America Needs To Shut Down Now

Containment has failed. Social distancing is their only hope

KC Green updated his widely-memed comic in 2016. It applies today.

America has to shut down now or get very very sick. Even going by their wildly inadequate testing, they have over 1,000 confirmed cases. The real number is much, much more than that. America is where China was at the end of January, or where Italy was a few weeks ago.

Shit is about to hit the fan.

Containment Has Failed

At great sacrifice, China bought the rest of the world time. America has completely wasted it. Americans do not have testing, they do not have protective gear and they do not have leadership. They also do not have public healthcare or paid sick leave. In public health terms, America is a third world country. Honestly, it’s better to be in Africa right now.

While South Korea does 10,000 tests a day, America has done less than 5,000 total. While China deployed over 10,000 epidemiologists to do contact tracing, America can’t even start, because they don’t have the testing required to find cases in the first place. Now it’s just too late.

America likely has over 5,000 cases now, so there would be like 250,000 contacts to trace. It’s hopeless. Containment has failed, because the US government didn’t even try. Honestly, the US government has been fighting coronavirus by covering it up.

Flattening The Curve

Now coronavirus is out. America is looking at millions of cases by the end of April, and there’s nothing they can do. The only thing they can control is timing. What’s called flattening the curve.

As you can see, if America keeps stumbling along in denial, COVID-19 cases are going to spike fast. You can see what’s happening in Italy. It went from a few cases to hospitals on the verge of collapse in a matter of weeks. Doctors are now choosing who will live or die based purely on capacity. Ventilators are like gold. They have now shut the whole country down, but they should have done this weeks ago. That is the lesson to America.

By one estimate, all American hospital beds will be filled by mid-May, and that’s a conservative estimate. In Italy, the hospitalization rate is 50%, with 10% needing ICU care. If America gets hit nearly as bad, it’ll be a warzone.

This can’t be stopped now, it can only be spread out and delayed. Doing contact tracing now is like gathering pots and pans to stop a tsunami. The only thing left is to get out of the way.

Social Distancing

Aggressive social distancing has contained epidemics in China, Korea and Taiwan. The sooner the better. This means almost entirely shutting down public life. Staying home, not going to work, not going to school, and definitely not having public events. In the 1918 flu, American cities that shut down early had a peak death rate 8X lower than cities that didn’t.

The American economy must be sacrificed now to preserve it for the future. People must be given cash now to survive. Healthcare, at least for this epidemic, must be nationalized and available to all. Any vaccine must obviously be free.

Sadly, this isn’t happening. America is where China and Italy were at the start of their epidemics and they have learned nothing. They’re making the same mistakes.

On January 19th, China held a giant public dinner for 40,000 families in Wuhan. On March 7th, the Seattle Sounders played football in front of 30,000 people. This is folly. Given the examples from all over the world, this is, frankly, madness.

In many ways, American leadership is worse than anywhere else in the world, because they seem politically unable to wake up. They are worried about the stock market and bailing out oil companies. They’re lowering interest rates. This is like applying sunscreen when a tsunami is coming. And it is coming. Just look down the beach at the other countries reeling in its wake.

America Needs To Shut Down

New York City needs to shut down. Instead, they’re announcing a one-mile containment zone in a suburb. This is a joke. There need to be clear national quarantine orders across wide swathes of the country — covering entire states. Instead, the CDC is saying that local governments need to decide what to do. This just reduces American immunity to the level of your dumbest city.

America has already failed at containment and now it’s failing at mitigation as well. America can either shut it down now, or it will get shut down for them, hard.

Sadly, this isn’t going to happen. The US President is focused on the next TV news cycle. He has gutted the American pandemic response team and calls the whole thing overblown. They have no public healthcare. People cannot stay home from work. At a time of emergency, they have no leadership and it is chaos on the ground. Epidemiologists are screaming but they have no power.

From abroad, we are watching a wave crest across the world. It has hit China, then Italy and we can see it coming for America. But they just stand there. Why don’t they move? Dear God, why won’t they move?