a limited declaration of martial law.
  2. If we start to see rioting and looting as this lockdown continues, and police forces are unable to keep up with peacekeeping, or they start to become overwhelmed with the additional responsibilities in enforcing quarantine/shelter-in-place orders in states that implement them. Currently, as of this writing, California and New York have issued such orders, and I expect we’ll see them in many more states, likely starting with Washington State and maybe Florida after that.
  3. If we start to see the health care system become overloaded and surge capacity of those systems is breached or ventilators become unavailable to people who need them. This will create panic, and guard troops may be needed to maintain order or to supplement security at existing and temporary hospitals. Presumably, the national guard medical units could also be called up to assist in providing care under a martial law declaration as well.
  4. With the borders being shut down completely as of today, there is a possibility that federal troops would be needed to supplement the Border Patrol and to help secure them. This would involve a limited federal declaration of martial law by President Trump.

I see a situation where one of these scenarios happens as quite likely to very likely. I do not foresee a total national declaration of martial law where U.S. Army troops are called in to enforce the peace, however, it seems very likely to me that governors will soon have no choice but to enforce at least limited martial law in sections of their states. It’s just impossible to stop this virus from spreading through emergency services personnel as they can’t be isolated and need to remain out in the public. When that happens, national guard troops are really the only recourse.

In conclusion, it might be a good idea to start doing some pushups and situps while you’re sitting at home. Those staff sergeants who are about to run our lives ain’t gonna put up with no slovenly behavior from the likes of you!

Sometimes there actually is a monster under the bed

Now that most of the world is officially in strongly-urged or forced lockdown and isolation, it’s time to look forward to the end of this viral pandemic. Thoughts of late spring days in the northern hemisphere when we can all get back to our normal lives, enjoying time with friends and family as these dark days slowly fade from our memories, will keep us sane over these weeks of isolation.

Of course, most of us are under the impression that this will last no more than a few weeks. Our companies told us we were being laid off just for two weeks, right? The governor of Nevada told us the casinos were all closed for just 30 days. Schools told us kids would be returning to school at the end of March, maybe the first week of April. This is all just a fun distraction with the end just around the corner, right?

Don’t count on it.

If you’re wondering why the world seemed to suddenly wake up to the incredible dangers we’re facing and took the dramatic steps we saw implemented globally yesterday, it’s very likely it was because of this report from the Imperial College of Medicine in Great Britain that was published two days ago. It’s twenty pages long and rather dense, so to save most of you the time of reading it, I’m going to summarize some of the most important (and quite terrifying) findings.

This first chart of infection hospitalization and fatality rates at first glance looks somewhat promising. After all, if you add all these numbers up, the actual fatality rate appears to be just under 1% across the board. That would be a miracle if that holds up to be true, as that rate was feared to be double that number just a short time ago. Another good number is the hospitalization rate, which at only 4.4% means it’s at least 2-3 times lower than many feared at first glance. These numbers have both come way down to the new estimation of the rate of infection, which has gone way up, as we’ll see a bit later. The concerning element of this chart though, is the percentage of cases requiring critical care, which averages out to about 30% of all hospitalizations.

Critical care in SARS related illnesses means a trip to the ICU for a date with a ventilator. A stay in the ICU means a longer overall stay in the hospital. In addition, the average fatality rates of those in the ICU is 50%, which is very high, but inordinately weighted toward those over the age of 80. The real worry about the ICU rate is the number of beds and ventilators required, and the critical surge capacity of our hospitals. Remember, the fatality rate of those who need a ventilator and don’t get one will be 100%, or very close to it.

The study estimates an R-naught rate of 2.4, which is incredibly high. This means that each infected person infects almost two-and-a-half others on average, which is significantly higher than most of the viral outbreaks we’ve seen recently. This R₀ rate, would result in an infection rate of approximately 81% of the population, with an estimated 2.2 million deaths in the United States alone, had we decided to take no action, or very limited action in response to Covid-19. These numbers do not take into account all of the additional deaths that would occur due to an overload of the surge capacity of our healthcare system. The study estimated that the peak required ICU admissions would reach more than 30 times the national capacity. That would have resulted in a secondary fatality rate that might have been even higher than the deaths from the virus alone.

Good thing we took serious action, eh?

Now, here’s the problem with taking serious action against the spread of this virus. In order to prevent a secondary outbreak before a vaccine is ready, it’s necessary to establish “herd immunity.” Herd immunity means that people need to get sick and then recover in pretty big numbers in order to make sure that the R₀ rate falls below 1 on the next wave of infections. Any R₀ rate of 1 or below ensures that the coronavirus remains under control and does not become a pandemic. The sooner we implement isolation requirements that control the spread of the virus, the fewer infections we have and the greater the likelihood of a reinfection when restrictions are lifted.

What a fun little circle-jerk game this virus is playing with us!

This chart shows us the effect that various isolation measures will have on the surge capacity of our hospitals, represented by the red line at the very bottom. It’s quite obvious by looking at this that none of these measures on their own are anywhere near effective enough, which means that a combination would be required to avoid overloaded hospitals and huge numbers of secondary deaths from triaging those who need advanced care. The “things that make you go hmmm” moment for me with this chart was the blue shading. This shows the period of time that would be needed for each of these measures just to result in the deadly peaks shown here. More on that later.

Above this chart we see this line: Our projections show that to be able to reduce R to close to 1 or below, a combination of case isolation, social distancing of the entire population and either household quarantine or school and university closure are required (Figure 3, Table 4). Measures are assumed to be in place for a 5-month duration.

The key here, obviously, is reducing R₀ to 1 or below, and they’re basically saying that it’s going to require all of the measures listed to be working and in place at the exact same time. The scary part of this though, is the last line. Measures are assumed to be in place for a 5-month duration. Five-month duration. That blue shading represents five months under these conditions. Not two weeks, like we were told at first. Not 30 days, or 60 days like a few are saying. Five months. Through the summer. We can say that we began this around March 15th. That means we can come out of it on August 15th. How many of you think we can maintain this for five months? No frickin’ chance.

If we do somehow maintain these conditions for five months, notice the green and tan lines in Figure A stay right around the red Surge line. This basically means we don’t overload the ICU. We don’t run out of ventilators and begin triaging the worst cases and sending them home to die a very miserable death. This is really important, but again, it’s going to take five months of combined strategies and at home isolation.

Also, notice those spikes of both the green and brown lines in late November / early December. What this means is that we’re going to see another spike of this disease next fall. This is very likely going to require yet another stretch of isolation. Interestingly, the green line, which represents what we can expect if we implement the easiest of the measures, school closure, social distancing, and case isolation, will give us a much higher spike in critical cases than if we implement household quarantine without school closure. That means that it may be correct to allow the kids to go back to school in the fall while the adults all stay quarantined, as counter-productive as that may seem. Oh, and by the way, if you thought your kids were heading back to school this spring…spoiler alert—they’re not.

Short of a complete lockdown, which is the absolute best case scenario for stopping that first spike (although that will result in a much more difficult secondary infection—more on this in a bit) applying all four isolation measures is the most important way to minimize the impact to the healthcare system. The problem — again — is that they need to be held in place for a minimum of three months, five months ideally, and that seems absolutely impossible, at least here in the United States.

***Just as an FYI if you’re looking closely at these charts, all the numbers represent expectations for the UK, not for the US, however, our medical and health care ratios mimic each other with the US at a 5x rate. So, basically multiply every number you see by five, and you’ll get the expected numbers for the US with the lines remaining identical.***

This chart is fairly self-explanatory, so I won’t go over it in detail. The R₀ number on the left represents the most likely infection rates they could estimate with the data available. “On Trigger” is the number of critical ICU cases that trigger the isolation efforts. Obviously, the earlier we trigger those the better. “Do nothing” is number of deaths if we take no isolation steps. PC=school and university closure, CI=home isolation of cases, HQ=household quarantine, SD=social distancing of the entire population, SDOL70=social distancing of those over 70 years for 4 months (a month more than other interventions). The percentages represent the percentage decline in the death rate from the “Do Nothing” category. Again, these number are for the UK, so multiply them all by FIVE to get the numbers for the U.S.

Once these interventions are ended, infections begin to rise again, as we saw in the new curves on the previous graph, resulting in a predicted peak epidemic in late November. What’s really interesting though, is that the more successful a strategy is at temporary suppression through the isolation efforts, the larger the later epidemic is predicted to be because of what they call “herd immunity.”

