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Covid-19: 9: Wall Street Journal, Aug 25, 2020

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发表于 8-27-2020 15:03:39 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
(1) Greg Ip, Lockdowns Are Blunt, Costly Tool; Economists, health experts say there may be a better way than broad business shutdown. Wall Street Journal, Aug 25, 2020, at page A1.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/cov ... navirus-11598281419
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/u ... mp;ocid=mailsignout

Quote:

In the Covid-19 pandemic, "policy makers * * * ordered nonessential businesses closed and told people to stay home, all without the extensive analysis of benefits and risks that usually precedes a new medical treatment.  There wasn't time to gather that sort of evidence: Faced with a poorly understood and rapidly spreading pathogen, they prioritized saving lives.  Five months later, the evidence suggests lockdowns were an overly blunt and economically costly tool. They are politically[, not to mention legally,] difficult to keep in place for long enough to stamp out the virus.

" 'We're on the cusp of an economic catastrophe,' said James Stock, a Harvard University economist who, with Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina and others, is modeling how to avoid a surge in deaths without a deeply damaging lockdown. 'We can avoid the worst of that catastrophe by being disciplined,' Mr Stock said. [I do not believe modeling, which is unlike controlled experiments in science]

"Prior to Covid-19, lockdowns weren't part of the standard epidemic tool kit, which was primarily designed with flu in mind.  During the 1918-1919 flu pandemic, some American cities closed schools, churches and theaters, banned large gatherings and funerals and restricted store hours. But none imposed stay-at-home orders or closed all nonessential businesses. No such measures were imposed during the 1957 flu pandemic, the next-deadliest one; even schools stayed open.  Lockdowns weren't part of the contemporary playbook, either. * * * So when China locked down Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province in January, and Italy imposed blanket stay-at-home orders in March, many epidemiologists elsewhere thought the steps were unnecessarily harmful and potentially ineffective.  By late March, they had changed their minds. The sight of hospitals in Italy overwhelmed with dying patients shocked people in other countries.

My comment:
(a)
(i) WSJ locks the article behind paywall.
(ii) Greg Ip  葉偉平
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Ip
(1964- ; Ip received a bachelor's degree in economics and journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario)
is Chief Economics Commentator at Wall Street Journal, per its website. The spelling of his last name indicates his Cantonese (or Hong Kong) ancestry.

(b) There are minor differences here and there between the online and print versions -- to make the latter more compact. Attached is the print version.
(c) Because Mr Ip is neither a biologist nor a PhD in economics, maybe you need only read the quotations above.
(d)
(i) lockdown
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockdow
("is a requirement for people to stay where they are, usually due to specific risks to themselves or to others if they can move freely. The term 'stay-at-home' or 'shelter-in-place' is often used for lockdowns that affect an area, rather than specific locations")
started out in a prison setting, where officials lock down prisoners in their cells (to conduct search of contrabands in individual cells, for example).
(ii) lockdown (n): " * * * from the verbal phrase; see lock (v) + down (adv). Prison sense is by 1975, American English"
https://www.etymonline.com/word/lockdown

(e) I am a biologist by training.
(i) Spanish flu
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_flu
("The 1918 Spanish flu was the first of two pandemics caused by H1N1 influenza A virus; the second was the 2009 swine flu pandemic")

Genetic material of influenza A virus is composed of a handful of linear negative-sense single stranded RNA: Linear means not circular; that is, the two ends of a strand of viral RNA do not form a circle. RNA rather than DNA forms genetic code. Single-stranded is different from double-stranded (as in DNA). By copying DNA, humans only make positive-sense RNA, which serves as a template to produce protein. Therefore, once influenza virus's negative-sense single-stranded RNA enters the nucleus of a host cell, their first order of business is to produce corresponding strands of positive-sense RNA, to with which to make viral proteins, some of which are enzymes.
(ii) The odd thing about Spanish flu is its sequence had nothing unusual. Thus it is unclear why Spanish flu killed a lot of people, mainly in developed world but few in the Third World.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~attachment
In response to the novel and deadly coronavirus, many governments deployed draconian tactics never used in modern times: severe and broad restrictions on daily activity that helped send the world into its deepest peacetime slump since the Great Depression.

