- EphBlog - http://ephblog.com -

Close the Borders, 2

Professor Darel Paul notes:

Recall our discussion from last week. (And note some of the over-taken-by-events nonsense in that comment thread.)

The point that Paul is making, and that is very little discussed, is that there is no (plausible, short-term) solution which does not rely on vast restrictions on movement and behavior. Don’t the readers of EphBlog see that?

Imagine that we magically made every person in the US free of CV-19 tomorrow. Problem solved? Crisis averted?

No! The crisis would just be (briefly) delayed. Tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, someone would come into the US, unknowingly infected with CV-19, and the spread would just start again. We haven’t (even today!) closed the borders. We haven’t (even today!) set up 14-day quarantines for new arrivals into the US. I don’t even see any discussion of those (necessary!) policies outside of EphBlog.

We have no (public?) plausible plan for the sort of extensive contact tracing and electronic monitoring which countries like Hong Kong and Singapore are using. (To be fair, this is now a topic of discussion in certain parts of the internet.)

Paul’s point is that, without these policies, it is inevitable that CV-19 will work its way through the US population, at least until we reach herd immunity or develop a vaccine. Anyone who isn’t discussing that mathematical fact is not serious.

UPDATE: Even the New York Times is still writing nonsense:

If it were possible to wave a magic wand and make all Americans freeze in place for 14 days while sitting six feet apart, epidemiologists say, the whole epidemic would sputter to a halt.

The virus would die out on every contaminated surface and, because almost everyone shows symptoms within two weeks, it would be evident who was infected. If we had enough tests for every American, even the completely asymptomatic cases could be found and isolated.

The crisis would be over.

No. In a world of global travel and open US borders, the spread would just start again. If the Times (and the “experts” it talks to?) is still this clueless, on March 23, what hope is there?

Facebooktwitter
17 Comments (Open | Close)

17 Comments To "Close the Borders, 2"

#1 Comment By abl On March 23, 2020 @ 10:51 am

We haven’t (even today!) closed the borders. We haven’t (even today!) set up 14-day quarantines for new arrivals into the US

What do you think the current ratio is of cases brought into the U.S. via travel versus cases passed within the U.S. from other U.S. carriers? 1:10? 1:100? 1:1,000?

We have no (public?) plausible plan for the sort of extensive contact tracing and electronic monitoring which countries like Hong Kong and Singapore are using. (To be fair, this is now a topic of discussion in certain parts of the internet.)

This has been an active topic of discussion amongst experts and policymakers for literally months (since early-to-mid January). It is a complete travesty that we still don’t have remotely adequate testing or contact tracing. The best case scenario we can hope for at this point is that several weeks to several months of severe closures and restrictions in the U.S. (doing enormous damage to our economy) tamp this down to levels at which contact tracing and quarantine become effective again — but we need our federal government to get its act together quickly for this to be possible.

#2 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On March 23, 2020 @ 11:20 am

> What do you think the current ratio is of cases brought into the U.S. via travel versus cases passed within the U.S. from other U.S. carriers?

That is irrelevant to the New York Times hypothetical. If everyone in the US were uninfected today, open borders would, quite quickly, create the pandemic again. I believe that the Washington State outbreak was caused by a single infected traveler.

Also:

“an active topic of discussion” != “plausible plan”

Point me to a written, plausible plan which outlines, in more than a few paragraphs of detail, how we might do these things.

Also:

> we need our federal government to get its act together quickly for this to be possible.

I stand second-to-none in my contempt of the federal government. But the Trump-hating on the left is confusing many of my friends. What is preventing, say, California, an incredibly rich state with the 6th biggest economy in the world from “get[ting] its act together quickly” if this problem is a simple as you seem to believe it is? Nothing.

If there were obvious solution, Governor Newsom would implement them. The fact that he has not means that there are not obvious solutions. Blaming the Feds for not doing stuff that Newsom does not do makes little sense, unless you are talking about stuff that only the Feds are allowed to do. Newsom could do as much “adequate testing or contact tracing” as you like. Why hasn’t he?

#3 Comment By realist eph On March 23, 2020 @ 11:52 am

One needs to be extremely clear as to what “herd immunity” of a R_0=3 virus means. It means that to reach “herd immunity” threshold, 66.7% of the population need to be infected (=1-1/R_0).
So, more than 1/2 of the population.
In light of that, it seems that the only way forward that does not usher a great depression 2.0 is to isolate/quarantine only those over the age of 60 or so (along with the other vulnerable populations below 60). The other people should be free to go about with their life as usual.

One needs to keep perspective in mind: if COVID is left unchecked, the net result is that the baby boomer generation will have, on average, 2 years of their life expectancy shaved off. This is not great, but it is not terrible. Opioid crisis shaved similar life expectancy of other subsegments of the population, and we certainly did not stop our economy due to that (maybe because it mostly affected genX and millennials, so no political party cared?)