When we isolate everyone and fewer people get sick, fewer people develop immunity to it. Even in a best case scenario, the virus doesn’t disappear altogether once we have it under control. It’s still out there in the wild, waiting to be picked up again, and that’s why we’re going to see another large spike in cases in the late fall. There’s no avoiding it, short of an immunization being developed, and the better we are at controlling the virus now, the worse that next outbreak will be. The more people who get sick now, the more will have immunity later. The key is to not overload the health system and the ICU capacity while allowing the maximum number of people to get sick right now. It’s an incredibly tricky balancing act.

This shows the number of deaths and ICU bed occupation we can expect to see with the various interventions. Let’s take a low-medium R₀ of 2.2, so the second block of cells. ***Again, remember that for the U.S. we need to multiply these numbers by five because this is for the UK.***

I feel like the most accurate number for the on-trigger death toll is about 200, which represents 1000 deaths here in the U.S. Although we’re currently at only 155 deaths, we’ll be at 1000 in a little more than a week most likely, and, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen very few people actually taking this seriously. In fact, today I saw video from spring breakers partying it up in Miami, saw pictures of people in bars, restaurants, airports, and coffee shops, and saw lots of traffic: street, pedestrian, and aviation, despite so many desperate pleas from authorities to stay home and avoid going out as much as possible. So many people have adapted a blasé attitude toward this, that I feel quite comfortable using that number, and it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to use the bottom number of 400, representing 2000 U.S. deaths, or even a number that’s completely off the chart, quite honestly. But we’ll be conservative.

Using the 200 deaths number and extrapolating through the chart by multiplying by 5, we see that if we did nothing, we’d expect 2.1 million U.S. deaths. This is in the next five months, by the way, and doesn’t even take into account all the added deaths from ICU triage overruns, and the spike next fall (which, in defense of “do nothing,” would be significantly lower, possibly even compatible with an R₀ under 1) which would all result in a number at least double that. Now, looking to the right, you see that the most effective step is to take all four isolation steps (PC=school and university closure, CI=home isolation of cases, HQ=household quarantine, SD=social distancing of the entire population, SDOL70=social distancing of those over 70 years for 4 months) Of course, let’s be honest, this here is the good old U.S. of A., and there’s no chance we’re doing HOUSEHOLD QUARANTINE for three months, so let’s move one box to the left where we see an expected fatality rate of 30,000 times 5 = 150,000.

That’s 150k deaths if we keep up what we’re now doing, and if the idiots stop doing Jaeger bombs in Miami, and if the businesses all close down, and if people stop hugging each other, shaking hands, working in close proximity and going out to eat. Oh, and if we keep all that up for the next three months. So, yeah, basically we’re screwed. I would guess we can easily expect double that death number.

If the R₀ rate is higher, we’re looking at 350k deaths, and double that is 700k deaths, plus, that number will overload our ICU capacity so we can probably call it a million flat. And, quite honestly, I think this is being incredibly conservative based on the behaviors I’ve seen all over the internet from the multitude of people who just don’t give a flying fuck about what’s happening. I’m talking mostly to you millennials, though I know the percentage of you who made it this far into this read is as close to zero as (insert name of your favorite IG star here)’s intelligence. To be fair, it’s not just the millennials. So many Americans just don’t get what’s happening here, and, I don’t know what it will take to wake them up.

Every sports league, done. Las Vegas shut down completely. Borders basically closed. Domestic flights mostly shut down by the end of next week. (Another prediction, there’s no sign of this yet, but if you’ve read my previous blogs have I been wrong yet?) When will people start to realize what’s happening here?

I’m afraid it won’t be until we reach 100k deaths in the U.S. I’m afraid that’s when it will finally start to sink in.

Either way, we’re in this situation for at least another three months, possibly as long as five months. And then, just when we think we’re out of it, we’re going to get hit with another wave in November. There’s some hope there will be a vaccine by then, but I’m not counting on it. There’s probably another blog in here to explore a scenario where we rush a vaccine to market and get to experience all the angst with regard to the incredible dangers being taken by skipping animal trials and moving right into the human trial phase, which, astoundingly, is what seems to be happening, from what I’ve read. I’m not sure even I want to explore the possible nightmarish scenarios behind that decision. After all, I understand that the monster under the bed is now real. I hear him stretching and stirring, his claws ticking on the hardwood floor, and I know he’s about to unleash his full wrath.

I’m not sure I really want to get out of bed to peek at the noises I’m now starting to hear coming from the closet.

*BTW, here’s that full report in case any of you want to read it. I’d love to know if I misinterpreted or misstated anything in my synopsis. Thanks! https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

The fictional story of our lives under the reign of the Covid-19 coronavirus

If I was writing a novel, the plot of which was a worldwide pandemic involving an exotic, novel coronavirus, here’s what the story would entail:

The novel would open on a late fall day in a thriving city of fifteen million in central China. A tourist would be strolling through a bustling city center. The tourist would come across a gigantic market in the center of town. At more than half-a-million square feet, it would be hard to miss. As he entered the market, he would be astounded—in a state of shock as great as if he’d stepped onto the surface of an alien planet. The noise and the smells would overload his senses, and his eyes would dart around at all of the stalls, the vendors hawking wares that this westerner had never imagined.

As he worked his way to the western end of the market, he would stumble upon the truly otherworldly stalls. He would see cramped crates of live chickens stacked on top of weasels, parrots on top of ferrets, giant centipedes on top of pangolins, and more. He would see stalls selling ostrich, camel, bear, deer, and dogs, many of those animals alive and waiting to be carefully chosen and slaughtered on site. He’d see a stack of crates with live civet cats stacked over rabbits, stacked over peacocks, bats with folded wings hanging over all of them. To the westerner, it would be like a scene from a PETA member’s personal hell. A jungle that would have made Upton Sinclair retch. He would want to leave, but, much like a bad car wreck, he’d find himself unable to tear his eyes away. He would watch as the bustling crowd of mostly Chinese citizens chose their live animals, the clerk butchering the animal for them, craftily cutting it into portions, bagging and wrapping it, and calling the customer’s number to pick it up when it was ready.

He would elbow his way through the crowd, carefully stepping around puddles of water, blood, chicken guts, fish scales, feces, and unknown, unthinkable slimy objects, trying not to get his shoes filthy, while at the same time, trying to ignore the cacophony of screeches and pitiful mewling from the doomed animals in their cramped and squalid cages.

Eventually, he would find an eating area, picnic tables with peeling paint packed with locals and tourists alike eating food from some of the vendors who cook it to order. Wearily, he’d take a seat in one of the few open spots, settling in next to a local man eating a thick, creamy soup with chunks of unidentifiable meat. As he leaned back to take in the sights, the person next to him would sneeze, turning his head toward the westerner to avoid spraying his food. The westerner would jerk, then, remembering his manners, would say, “bless you” before realizing that the local likely didn’t understand the sentiment.

As he left the market, the westerner would not notice that at the other entrance now far away, the one he’d casually strolled through an hour earlier, Chinese soldiers had arrived in droves, many wearing white hazmat suits, whistles and shouts clearing out the shoppers, authoritarian figures shutting down each stall in a brazen display of brutal efficiency only possible in a dictatorship.

The westerner would go back to his hotel, oblivious to the disruption in his wake. A few days later, having just missed all of the excitement, and having seen absolutely no news on television, or in one of the many English language newspapers about the militaristic shutdown of one of China’s largest and most lucrative markets, he’d board a flight, scrolling through his pictures on the plane, excited to share the stories of his travels with loved ones and friends.

The plane would land in Seattle, where the tourist would be greeted by his wife and children. The next day, he would return to work in a downtown office building where he would regale his co-workers with stories about the exotic animal market. A few days later, the tourist would notice some phlegm in his throat, an itchiness in his nose, and a cough. He’d ask his wife to check his temperature and she’d discover it had climbed to 101. Not overly concerned, he would crawl into bed, take a shot of Nyquil, and hope he felt better in the morning.

The novel would then move back to China, from the viewpoint of a Colonel in the Ministry of State Security, the intelligence service of China. This Colonel would be in charge of a top-secret division of the Ministry, responsible for maintaining order during any incident likely to cause civil unrest. Reporting only to the Deputy Minister for State Security, his powers would be broad ranging, and near absolute. He would be a hard man in his sixties, with iron hair and hawk-like eyes. A career military man, he would have a well-documented but top-secret history of trouble-shooting and problem solving.