The equivalent of 400 million jobs have been lost world-wide, 13 million in the U.S. alone.

Global output is on track to fall 5% this year, far worse than during the financial crisis, according to the International Monetary Fund. Despite this steep price, few policy makers felt they had a choice, seeing the economic crisis as a side effect of the health crisis.

They ordered nonessential businesses closed and told people to stay home, all without the extensive analysis of benefits and risks that usually precedes a new medical treatment.

There wasn’t time to gather that sort of evidence: Faced with a poorly understood and rapidly spreading pathogen, they prioritized saving lives.

Five months later, the evidence suggests lockdowns were an overly blunt and economically costly tool. They are politically difficult to keep in place for long enough to stamp out the virus. The evidence also points to alternative strategies that could slow the spread of the epidemic at much less cost. As cases flare up throughout the U.S., some experts are urging policy makers to pursue these more targeted restrictions and interventions rather than another crippling round of lockdowns.

"We're on the cusp of an economic catastrophe," said James Stock, a Harvard University economist who, with Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina and others, is modeling how to avoid a surge in deaths without a deeply damaging lockdown. "We can avoid the worst of that catastrophe by being disciplined," Mr. Stock said.

The economic pain from pandemics mostly comes not from sick people but from healthy people trying not to get sick: consumers and workers who stay home, and businesses that rearrange or suspend production. A lot of this is voluntary, so some economic hit is inevitable whether or not governments impose restrictions.

Still, because of the close connection between the pandemic and economic activity, many epidemiologists and economists say the economy can’t recover while the virus is out of control. “The virus is going to determine when we can safely reopen,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in April. The Federal Reserve said in late July that “the path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus.”

This leaves wide open what represents an acceptable level of infection, which in turn determines what restrictions to impose. If the only acceptable level of infection were zero, lockdowns would have to be severe and potentially indefinite, or at least until an effective vaccine or treatment comes along. Most countries have rejected that course.

Prior to Covid-19, lockdowns weren’t part of the standard epidemic tool kit, which was primarily designed with flu in mind.

During the 1918-1919 flu pandemic, some American cities closed schools, churches and theaters, banned large gatherings and funerals and restricted store hours. But none imposed stay-at-home orders or closed all nonessential businesses. No such measures were imposed during the 1957 flu pandemic, the next-deadliest one; even schools stayed open.

Lockdowns weren’t part of the contemporary playbook, either. Canada’s pandemic guidelines concluded that restrictions on movement were “impractical, if not impossible.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in its 2017 community mitigation guidelines for pandemic flu, didn’t recommend stay-at-home orders or closing nonessential businesses even for a flu as severe as the one a century ago.

So when China locked down Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province in January, and Italy imposed blanket stay-at-home orders in March, many epidemiologists elsewhere thought the steps were unnecessarily harmful and potentially ineffective.

By late March, they had changed their minds. The sight of hospitals in Italy overwhelmed with dying patients shocked people in other countries. Covid-19 was much deadlier than flu, it was able to spread asymptomatically, and it had no vaccine or effective therapy.

Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong set early examples of how to stop Covid-19 without lockdowns. Their reflexes trained by SARS in 2003, MERS and avian flu, they quickly cut travel to China, introduced widespread testing to isolate the infected and traced contacts. Their populations quickly donned face masks.

Sweden took a different approach. Instead of lockdowns, it imposed only modest restrictions to keep cases at levels its hospitals could handle.

Sweden has suffered more deaths per capita than neighboring Denmark but fewer than Britain, and it has paid less of an economic price than either, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Sweden’s current infection and death rates are as low as the rest of Europe’s, suggesting to some experts the country may be close to herd immunity. That is the point at which enough of the population is immune, due to prior exposure or vaccination, so that person-to-person transmission declines and the epidemic dies out.