I do not think that our society is able to withstand more then another 2 weeks of this lockdown. I live in large urban area where huge number of people has been let go this past week (including daycare teachers of a friend’s family kids). Astounding number of people are living paycheck to paycheck. Peoples 401ks are being destroyed. Most small businesses that are closed for a month will never reopen.

There needs to be a public discussion about cost/benefits calculus of all this. If this lockdown continues for more than 2 weeks, there will be public unrest in out cities.

#4 Comment By PTC On March 23, 2020 @ 11:55 am

realist eph-

Run, everybody run as fast as you can for your lives. Close the world. Close all streets. Close all schools. Close everything forever.

OBEY!

Force people to live in small huts, alone, separated by at least one acre. Put electronic monitoring chips inside every citizen. It’s the only way to be sure no one risks this thing- we call life.

#5 Comment By realist eph On March 23, 2020 @ 12:01 pm

PTC: this is why the only feasible way forward is “quarantine boomers and silents and the rest of us go with the life as usual.” Millennials and genX will predominantly get the virus and this will eventually build herd immunity and protect the boomers and silents.
Israel seems to be taking this approach.
To your point, our congress thinks that the best way to fight COVID is to end end-to-end encryption:
https://www.theverge.com/interface/2020/3/12/21174815/earn-it-act-encryption-killer-lindsay-graham-match-group

#6 Comment By PTC On March 23, 2020 @ 12:16 pm

realist- I think it was smart to try to “flatten the curve” until water weather. For whatever reason, April 8th appears to be a date that matters here in MA …

You have to put an end date on this kind of policy. Shutting everything down indefinitely is a total disaster. There should be by now, or very soon, an end date to this strategy of closing commerce. You cannot just shut down the world indefinitely for months and then wake up thankful to the heavens that you saved some people from a really bad case of the flu.

As I have stated many times, the risk mitigation impacts could easily far outweigh the risks of the virus if we continue these bans on free economy/ civil liberties through the summer.

#7 Comment By realist eph On March 23, 2020 @ 12:20 pm

Yes. RIGHT NOW, the official policy should be: boomers and silents and immunocompromised stay at home for next 12 months (subject to change re. effect of warm weather); everyone else resumes their daily life, effective immediately.

#8 Comment By realist eph On March 23, 2020 @ 12:23 pm

Let me put it this way: as of yesterday, there were 4465 COVID deaths in Italy. Of these, *****ZERO**** were of people under 30, and ****12**** were of people under 40.

https://www.epicentro.iss.it/coronavirus/bollettino/Infografica_22marzo%20ENG.pdf

#9 Comment By PTC On March 23, 2020 @ 1:18 pm

realist- I don’t think it is easy to find the proper B=PL formula to give an exact strategy. Although I do agree with your general premise that the economic damage that will be done if we shut down free trade well into the summer is too high a B.

From a Williamstown perspective, I think Maud is doing an outstanding job. I just hope that it does not run into the next school year. That would be devastating on many levels.

I feel sorry for students who have lost out on major life events as well. Sports and academics this spring … etc.

There is a banner (painted sheet) still hanging on the porch at a house on Hoxsey- “Let the Kids Play”- next to the sidewalk hang out spot where the lads and ladies were partying when the school shut down. The banner has a Corona beer bottle painted on it …

There is much to admire in those sentiments I think.

#10 Comment By abl On March 23, 2020 @ 2:22 pm

Yes. RIGHT NOW, the official policy should be: boomers and silents and immunocompromised stay at home for next 12 months (subject to change re. effect of warm weather); everyone else resumes their daily life, effective immediately.

Interesting idea. A couple of objections come quickly to mind, though: (1) is this practicable? It’s not enough that everyone over 60 (50?) stay home — they also can’t see their younger family and friends. It’s hard for me to imagine how compliance with something like this wouldn’t be horrible; (2) I don’t think we know enough about immunity yet to know if this would work. Coronaviruses generally don’t create particularly good or lasting immunity and there’s concern that this one might not. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/03/20/819038431/do-you-get-immunity-after-recovering-from-a-case-of-coronavirus. If it turns out that this coronavirus doesn’t give rise to immunity, or doesn’t create immunity for long enough, there’s no going back from your plan. How would you respond to those concerns?

(I could also see some really weird and potentially bad political effects emerging from this. How quickly would the rest of the country grow resentful of having to work to support an older generation’s year-long furlough?)

#11 Comment By abl On March 23, 2020 @ 2:34 pm

But the Trump-hating on the left is confusing many of my friends. What is preventing, say, California, an incredibly rich state with the 6th biggest economy in the world from “get[ting] its act together quickly” if this problem is a simple as you seem to believe it is? Nothing.