The release of a novel coronavirus would be a scenario that his division is incredibly and almost uniquely well-prepared for. The first step would be to lock down the suspected source of the virus, the Wuhan wet market. The second step on the long-refined checklist, would be to control any leaks. Already there have been a few, one from a journalist who managed to send out a tweet about a strange, flu-like sickness befalling a bunch of locals, and one from a doctor at the local hospital, this one a query sent out to both the CDC in the United States and to the World Health Organization regarding an unknown novel coronavirus. The colonel had intercepted the sample the doctor had tried to send out, but had not been able to intercept the electronic query. He had, however, notified both the offending doctor and the journalist in the strongest terms that this type of communication with the outside world was forbidden. In fact, the journalist would be currently under arrest and awaiting trial for spreading false propaganda against the state, a charge falling just short of treason. The doctor would have been allowed to return to work after strict orders to keep things under wraps.

The colonel would muse about how difficult his job was actually going to be. With already more than 1,000 cases in this city of 15 million, plugging all the leaks was getting more and more difficult. In top secret meetings with experts, he would have been notified that the strange sickness had already undoubtedly spread around the world. Wuhan was a bustling city with industry centers that had probing fingers in vast global trade. Already, there was certain to be cases of the virus percolating in the bodies of many of the passengers of the hundreds of long-haul flights leaving the city each day. The colonel would chew on some aspirin or antacids, trying to calm the sickening feeling of stress and fear that probed at his stomach. It wouldn’t be long before Western nations would begin making queries, and he would know the suspicions they undoubtedly already had. Three years earlier, a noted American public health specialist and infectious disease expert named Doctor Michael Osterholm, had published a book titled, Deadliest Enemy: Our war against killer germs which named China as the most likely origin of the next global pandemic involving a novel coronavirus. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Netflix, just three weeks earlier, had released a documentary called Pandemic: How to prevent an outbreak that also labeled China as the most likely source of a SARS-like novel coronavirus, even going so far as to pinpoint the likely origin as one of the many wet markets throughout the country. He would know that the eyes of the world were already on China, and that control of information was critical.

Of course, the meat of the novel would be centered on what we now know is actually taking place. It would discuss the colonel’s failure to contain the information, the world’s waking knowledge of the Wuhan coronavirus. It would discuss the anger of the Chinese Politburo at the inability of the Ministry of State Security to contain the leak. It would discuss their refusal to allow western doctors and virologists into the country to examine patients and sequence the virus. It would explore their efforts to lock down true information and disseminate misinformation. It would follow their herculean efforts to isolate the city of Wuhan, their draconian measures to control the spread of the virus through brutal and uncaring police actions against the population. The government would order full quarantine of the city, shoving boulders in front of apartments to trap the citizens, patrolling the streets with heavily-armed soldiers in full bio-hazard gear. They would build two dedicated hospitals in less than a week, ordering doctors from around the country to converge on the hot zone. Huge military tankers would crawl every street spraying a thick fog of disinfectant over entire blocks. Their efforts would result in a containment of the virus that would give the world hope that it wasn’t as serious as most experts warned.

In the meantime, the rest of the world would go about their merry way, ignorantly failing to heed the warnings of experts, doctors, virologists, and on-site witnesses, including the original whistle-blower, the doctor who tried to warn the world before he himself perished from the virus. China’s withholding of pertinent information, their failure to warn other countries, and their refusal to allow in doctors from the WHO and the CDC to study the virus would retard any possibility of containment. The virus would spread, passing from one person to another asymptomatically as western civilization plodded unknowingly forward toward doom — a never before seen and rarely imagined catastrophic scenario on a global scale.

Every continent on the planet would slowly waken to the danger and begin taking steps toward containment. Despite the obvious nature of the threat, there would still be many who would ignore it. Despite having a mortality rate twenty times, and an R-naught infection rate two to three times that of influenza, and despite having asymptomatic spread, a rare condition long exploited by end-of-the-world novels and apocalyptic films, there would continue to be an overwhelming roar of people denying the dangers and making comparisons to influenza. The Flu-Truthers. The American president would use Twitter to tell Americans that there was nothing to fear, that the virus was not dangerous, and that they would be fine. The French, while the rest of the world was going into full lockdown, would set a new world record for the gathering in one place of 3500 people dressed as Smurfs, many of the blue faces shouting in posted videos that they weren’t scared of a little virus. Americans would pour onto the beaches of Florida and Mexico in spring break festivities that decried any fear whatsoever, and across Europe, people would enjoy the warming weather in congregations of tens of thousands at concerts, shows, and sporting events.

Of course, the incredibly dangerous nature of the coronavirus would finally be realized in nations around the globe. As China’s cases began to decline due to their herculean and oppressive containment measures, the rest of the world would experience a heart-stopping surge of cases and fatalities. Everything would shut down, the smoothly oiled machinery of the entire planet grinding to a halt. Nearly every country in the northern hemisphere would lock down their borders and institute forced quarantines.

Of course, the virus would continue to rage unchecked, barely slowed. Because this virus, this heartless, perfect little killing machine, would have an incubation period and infection time that stretched out to two or three weeks, which, combined with that rare little pleaser known as asymptomatic spread, made it one of the most dangerous viruses the planet has ever seen.

Sure, like most of the apologists and deniers would point out, it’s mortality rate would be lower than MERS, EBOLA, and the Spanish Flu, and its R-naught rate would be lower than the SARS epidemic of a decade earlier. But, what so many of them would choose to ignore would be the combination of perfect elements in this microscopic, unseen, devastating, globe-stopper. The high, though not unique R-naught rate. The middling mortality rates. The long incubation and infection period. And, the deadliest of all, the asymptomatic spread capability.

I know this seems like a stretch of fictional credulity, but bear with me…

The virus would get a name of course, and the name would be intentionally lacking of any tag of origin, so as not to seem unsympathetic or racist. Despite many viruses having names that point to their origin, MERS—Middle East Respiratory Syndrome—being one of the more recent, this virus would not for long be called the Wuhan coronavirus, but would be called the very bland and unassuming Covid-19, a portmanteau of coronavirus disease 2019. Any mention of the origin after receiving its official name—things like calling it the Wuhan virus, or the Chinese virus, would be met with an onslaught of furious social justice advocates decrying the racism of terminology hinting at the origin.

China would seize hold of those calls of xenophobia. They would encourage that kind of thinking. They would be thrilled.

You see, because back in China, the government and politburo, headed by a person named Xi Jinping, a dictator in all but title, would begin to recognize an incredible opportunity. As the rest of the world shuts down and flounders under the weight of the devastatingly fast, wildfire-like spread of the virus that originated in the middle of his country, thanks to his severe and heavy-handed approach to containment, China itself is on the rebound. The rest of the world sees cases and fatalities blow by China’s totals in just weeks, the United States taking the brunt of it as deaths soar over a hundred thousand. The novel at this point would switch to the viewpoint of this militaristic president as a plot begins to grow in his coldly-calculating and highly intelligent mind.

Already a dominating superpower with controlling interests in so many of the basic necessities this planet relies on, things like Rare-Earth Elements which power nearly every electronic item in the world, and which China controls more than 95% of, and with a stranglehold on the supply chain of so many medicines relied on by western civilization, he’s in a rare position to increase China’s power and status to unseen levels. To once and for all thrust China into their rightful place as the one world superpower.

The Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges would begin to soar as the Chinese industry got back into running at full strength. As the rest of the world’s markets began to collapse, driving the planet to the brink of a full and brutal recession, industry in a complete coma in all western markets, China would begin driving so many of the industries where they’d once, in a better time, lagged behind, while at the same time, tightening their stranglehold on the all-important Rare-Earth and medicinal markets. While the rest of the world watched trillions of dollars of market cap disappear nearly overnight as cases of the coronavirus soared out of control and fatalities followed an exponential doubling curve that was unstoppable, China would suck up that market cap, exploding into a domestic bull market never before seen, as their own Covid-19 fatalities hit zero and new cases dried up.

Back in America, a sailor onboard a U.S. Navy destroyer would open a piece of mail from a loved one back home, unknowingly picking up the virus from the contents before rubbing his eye and infecting himself. Within weeks, the virus would spread through the ship, then to others in the fleet. Despite all containment efforts, before long, the Navy would be damaged severely with sick and dying sailors, a condition that would spread throughout the military, not just in America, but all over western civilization. Xi Jinping would notice this of course, and his plan would begin to come together.

China would begin withholding the critical components used in every major electronic in the world, including every military guidance system and complex weapon, citing increased domestic consumption. With the full might of the Chinese military power, at the moment when the rest of the world was at its sickest, Xi Jinping would launch an attack on Japan, exacting long-awaited payback for the Sino-Japanese war of 1937. The Chinese military would then drop into Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Burma, plowing through the Asian countries with little resistance from the sick, disabled, heavily-weakened militaries. The rest of the world would wait powerlessly with their own depleted militaries. Of course, this territorial aggression could not stand unchallenged, so, with no other options, the angered and unhinged leaders of both America and the United Kingdom would form a coalition. United threats of nuclear war would be made, because really, what other option was left?