By March, it was too late for the U.S. to emulate the test-and-trace strategy of east Asia. The CDC had botched the initial development and distribution of tests, and limited testing capacity meant countless infections went undetected for months. President Trump continued to downplay testing, and even today the U.S. conducts fewer than 20 tests for every confirmed case, compared with more than 500 in Taiwan and South Korea at their peaks.

Dire Outlook

The Swedish strategy was also taken off the table. Britain ditched it in mid-March after a team of experts from London’s Imperial College predicted that in the absence of social distancing, 81% of the population would eventually be infected, while 510,000 people would die in Britain and 2.2 million in the U.S. Some experts think it takes less than 81% of a population to reach herd immunity. Nonetheless, such predictions helped persuade leaders in Britain and the U.S. to lock down.

Yet their goals were unclear, a confusion aggravated by the multitude of terms used. Officials sometimes said their goal was “bending” or “flattening the curve,” which originally meant spreading infections over time so the daily peak never overwhelmed hospitals. At other times they described their aims as “mitigation” or “containment” or “suppression,” often interchangeably.

“There have been few attempts to truly define the goal, and partly it’s because policy makers and epidemiologists haven’t thought well enough about the vocabulary to define what they mean or want,” said Dr. Mina.

A key determinant in an epidemic’s spread is the reproduction number, or “R value”: how many people each infected person goes on to infect. When R is above one, new infections continue until enough of the population has been infected or vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. When R is below one, new infections eventually fall to zero, although imported infections can trigger outbreaks. Dr. Mina said mitigation generally aims for an R of just above one, while suppression aims for an R of below one.

The U.S. never resolved “whether we were going for mitigation or suppression,” said Paul Romer, a Nobel laureate economist. Mitigation, he said, meant accepting hundreds of thousands of additional deaths to achieve herd immunity, which no leaders were willing to embrace. But total suppression of the disease “doesn’t make sense unless you’re going to stick with it as long as it takes.”

Some countries did achieve suppression through lockdowns. China wiped out the epidemic in Hubei province and has suppressed subsequent outbreaks elsewhere, with sweeping quarantine and surveillance methods that are difficult to replicate in Western democracies.

New Zealand imposed one of the most stringent lockdowns for two months. The country—relatively small and geographically isolated—went on to enjoy 102 days without a new case. Nonetheless, an outbreak this month prompted a reimposition of widespread restrictions.

The U.S. lacked China’s authoritarian bent and New Zealand’s patience. Asked in March if lockdowns would last months, President Trump replied: “I hope it disappears faster than that.” Indeed, at the end of March his health advisers suggested one more month of restrictions would be enough. In mid-April, his health advisers issued guidelines for when states with lockdowns should reopen, including 14 days of declining cases and the ability to test and trace anyone with flulike symptoms.

Mr. Trump made it clear his priority was the economy: “A prolonged lockdown combined with a forced economic depression would inflict an immense and wide-ranging toll on public health,” he said. Within weeks he was praising states that had reopened despite not meeting the guidelines and was tweeting “LIBERATE” to supporters protesting lockdowns.

Many Republican governors prioritized their economies, but some Democrats more committed to lockdowns also struggled to stay the course. When California became the first state to issue a stay-at-home order on March 19, its Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, said the goal was to “bend the curve.”

On May 7, he signaled an unusually ambitious goal: Only counties with zero deaths in the past two weeks and no more than one case per 10,000 residents could reopen ahead of schedule—criteria that 95% of the state couldn’t meet, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Mr. Newsom said science and data would dictate when the stay-at-home order was lifted. Economic and social pressures soon intruded, as county leaders pushed him to relax the criteria. On May 18 he did, dropping the no-death requirement and raising the case cutoff to 25 per 100,000. Counties quickly began opening. A month later, California’s cases began surging again, far surpassing previous highs.

Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of health and human services, said, “We needed to get [infections] low enough to where our systems can handle sick people.” The impact of lockdowns on families, the economy and mental health also mattered, he said.