The federal government has actively prevented states from developing their own tests and, in a variety of other ways, the CDC and FDA continue to limit states’ abilities to just go it alone. But more than that, we live in a society in which state boundaries are not particularly meaningful — and so cooperation between the states on a level that almost certainly requires federal leadership is needed. To be clear: I think Trump has done an objectively AWFUL job here, but I think the failures in the federal government run far deeper than him, and I suspect that if we had a competent president, we’d still have a lot of problems. We’ve also obviously had a number of state government failures — I criticized De Blasio earlier on this blog.

Also, it’s worth noting that different states are taking different approaches here. California has been relatively aggressive with testing and monitoring and quarantine and restrictions, and it looks like it may be paying off. I don’t think that California is nailing things, but I’d consider giving them a passing grade. Louisiana, on the other hand, has been far less on top of things, and is quickly emerging as a problem spot (ditto New York, obviously). https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/. Given how much interstate movement there is, I really don’t think that we as a country will get a hold of this anytime soon without far stronger and more competent federal leadership — but it’s unfair to suggest that every state acting individually is failing to contain this to an equal extent. (For a really good comparison, compare Tennessee to Kentucky. The two states are demographically pretty similar and took pretty different approaches to this, with very different outcomes so far.)

#12 Comment By PTC On March 23, 2020 @ 2:40 pm

(I could also see some really weird and potentially bad political effects emerging from this. How quickly would the rest of the country grow resentful of having to work to support an older generation’s year-long furlough?)

I mean really- people want to work. They want to, you know, provide food for their families, education, housing, etc.

What do you think a twenty to thirty something year old who is now unemployed will be more resentful of, having to make more money because he or she Is now worth more on the margins (pay for furlough?), or being forced to stay home while they go bankrupt and their kids grow up and live in poverty?

I guess we can just let younger people starve to protect us boomers later years in life? That is sure to make the younger generations much less resentful of the raise they will get if the workforce is reduced and production comes back…

Ah heck, kids these days. They know nothing of sacrifice. Let them eat cake!

#13 Comment By ’11 On March 23, 2020 @ 10:30 pm

This quarantine thing makes no sense to me. If this really would get rid of this particular disease, then we should’ve done it a long time ago and gotten rid of the flu, the cold, and many other diseases…

#14 Comment By 89’er On March 24, 2020 @ 12:37 am

How does the miracle of american capitalism function with a healthcare system that is overwhelmed by COVID 19 patients and functionally unable to provide routine and non-COVID 19 acute care?

Or do we just cut out the middleman and take the degenerates and older members of our society to the crematoria?

#15 Comment By PTC On March 24, 2020 @ 7:15 am

89er- Interesting frame. I was thinking about this myself and remembered the trolly problem …

Such questions force an answer by pushing us into a position of retrospection and compliance because the framing the narrative cannot be challenged. The immediacy of the dilemma used in the ‘Trolley Problem’ enhances the sense of urgency. The urgency and “facts” of the dilemma are used to frustrate reason.

The control of the narration in the ‘Trolley Problem’ pushes an answer to a rigged question. The important question is not if we would “pull the lever” or “kill the chubby man.” That is a false question. What is important is that we place ourselves in this ethical dilemma based on a controlled narrative.

My answer-

We do the best that we can for each person, never murdering one to save others. That is my answer.

#16 Comment By PTC On March 24, 2020 @ 7:27 am

89er-

One thing that was done to drastically reduce the death rate of ebola was to have patients who had recovered trained and used to treat the ill. A lot of the important treatment with a sickness like this is routine and the monitoring and care without fear of exposure. Things such as providing fluids, placing patients upright, following med schedules, giving injections, etc.

You can be trained to start an IV in about half an hour …

Respirators are a problem, but the industrial strength of America could overcome that in short order… ?

I am not sure if it is clear wether or not you can “re-get” COVID 19? In general it is not believed that you can.

If needed we can train and use the already recovered to care for the ill in isolation. That may become our best option.

#17 Comment By 89’er On March 24, 2020 @ 9:24 am

With a virus that kills at a rate 15x or more than the flu, it seems wishful thinking that is we only keep the geezers and those with compromised immune systems we can have our old economy back. Unless you are talking about rationing (not providing care) that does not work. Who wants to put themselves at risk for a hospitalization at an overwhelmed and failing health systems? It ignores the long term effects on the economy from a virus killing and sickening tens of thousands all while ignoring the impact of a crippled health system. It’s just bunch of nonsense not unlike the entirety of the Trump administration. Perhaps we can all just pool our money and move to a virus free and nuclear free korean peninsula.