Would those threats be carried out, plunging the world into nuclear Armageddon? How would I know? It’s just a novel, and the ending has yet to be written. Besides, this whole scenario has become entirely far-fetched.


The true Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic is SELFISHNESS

When I was a kid, my family went hiking a lot. When we were hiking a steep trail with switchbacks, I always wanted to cut the corner, to hike off the trail up to the tantalizing visible trail above us, to blaze my own stubby path and traverse an area where no one had gone before. My dad never let me.

“Stay on the trail. No cutting the corners.”

“Why?” I would whine. “The trail is right there!”

“Because you’ll damage the forest. The trails are here to keep people from walking wherever they want,” he would patiently explain to me.

It took me a long time to understand how my ten-year old shoes could seriously cause any damage to the forest by cutting across the corner of a switchback trail.

The truth is, I wouldn’t damage a frickin’ thing by cutting across the trails. But, as my dad always tried to explain to me, if everybody did what I wanted to do, the forest would be irreparably damaged. My selfish behavior was fine in a vacuum, but if everybody was as selfish as me, it would ruin the whole experience. It’s great to be a trailblazer in business or life, but when trailblazing causes damage to the things society wants to enjoy, it’s usually better to just stay on the path.

I forged this lesson forward when I taught my daughters about littering. It’s absolutely true that if you throw a wrapper out your car window while driving down the highway, it’s not a big deal. It won’t ruin anything for anybody if some paper container with ketchup and three slices of dill pickle that makes your mouth tingle is sitting half-buried in the median. So why does littering provoke such a steeply fined civil penalty in nearly every jurisdiction?

My dad could tell you. It’s because if everybody did it, this world would be a disgusting pigsty of strewn garbage. Actually, it would look a lot like the Pyramids of Giza complex in Cairo, Egypt.

Social distancing is the only thing that is going to slow the spread of this Covid-19 coronavirus. I’m seeing a plethora of people on social media making plans to get together for lunch, to grab a drink, or to see a movie this weekend. The Southpoint casino here in Las Vegas tweeted out this photo last night, bragging about how busy they are:


There are far too many people who still think this is all just a big joke. There are far too many deniers — Flu-Truthers as I like to call them, spewing their vocal ignorance to the masses. I guess I kind of get it. There are 55 deaths from this virus in the United States right now. But not seeing what is happening all around us—having the extreme myopic tunnel vision to focus only on that number—is so incredibly ignorant, asinine, and obtuse that it’s like the driver of JFK’s limo deciding to take another lackadaisical lap around Dealey Plaza after hearing a few loud bangs.

So many people are freaking out right now about the lack of available tests for the virus here in the U.S. There’s no question that this was a colossal failure on the part of the CDC. However, at this time it just doesn’t matter. Governments love to know data and numbers in order to make decisions, but we have all the data we need. We can extrapolate from findings in other countries which have somehow been light-years ahead of us with testing for Covid-19 cases.

The exact number of infected is going to be vast, distressing, uncomfortable–and also completely irrelevant.

If I get sick with Covid-19 symptoms, I’m not going to the hospital to get a test. Why should I? What difference does it make what the test results are? Whether its Covid-19, or just the regular flu, the treatment is the same. I’m going to remain isolated. I’m going to eat soup, drink Nyquil, and try to get lots of fluids. I’m going to stay home and make sure I don’t infect anybody else. Above all, I’m not going to go to a hospital and stand in a waiting room with a bunch of other sick people and healthy people trying to get care for their sick loved ones, and either infect someone else, or actually catch the coronavirus myself when I didn’t actually have it.

I will only go to the hospital at this point if I’m in dire medical need.

Unless you are elderly, in poor health already, or immune-deficient, I suggest you do the same. In the end, the result of the test doesn’t matter. ALL THAT MATTERS RIGHT NOW IS SOCIAL ISOLATION.

Testing and compiling data is not going to save a single life at this point. It is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT that people stop going out. Stop congregating, stop meeting your friends for drinks, stop “supporting local businesses in these tough times.” This will be so much worse if we don’t adhere to the guidelines the doctors and health officials are laying out.

I know you’re all young, healthy, strong as an ox, and not worried about contracting this virus. I know you think this is all overblown and it will be over in a week or two. I know you think even if you get it, it won’t be that bad and won’t matter. And, if you just toss your plastic Starbucks cup out of the car window on your way home from brunch with your friends tomorrow, that act of littering won’t matter either. It’s the same thing.

Unless we ALL stop acting so goddamned selfishly and stop pretending that this disruption to our lives is so inconvenient, we are truly screwed. If attitudes don’t change, we are going to have the biggest economic, medical, and social disaster the world has ever seen. STOP going out unless you absolutely have to. You are being SELFISH. You are contributing to a devastating global pandemic with your absolutely narcissistic and egocentric behavior, all in the name of “it won’t affect me so why should I care?” Would you destroy a national landmark you had no intention of coming back to just because you never have to see it again? Would you toss your garbage bags into the neighbor’s swimming pool just because he won’t know and you won’t have to clean it up? I know my examples are ridiculously bombastic (thanks, Eric) but I just don’t know how to get this message through so many thick skulls.

If we don’t self-isolate in exponentially larger numbers than what’s happening right now, the U.S. government is going to have no choice but to enforce some quarantines. My most dire predictions will come true within a week from today if we don’t collectively and voluntarily make some serious changes. Get ready for martial law and civil unrest, because I don’t see this egocentric collective behavior changing, despite news from around the globe that should be absolutely terrifying to the vast majority of this country.

Spread the word. If your friends ask you to have brunch tomorrow, to go out to dinner, or to go see a show, tell them you’re not going. And, more importantly, tell them WHY you aren’t going. Ask them to follow your lead. Make them understand the importance of curbing this self-centered behavior.

My dad wants you to stop trailblazing. Please don’t be 10-year old me. Please listen to him.

How about a good, uplifting, light-hearted coronavirus blog for a change?

Just kidding. WE’RE ALL DOOMED!!

Okay, not really, settle down! I actually just want to talk about panic.

There’s a lot of posts out there right now decrying the panic. “Stop panicking, everyone!” “Everybody needs to stop fear-mongering and spreading panic!” “Panic does nothing people, be smart!”

Actually, I disagree. Panic can be a good thing. Panic causes people to take action. Panic has already caused so many of the flu-truthers — those people who have been loudly and proudly proclaiming this is just the flu — to delete their posts. Panic is removing dangerous disinformation from the world.

Panic is what is causing people to stock up on supplies. Those supplies are going to save lives. Panic is causing companies to cancel conventions. Panic is what sends people into isolation, what causes travel to stop, what ignites social distancing measures that will keep us all safe.

Panic will be what flattens the infection and mortality lines that are so devastatingly steep right now.

There’s a reason we have the panic gene in our DNA. Panic is an instinct in our evolutionary makeup that causes us to take actions for our survival. Why did our ancestors flee from the giant cave bear? They panicked. Every one of our ancient ancestors panicked many times. That’s why we’re here today. Sabre-tooth tigers once used Cro-Magnon non-panicking truthers’ bones as toothpicks.

As long as panic doesn’t turn into hysteria, we can utilize that primal fear to take actions for the good. We can harness the fear and the adrenaline and the stress to make decisions that will result in our survival. Embrace panic and let it drive you to taking action. Without it, humans turn into quivering, gelatinous masses incapable of action.

What we need to avoid is hysteria. We’re seeing it already, with the melee in Georgia this morning where a man was stabbed over a case of water. This is just the beginning. Be ready for a lot more of this. This is where healthy panic turns into criminal hysteria, and this is what we need to avoid.

People have told me my blogs are causing them to lose sleep. Although that wasn’t my goal or my hope, I’m kind of glad. Because that means you’re realizing the dangers and (hopefully) you’re taking steps to mitigate those dangers. Anxiety is never fun, but, like panic, it can shock us from our shell of denial and make us wake up to the dangers we’re facing. Once you’re protected—once you’re prepared for what’s coming, anxiety will fade away and you’ll sleep soundly.

One must wrestle FEAR to the ground.

Going back to hysteria and how it’s going to get worse: In Italy right now, doctors are beginning to triage. They are sending people home because they have no ability to treat them. They have no empty beds, no available ventilators, no way to ease patients’ pain. They are looking people in the eye and effectively telling them, “Go home and die.” They’re having to make very difficult decisions because their healthcare system is overwhelmed. They cannot treat everybody. I just want to remind everyone that our trajectory is fully pointing toward worse than this happening here in the United States. We are days behind Italy with regard to isolationist steps to control the upward trajectory of the infection and death lines. Triage is going to mean the most vulnerable of our society, the elderly and sick, are eventually going to be turned away from critically needed medical care. This is going to be devastating. We need to mentally prepare for it now.

The other real danger area for us right now is our national blood supply. According to the Red Cross, our nation is critically low on supply because of a number of unfortunate compilations of events that culminated in this viral outbreak. This is the season when blood supply is typically low anyway, but now a bunch of blood drives around the country have been cancelled.

Anybody know any vampires who might be stockpiling supplies?

At some point in the very near future, the Red Cross and other blood banks will need to begin triaging the blood supply. Every two seconds in this country, somebody needs a blood transfusion. Some of these people are going to get turned away. The good news is that less travel equates to fewer accidents which lowers demand, however, exponentially increased sicknesses may blunt that benefit. If you can get out there and donate blood, please do. There is no risk of contracting coronavirus through blood donations, so don’t let that fear stop you from doing everything you can to help mitigate this impending disaster.

It’s almost noon, Pacific time, and President Trump is about to address the nation. He’s very likely to declare a national emergency. This will cause more panic, and that’s a good thing. Somehow, some way, there are still deniers out there. There are still people saying the world has gone mad. Once those final truthers actually start to feel panic instead of anger and bewilderment, we’ll be able to finally all get on board with the steps we need to take to control this thing.

Only by panicking while avoiding hysteria will we “Flatten the Line.”


Are you part of The Walking Dead? (Coronavirus update and new predictions!)

As I write this, a gigantic construction expo called Construction Con is happening at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Bay 101 casino in San Jose is playing down to a final table in their Shooting Star tournament. Kids in Nevada are finishing up homework for school tomorrow, and the Wynn Casino is advertising their poker tournament coming up this weekend.

There are still a lot of people who don’t quite understand what is going on right now.

Covid-19 is the most dangerous virus this world has seen since the Spanish Flu of 1918, and possibly even more dangerous than that. If you don’t get that, despite being first-hand witnesses to the most unprecedented and abrupt halt of the well-oiled machine that is the entire freaking planet, then I just no longer know how to talk to you. You’re already dead to me because you will soon be exactly that.

Just last night, I had an argument with a couple people on the internet who insisted that everybody was just overreacting, and this would all go away with simple handwashing and taking your vitamin C. If anybody had told me that last week, I would have done my best to patiently and persistently convince them of the danger of their way of thinking, to try to get them to see why this virus was dangerous. I would have done my darndest to minimize the spread of dangerous ignorance and misinformation. But to tell me that nonsense last night, after the NBA and NCAA canceled their seasons, Trump closed all travel from Europe, and nations around the world were going dark like curtain call time at a Nickelback concert, I just don’t have the patience to make you see that you are very, very stupid and dangerously incompetent.

I’ve fielded a bunch of calls and texts in the last couple days from people congratulating me on being right about my predictions in the previous two blogs. The fact is, I wasn’t right. Here are just a few things I got wrong:

  1. I projected the Dow Jones would lose 1,000 points on Monday. (It lost 2000)
  2. I projected the Dow Jones would lose 3,500 points by Friday. (Its Thursday right now, and the Dow is down almost 4800 points for the week already.)
  3. I predicted the WHO would declare this a Global Pandemic by the end of the week, middle of next week at the latest. (This happened on Wednesday, three days after my prediction.)
  4. I predicted NBA and NCAA games would be played without fans in the stands. (They flat out cancelled them all.)
  5. I predicted the U.S. would begin to prohibit all public gatherings greater than 500 or 1000 people within two weeks. (This began happening just two days later.)

I’m being credited with being right about all these things (and others) but the truth is, this is all happening even faster than I predicted it all would. Many people thought I was crazy with these predictions, calling them “bombastic,” (I had to look that one up), “doomsaying,” “ridiculous,” and “completely nuts.” Or, my personal favorite, “I don’t have time to read that long shit, stop blowing this out of proportion.” Yet, the fact all my predictions have come true at a speed that leaves even me flabbergasted doesn’t seem to have convinced some people that things are much worse than they have ever considered.

Now, some of the dire things that have happened are really good for controlling the spread of this virus. The travel industry is pretty much grinding to a halt. Planes are being parked. Cruise ships are being docked. Most public gatherings are being cancelled. Governors around the country are declaring emergencies. Schools are closing. Businesses are shutting down and letting employees work from home. Legislation is being rammed through Congress to deal with the financial impacts. People are waking up and taking extraordinary steps. Even President Trump is admitting we have a big problem (after downplaying and minimizing it all last week) and is taking historic steps to try to fix it.

However, although extraordinary and unprecedented steps have been taken in the last two days, its quite possible that these steps are too little, too late.

The virus is here and it has been spreading for weeks, and it is much, much worse than most people want to believe. The governor of Ohio, Mike Dewine seems to get it at least:

This virus is currently spreading like wildfire throughout the country, and the population in general hasn’t yet woken up to that fact. Life as we’ve always known it is going to change drastically in the next few weeks. Somebody told me today that it feels like we’re living in a dystopian movie. We are.

Right now, there are tens of thousands of people walking around this country who will be dead in eight weeks, and they don’t know it yet. The Walking Dead are among us. They are our friends, co-workers, and our loved ones. As terrifying as this sounds, I am comfortable predicting that this is the truth. They either have Covid-19 already, and it is multiplying in their bodies, or they are about to contract it either by being stupid, from bad luck, or from bad decisions by somebody close to them.

I don’t mean to sound like an alarmist or a doomsayer even though I use words like “dystopian.” We are going to be fine. We will recover. This is NOT The Stand, or Mad Max, or The Road. Society is not doomed from this virus. However, things are about to get very uncomfortable, distressing, and painful for many, many people.

So, what do I think is going to happen?

I’ve already said this, but I’ll say it again. The economy is going to collapse and we will be in a recession by April 15th. The Dow will lose 10,000 points (40%) from its value by April 15th. People are going to be in devastating shape financially. There’s a very good chance this will result in a global depression, or at least a very difficult global recession. If you’re one of the ones who is already, or will soon be in dangerous financial shape, curb spending right now. One of the things you can do, if it comes down to the possibility that you won’t be able to buy food, is stop making your house payment. Nobody’s house is going to get repossessed during this crisis. You won’t get kicked out by the bank. The Federal Government will enact legislation to protect people in this time, ordering financial institutions to work with people to save their homes. Stop paying your power bill. Nobody is coming around to shut off your power, not when people are dying. The government will not let them. As incompetent as you think they are, they will take those very minimal steps.

People are going to die. We are all going to know somebody who will die from this virus. Be as ready as you can be for that eventuality. Last week I thought it was possible we would see 250,000 deaths from this virus. Because of the extreme steps that have been taken this week, I think it will be less now, but I still project over 100,000 deaths. Not worldwide deaths. U.S. deaths.  This is going to be a big problem. Healthcare systems are still going to be overwhelmed, and that will happen by mid-April. This is going to cause civil unrest in large cities around the country. Are you prepared for that?

Police officers and emergency responders are going to start getting sick. What happens when this virus makes its way into our emergency services agencies? Just today Las Vegas Metro tweeted an invitation to the public to meet up tomorrow for “Coffee with a Cop.” Great idea in normal times. Terrible idea now. (I tweeted to them telling them it was an awful idea to not cancel that for the next couple months, and ten minutes later they tweeted that it was cancelled. I’m not taking credit, but…)

When police officers get this virus, they will have to quarantine. If it moves through the ranks, patrol shifts will begin to suffer. Calls will begin to go unanswered. People will die because officers are stacking calls and can’t arrive on time. This will result in more civil unrest. There is a very good chance that you will see martial law either actually declared, or prima facie instituted in at least a few jurisdictions by the end of March. Governors will begin calling in the National Guard to maintain order against desperate looters and panicked sick people who can’t get urgently needed medical care.

Are you prepared for this to happen?

I already wrote about the dangerously unprepared state of our hospitals to take on patients. You can read about that in my first blog here: https://wp.me/p7aEcB-q3

It is far more desperate than most people realize.

I see stats that 80% of people will only experience mild symptoms. This is true. This number makes us feel comfortable. It stops us from panicking. It gives us a warm feeling that we’re going to be okay. Well, the other 20% will require hospitalization. One-quarter of those will need a ventilator. Three quarters will need supplemental oxygen to breathe. To avoid a feeling that will be the same feeling as drowning to death. How many ventilators do you think we have? What happens when you need one and they’re all occupied? What will you do to get one? How far will you or your loved ones go to get one when you’re dying?

I’m not saying this terrifying scenario will happen for sure. Obviously, nobody can make that prediction. I’m saying that the odds of this happening has drastically increased from this time last month. Mid-February, I would have said there was about a .1% chance of the above happening. Now, I think it’s about 100 times more likely. I’m putting it at 10% right now. I don’t know about you, but I make serious preparations for 10% likelihoods when its my life, and the lives of my loved ones on the line.

Take a look at these charts from Worldometers.info:

This is a linear graph of the growth of the number of cases in the United States. This is not unexpected, as we did a criminally poor job of implementing testing in the beginning of this pandemic (and really still are doing terrible) and everybody expected confirmed cases to grow exponentially as testing became more and more prevalent. But take a look at this one:

This chart shows the exponential growth of deaths in the United States. This is much more accurate because the number of confirmed cases of the virus is almost certainly much higher than the first chart will ever show, at least until this pandemic is over. We just won’t be able to keep up.

This mortality chart and this line in particular is scary. This is not going to slow down. This exponential growth is our future for at least the next 4-6 weeks, and possibly longer. On March 1st, there was one death in the U.S. On March 7th, there were 19. On March 12th, there are already 41. This last week showed exponential growth, exactly what we saw in China and Italy. This doubling is happening faster than the report I made on Sunday that predicted it to double every six days. Even at that rate, which is now very conservative, on March 18th we will have 80 deaths. 160 on March 24th. 320 on March 30th. 640 on April 5th. 1280 on April 11th. 2500+ on April 17th. 5000 on April 23rd. 10,000 on April 29th. This is when it gets really scary. This is when the conspiracy theorists will finally stop saying “it’s just the flu, guys.” Because…

By late-middle May we will hit 100,000 deaths.

These are conservative numbers. Let that sink in. And, if warmer weather doesn’t slow the virus down, it will be much worse.

Are you prepared for somebody close to you to die and nobody to show up to collect the body? Are you prepared to handle medical emergencies when the aid cars don’t arrive? Are you prepared for stores to be out of food or to limit food purchases? Do you have at least thirty days of food and supplies on hand? Because if this virus doesn’t start to go away as summer approaches and the northern hemisphere warms up, doubling from this point on gets truly scary. Exponential growth is great when you bought 10,000 Bitcoin in 2002 for 12 cents. It sucks when we’re talking about people dying.

I don’t want to be right about these numbers. I’ve already fed my overblown ego plenty from all of my earlier predictions, thank you very much. But, if I am right, are you prepared for the worst? Do you have neighbors, family, friends, coworkers who can’t take care of themselves, who shouldn’t be out of their house right now, who are elderly, who don’t have enough food to get through the next month? If so, can you help them out? Because, if you can’t, there’s a good chance they will be dead next month.

Life as we knew it is on hold for the next few months at least. Everything is different right now. Get comfortable with this new reality so that you aren’t left shaking your head in denial, at risk of more than just the coronavirus; a victim waiting for somebody to wake you up from your nightmare.

Be prepared for the worst-case scenario. If it doesn’t come, you have a little extra food and supplies laying around. If it does come, you just might survive it.

Bay 101 is being negligently irresponsible

Right now, hundreds of poker players are making their way to the Bay 101 casino in San Jose, California to play in the annual Bay 101 Shooting Star event, one of the favorite and most fun events on tour, and one that many in the poker world look forward to each year. At a time when most large gatherings are being canceled around the world, management at Bay 101 has decided to spit in the face of science and logic and run their event anyway. I think this is an incredibly irresponsible decision.

Already in the city of San Jose, gatherings of 1000 people or more are banned, and Bay 101 expects their numbers will be well below that, even counting staff, observers, and other casino patrons.

But just because you can legally do something doesn’t mean that you should.

Just up the road in San Francisco, gatherings of just 250 or more people are banned. What’s the difference between San Francisco and San Jose? Well, about fifty miles and apparently decision makers who are much more proactive. Banning gatherings of 1000 people or more is a good start, but kind of a joke if our desire is to slow the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Having hundreds of people gathered together right now is more than just irresponsible; its negligence, denial, and selfishness.

I understand that cancelling an event that is going to bring a lot of money to your company is a tough decision. It’s a decision that many companies have already had to make and one that many, many more will be making in the near future. Caesars hasn’t yet spoken about what’s going to happen to the World Series of Poker, but there’s no way it’s going to play out as scheduled. And that is going to cost a lot of money to a lot of people. If Bay 101 cancels this tournament there will be financial ramifications to more than just the casino. Dealers, staff, cooks, valets, maids, janitors, waitresses, and many more will all suffer. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the decision that should have been made.

A poker table is a virus’s wet dream. At a time when Harvard has canceled all classes because their original decision, to cancel lectures of 150 or more students, was not aggressive enough, Bay 101 is going to have hundreds of people sitting shoulder to shoulder and passing little, round, clay petri dishes and small, rectangular, plastic virus condominiums back and forth between them for 10 hours straight. They’ll be coughing, sneezing, eating at the table, licking their fingers, and spraying microbes directly into their neighbors faces with every conversation.

This is utter lunacy.

To completely ignore what’s happening in the world right now, this PANDEMIC that is spreading unchecked in this country, is pure negligence. Harvard doesn’t think 150 people should sit in the same room for 45 minutes, but Bay 101 thinks it’s fine to jam hundreds together playing pass-the-germ-frisbees for 10 hours a day for several days straight.

Extrapolating on some numbers here: Last year there were 440 entrants in the main event. Assuming this year will be lower because at least some people out there aren’t stupid enough to go to a poker tournament right now, there will nonetheless be hundreds of players, dealers, waitstaff, other gamblers, observers (it’s the most popular tournament on the tour for observers too) and others in the room. If there is only a 1 in 10,000 chance that any one person in this country has the virus, then there is about a 10% chance that somebody in that room right now is carrying the coronavirus. If someone in there has the virus, they will infect many others. And if it’s one of the players or dealers who has it, they will infect dozens if not scores of others. There’s no getting around it.

This is a novel virus. If you come into contact with it, you catch it. There’s no, “Oh, I’m healthy and my immune system is tops, bro,” with a novel virus. Nobody has immunity, everybody gets it. 100%. A lot of older people are poker players and dealers, wait staff, etc. If this virus spreads to just a dozen people in that casino, those dozen will spread it to scores, those scores will spread it to hundreds, then to thousands, etc.

There’s a real chance that people will die because this tournament runs for the next few days.

It’s time to wake up, people. This is happening and it is real. It’s time for some real tough decisions to be made. This is not one of those tough decisions. This should have been an easy one.

Bay 101 should have been cancelled.

Coronavirus update and predictions, part two!

It’s Tuesday, March 10, 2020 at 1800 PT, and the U.S. response to the Covid-19 outbreak has improved drastically. Unfortunately, there are still many people in denial. Still many people posting flu death numbers and comparing them to the currently minimal number of deaths from this coronavirus. This includes our president, who almost certainly doesn’t actually believe this, but is (rightfully) very concerned about his election chances if the economy crashes.

Unfortunately, too many people just don’t understand why a good number of reasonable people are so concerned. They say its news generated fear, Democratic driven panic designed to undermine Trump so they can win the election. They don’t believe in science and math and the idea that viruses are not all the same.

The problem is that people don’t quite understand that the numbers we’re seeing RIGHT NOW are not what is actually happening right now. We have a time machine here. When we see the infection and mortality numbers, we’re actually looking 7-14 days into the past. And, looking into the past and extrapolating forward with no concept of the power of exponential growth is just dangerous. People are starting to get it, but unfortunately, not enough people are understanding it quickly enough.

As I write this, the NCAA has just announced that there is no plan to change any aspect of March Madness, including the massive crowds expected at every venue. Trump literally announced less than an hour ago that he would be holding a Catholics for Trump rally in Milwaukee in 9 days with Catholics from around the country. (Spoiler alert and prediction number one…it won’t happen!) The denial is just scary.

So, in an attempt to put more of my reputation on the line, I have a few more predictions. These are in addition to the predictions I made in my last blog here: https://authorrickfuller.com/2020/03/08/donald-trump-doesnt-want-you-to-know-this-critical-information/

My new predictions:

  1. Airlines will stop selling middle seats in an attempt to get people to feel more comfortable flying.
  2. Fast food restaurants will start closing their dining areas and offering drive-through service only. The window servers will wear masks for appearance sake.
  3. Major sporting events that will postpone/cancel:
  4. The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
  5. The Kentucky Derby
  6. The Masters
  7. The NFL draft will still happen on schedule but will be closed to the public.
  8. The NCAA will finally make the decision to play March Madness without spectators. People will be angry because they waited so long to make the call.
  9. States will commandeer stadiums and convention centers to start setting up temporary Covid-19 only hospitals.
  10. Congress will extend its Spring Break next week and will not return to session until at least the middle of April out of, “an abundance of caution.”
  11. Governors will release low-level offenders from prisons in order to limit the chances of a massive infection happening in the crowded quarters. This will happen after the first reports of an infected prisoner, probably next week.
  12. Trump will float the idea that the election might need to be postponed. He will face backlash from both sides. He will say that he was only joking.
  13. Bodies will begin to pile up as infected patients die and there’s nobody to transport them because of a lack of protective equipment and protocols. This will be a huge wakeup to everybody.
  14. State unemployment agencies will begin issuing benefits to those who are quarantined.
  15. Churches? No services for a while, folks. They will be broadcast on live streaming applications.
  16. There will be a community in America that has zero cases. It’s mathematically certain to happen, yet it will be big news and some talking head will decide a report needs to be done on why there are no cases in that one area. Locals in that community will come up with some crackpot concept like, “We have really good water here,” or, “Coal miners are tougher than your average folk.”

Now, a few things that will be implemented in Las Vegas, one of the areas that will be absolutely devastated by this outbreak. After all, Vegas is nothing but a mirage, providing nothing of value but entertainment and built on a lie that you might get lucky and rich. We rely on crowds and crowds are about to become as appealing as licking a cube of plutonium.

  1. Resort fees will be eliminated (temporarily of course)
  2. Blackjack tables will be limited to two players per table to maintain separation
  3. Dice will be changed and disinfected between shooters at every craps table
  4. Every other slot machine will be closed. Employees will be designated to clean machines after every gambler quits.
  5. Employees will be designated to stand at elevator banks and entrances with sanitizer in an effort to pretend they’re taking steps to control things.
  6. “This room has been thoroughly sanitized” signs will appear in all rooms.
  7. McCarren airport will reduce or eliminate landing fees (subsidized by the casinos) for all commercial flights.
  8. Massive hiring of doormen will occur. No casino door will need to be touched by a patron.
  9. Unfortunately, all Vegas shows that seat more than 100 will be canceled, and probably very soon. It’s possible that larger venues will try to sell every other seat or something along those lines, but they’ll quickly realize that doesn’t work.
  10. Casinos will understand that summers are hot in Vegas. They will begin a massive marketing scheme to encourage visitors to show up starting in July. They will write off quarter two and stocks will suffer temporarily. Casinos will turn up their A/C in an effort to make the place warmer and less conducive to viruses. The LVCVA will come up with some type of brilliant marketing tag similar to “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas” in order to bring people in.

The bad part of making predictions is that although in a vacuum it’s devastating if these things happen, I still feel validated when my prediction comes true, which means I end up secretly hoping for them to happen so I can get that validation. It’s not a good feeling, but luckily I’m fully stocked on alcohol so I can drown the confliction nightly.



Donald Trump doesn’t want you to know this CRITICAL INFORMATION!!

Today is Sunday, March 8th, 2020 and it’s 1500 hours PST as I write this. This is important because at the end of this, I’m going to make some predictions and I want to make sure everybody can reference this so y’all can laugh at me if I’m wrong. (Which I dearly hope that I am.) I know your cousin Bob, who once banged a nurse who told him everybody was overreacting and the regular flu is much worse, believes that the news media are the ones driving this panic in an attempt to undermine his Savior, Donald Trump, but I’m hoping to show you why he’s wrong.

It has now been just three months since a newly mutated virus began sickening people associated with a live, wild-animal, “wet market” in the city of Wuhan, China. This virus was quickly identified as “novel” – a new strain of Coronavirus, a family of viruses that cause respiratory sickness in animals and humans. Coronaviruses themselves are not new – we’ve seen them migrate from animals to humans in outbreaks like MERS and SARS in the last couple of decades. None of those previous outbreaks have been as dangerous as this new one, now called COVID-19. (which is simply short for Coronavirus Disease 2019)

I’m writing this because of the incredible amount of disinformation that keeps getting shoved into the faces of the public on social media platforms. I should state up front, that I’m not an alarmist. I didn’t worry too much about MERS, SARS, H1N1, Ebola, or any other outbreaks of infectious disease in my lifetime. I’ve never bothered to get a flu shot. I went to the doctor last month for the first time in twenty years. I just simply don’t worry about many of the things normal people do. When I first began tracking this latest outbreak while it was still confined to China and there were not yet any cases in the rest of the world, I wasn’t any more concerned than I had been from any of the previous viral outbreaks.

Right up until the end of January when I first heard the rumblings that this virus could possibly spread asymptomatically. This made it immediately different.

Asymptomatic spread of a virus is rare, unusual, and deadly. It’s the kind of scenario that doomsday books like The Stand are based on. I took a few basic steps. I stocked up on supplies, began washing my hands multiple times a day, disinfected doorknobs, remotes, and light switches, made plans to get out of Las Vegas if I needed to, and began warning loved ones that this virus had the potential to be a pandemic. It’s not that I had any inside information, just that I had the time to actually study all of the first-hand reports coming out of Wuhan, and I extrapolated information from the suspicion that it was incredibly likely China was not being completely forthcoming with statistics.

As of this writing, there are now more than 500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in America, and more than 100,000 around the world, with deaths having just reached 3500. Big deal, right? As many, many people have loudly informed me, influenza, the common flu, kills many times more people than that each and every year, yet we hear nothing about that, we don’t worry, we don’t stockpile toilet paper, and the stock market doesn’t crash. These people ultimately come to the conclusion that this is nothing more than media-generated hype and unwarranted panic. There are so many problems and fallacies with that line of thinking that I’m astounded at the naivete of otherwise smart people who keep spouting it. Here are the problems with comparing this virus to influenza:

The problem with comparing COVID-19 to other viruses such as Influenza:

One of the biggest problems here is that influenza tends to kill only those who are already very sick or immune-compromised. It’s very difficult to actually catch it if you’re a healthy person who takes even the slightest of precautions. We also have a vaccine for it. It’s called the flu shot, and doctors have been recommending that people get it for decades. We have NOTHING to stop the spread of COVID-19, and most doctors agree that a safe, tested, effective vaccine is at least a year to eighteen months away.

The mortality rate of influenza is about .1 percent. That means one person will die for every 1000 who contract the common flu virus. The mortality rate of COVID-19 is probably around 2%, however, estimates vary greatly between 1.5% and 3.5%. (more on this later) This means COVID-19 kills at a rate at least 20 times that of the common flu, and that alone should be enough to scare you. (virologists say the death rate of the flu in the U.S. last year was more like .05%, which means COVID-19 is at least 40 times more deadly.) However, people rightfully point out that the death rate of SARS was about 10%, and the death rate of MERS was a terrifying 35%. This means that the death rate of COVID-19 is really unconcerning to them. So, why do I think this is a dangerous and naïve way to think about this?

It has to do with what’s known as the R-naught (R₀) rate.

R-naught is a complicated mathematical formula that takes many factors into account and derives a number that signifies the number of people a sick person will infect. For influenza, the R₀ is 1.3, so each infected person will infect 1.3 people on average, however, R₀ really only applies when a population is completely vulnerable to the disease, meaning nobody has been vaccinated and there’s no way to control the spread of the disease. This doesn’t really apply to the common strains of the flu virus, so this number is a bit misleading.

It DOES apply to COVID-19 though, as it is a new (novel) Coronavirus that has never before been seen. Nobody has immunity to it, and there is no vaccine. The R₀ rate of COVID-19 is estimated to be in the range of 2.2 to 3.0. This means every infected person will pass the Coronavirus on to between 2.2 and 3 other people.


To put this number into perspective, H1N1, the Swine Flu in 2009 had an estimated R₀ of 1.4-1.8.

H1N1 ended up infecting one-fifth of the entire population of the world.

The only reason many of us are alive to read this today was that the mortality rate of H1N1 was about .02 percent, meaning that even though more than 1.5 billion people caught the virus, only about 2 in every 10,000 died.

               If a virus like H1N1 can infect one-fifth of the world with an R₀ of 1.6, imagine how many people will be infected from a virus with an R₀ that might be double that?

An argument that many people make when faced with some of these numbers is that the numbers must be off because China has controlled the spread of the virus with relatively few deaths. And, if we assume that China is being forthright (which they probably are…WHO doctors are in the epicenter and are now confirming most of China’s numbers) these people have a point. However, here’s what China did to control the spread of COVID-19.

  1. They built two brand new Coronavirus-only hospitals in the epicenter of Wuhan in just over one week. These hospitals added 2300 dedicated beds and were staffed with hundreds of healthcare workers from all over the country.
  2. They initiated an ambitious and aggressive plan to account for every single person who had contact with every single known infected person. This involved at least 1800 teams of 5 or more persons whose sole responsibility was to track down every single person an infected person had had any contact with, interview them, test them for the virus, and isolate them if they had symptoms or tested positive. By most accounts, these teams were able to track down and test more than 99% of the people who had any contact with an infected person. In some jurisdictions they found every single contact, 100% of them.

I need to repeat that because it’s incredible. More than 1800 teams of at least 5 people per team tracked down more than 99% of all contacts from each infected person and gave them instant tests. They have administered more than 100,000 instant Coronavirus tests to date and continue to implement this strategy.

  1. They instituted compulsory lockdown and quarantine of more than 60 million citizens. This lockdown was enforced by police, military, and a bunch of government tracking apps that exist in China. These apps are widely used by Chinese citizens and utilize a traffic light type system of color codes, green, yellow, and red, that lets guards at checkpoints, railways, bus depots, airports, metro stations, etc., immediately see if that person is supposed to be out and about or is restricted from traveling.
  2. They implemented aggressive and forced social distancing measures for anybody not under quarantine that kept people from congregating. They canceled sporting events, shuttered theaters, and closed schools and holiday celebrations. They forced anybody who had to go outside to wear masks, utilizing an incredible stockpile they had on hand.

Can you imagine any of these things happening in the United States? I can’t. So, when you tell me that China was able to control the spread of the virus so the U.S. ought to be able to do at least as good a job as they did, it makes me literally laugh out loud. At the risk of being compared to Bernie Sanders’ love of authoritarian dictatorships, there are some benefits to having full government control of a population. We will never be able to implement the draconian measures we see the Chinese doing, and constitutionally, I’m not sure we’re even legally capable of some of them, regardless of the state of emergency we may find ourselves in. We aren’t remotely implementing any of the steps they took so quickly, despite our advanced knowledge of the problem. While China and Italy are locking down their citizens in a panic to stop the spread of this disease, hippies in California are meeting to decide whether or not Coachella should still happen!

Talk about denial. We aren’t tracking down any contacts of infectious persons except in the most severe cases. We aren’t testing anybody unless they’re admitted to the hospital with severe symptoms. As of last week, symptomatic people were being denied testing because there still weren’t enough tests available, and all tests needed to be confirmed by the CDC, a process that took days. We can’t even get people to quarantine themselves even when the health department orders it. Just today there was a report of a quarantined person who decided to leave his house to attend a school function for his child, and nothing happened to him legally! There’s little doubt in my mind that we will soon have a significantly worse outbreak than China ever saw.

Part of the problem for the U.S. is that our leadership is downplaying the significance of this threat, and too many people take that at face value. In Italy just in the last few days, they’ve implemented forced quarantines and lockdowns of infected areas, measures that are considered mostly unthinkable in democratic countries, but something that is absolutely necessary if we’re to avoid disaster. Remember, H1N1 infected one-fifth of the world with an R₀ rate that’s probably half what Covid-19 has. Even if Covid-19 has the same R₀ rate of 1.6 and it ONLY infects one-fifth of the globe, the mortality rate of H1N1 was 1/100th the (conservative) estimated mortality rate of Covid-19. H1N1 killed an estimated >200,000 people worldwide. Based on these numbers, Covid-19 might kill as many as 20 million people in the next year.

So, I’m healthy, young(ish) and probably not going to be one of the ones who dies if I contract Covid-19. The virus mostly only kills the elderly, immuno-compromised, or the already sick, so why am I worried?

Well, it’s been shown so far that approximately 20% of the people who contract the Coronavirus require hospitalization. Of those, 25% need full-on respirator life-support function, and the other 75% need supplemental oxygen. Since we refuse to accept the severity of this outbreak and we can’t even test people who want to be tested, or enforce any kind of quarantine, it won’t be long before we have thousands of people on respirators in isolation ICU’s around the country.

The doubling rate for infections for this disease seems to be about every six days. There’s little doubt in my mind that a reported confirmed case number of 550 in the U.S. when we’re only testing those who are admitted to a hospital, signifies an actual number of infections that’s at least 10 times that. Let’s say there are 5000 infections currently, and that doubles every six days. By next Saturday, March 14th, there will be 10,000 infected persons (though the official number will be much lower, we aren’t testing anybody not in a hospital right now.) By March 20th there will be 20,000, by the 26th, 40,000, and by the end of May there will be 80 million people infected in this country. This is the power of exponential growth that so many people undervalue, sort of like that game you played as a kid where you told your buddy, “I’ll give you a million dollars in thirty days if you give me one penny and double it every day for a month” and the moron jumped at that chance and still owes you millions of dollars today.

Doubling can’t happen forever of course, so let’s say that there are only 10 million cases by the end of May. Two million of them will need to be hospitalized. How many of you think our health care system can handle an influx of two million people (conservatively) in the next two months? The U.S. has about one million hospital beds total. At any given time, about 65% are in use. That means there are approximately 350,000 beds available at any given time. With the numbers above, we can expect hospitals to start turning patients away sometime around the end of April, right when things are reaching their most dire. Not a good time to be in need of a respirator, that’s for sure.

Of those 10 million infections, approximately 250,000 will die, and that’s before we take into account the thousands more who will die because they can’t get the life support they need because hospitals have had to resort to taking only the most dire cases, leaving many thousands to die gasping for breath, or of other diseases that might have otherwise been treatable in saner times.

Still think the regular flu is worse?

In addition to this, our economy will collapse. The stock market is already in a slump and the Fed pulled the plug on a 50 bp drop that was designed to stop a crash but was premature, not well thought-out, and completely ineffective. There aren’t many bullets left in that chamber, and besides, there’s no way they’ll keep up with the exponential growth we’re going to see with this infection.

Earlier I claimed I would talk more about the wide spread in the mortality rate, estimated at between 1.5 and 3.5 percent. This rate is so wide because we don’t have very good numbers of infections. Many of the infections very well may result in only mild symptoms and can easily be mistaken for a bad cold, or for the common flu. Many of the symptoms of Covid-19 mimic those of the regular flu, and it isn’t until severe respiratory symptoms set in that many people end up being admitted to the hospital and given the actual test. Since most of the people who get infected don’t have symptoms severe enough to be admitted to the hospital and get tested, the number of infections are almost certainly much higher than reported, which means that the mortality rate is lower. Our hope is that the mortality rate is much lower. Anything under 1% would be a godsend. If it truly is as high as 2 or 3 percent, we’re pretty much fucked.

So, what’s going to happen?

Here are my predictions, bold, loud, and public. (Dear God, I hope I’m wrong about all of these.)

  1. The WHO will declare Covid-19 a global pandemic by the end of this week, middle of next week at the latest.
  2. Within two weeks, the U.S. will begin prohibiting all public gatherings of greater than some random number like 500 or 1000. This means that sporting events, including March Madness, NBA games, MLB games, PGA tour events, etc., will be played for TV only, with no audience. Festivals like Coachella will be cancelled. The World Series of Poker will be postponed, probably until August to start, in the hopes that the warm weather of summer helps to control the spread of the virus.
  3. The U.S. will pass China in number of confirmed infections by April 15th.
  4. The Summer Olympics in Japan will be postponed until next year.
  5. The stock market is going to crash. I predict it will lose 1000 points tomorrow (Monday, March 9th, 2020) and 3500 points by the closing bell on Friday. I predict it will be down 10,000 from its current price of 26,000 by the end of May.
  6. We will officially be in a recession by the 15th of April.
  7. Globally, we will be in a depression by June 1st as markets everywhere crash.
  8. Summertime in the northern hemisphere will greatly curtail the virus and numbers will begin to decline. The economy will begin to recover.
  9. The democrats will defeat Donald Trump in November, a man whose only real redeeming quality has been the economy, and whose administration has massively bungled and downplayed the response to this epidemic, a big swing from the incredible foresight that went into prohibiting entry to all travelers from China so early in this disaster. The polarization in his decision-making here is actually kind of astounding.

Like I said, I really hope I’m wrong about all of this, because this could be the worst pandemic in living memory, possibly as bad, or worse, than the Spanish Flu, another H1N1 virus in 1918 which infected about 27% of the world, and may have killed as many as 100 million people at a time when the global population was one-quarter of the population of today.

I really hope I’m wrong, but in case I’m right, are you at least as prepared as OJ Simpson?