Dr. Mina of Harvard said the U.S. at the outset could have chosen to prioritize the economy, as Sweden did, and accept the deaths, or it could have chosen to fully prioritize health by staying locked down until new infections were so low that testing and tracing could control new outbreaks, as some northeastern states such as Rhode Island did.

Most of the U.S. did neither. The result was “a complete disaster. We’re harming the economy, waffling back and forth between what is right, what is wrong with a slow drift of companies closing their doors for good,” Dr. Mina said.

The experience of the past five months suggests the need for an alternative: Rather than lockdowns, using only those measures proven to maximize lives saves while minimizing economic and social disruption. “Emphasize the reopening of the highest economic benefit, lowest risk endeavors,” said Dr. Mina.

Old and the young [sic: The Y is not capitalized]

Social distancing policies, for instance, can take into account widely varying risks by age. The virus is especially deadly for the elderly. Nursing homes account for 0.6% of the population but 45% of Covid fatalities, says the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, a conservative-leaning think tank. Better isolating those residents would have saved many lives at little economic cost, it says.

By contrast, fewer children have died this year from Covid-19 than from flu. And studies in Sweden, where most schools stayed open, and the Netherlands, where they reopened in May, found teachers at no greater risk than the overall population. This suggests reopening schools outside of hot spots, with protective measures, shouldn’t worsen the epidemic, while alleviating the toll on working parents and on children.

Research by Dr. Mina and others has shown that “super-spreader” events such as weddings, sporting events, religious services and bar gatherings contribute disproportionately to infections.

Masks may be the most cost-effective intervention of all. Both the World Health Organization and the U.S. Surgeon General discouraged their use for months despite prior CDC guidance that they could limit the spread of flu by preventing the wearer from transmitting the disease.

The German city of Jena in early April ordered residents to wear masks in public places, public transit and at work. Soon afterward, infections came to a halt. Comparing it to similar cities, a study for the IZA Institute of Labor Economics estimated masks reduced the growth of infections by 40% to 60%.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimates a universal mask mandate in the US could now save 5% of gross domestic product by substituting for more onerous lockdowns.

Some epidemiologists and economists argue ramped-up testing could enable the economy to reopen safely without a vaccine. Mr. Romer estimates the U.S. could restore $1,000 in economic activity for every $10 spent on tests.

Dr. Mina pointed to a paper-strip test anyone can use to detect the virus in a sample of saliva in minutes. It is less accurate but far faster and cheaper than sending samples to labs, he said. If 50% to 60% of the population in hot spots took such a test every other day, the disease could be suppressed, he said.

His and Mr. Stock’s team has designed a “smart” reopening plan based on contact frequency and vulnerability of five demographic groups and 66 economic sectors. It assumes most businesses reopen using industry guidelines on physical distancing, hygiene and working from home; schools reopen; masks are required; and churches, indoor sports venues and bars stay closed.

They estimated in June that this would result in 335,000 fewer U.S. deaths by the end of this year than if all restrictions were immediately lifted. But they say the plan also would leave economic output 10% higher than if a second round of lockdowns were imposed.

“If you use all these measures, it leaves lots of room for the economy to reopen with a very small number of deaths,” Mr. Stock said. “Economic shutdowns are a blunt and very costly tool.”

The U.S. South and Southwest have provided some real-time experiments in targeted lockdowns. Arizona imposed a stay-at-home order in March and rescinded it in early May. When cases soared, Republican Gov. Douglas Ducey resisted reimposing restrictions or requiring masks. He then eventually allowed cities to require masks, ordered bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks to close and told restaurants to operate at no more than 50% capacity. Gatherings of more than 50 people were prohibited and masks strongly encouraged. But he didn’t lock down the entire state. Cases and hospitalizations have since fallen sharply to early May levels, or lower.

California, similarly, ordered indoor activities at restaurants, bars, museums, zoos and movie theaters to close in mid-July, but didn’t issue a stay-at-home order, prohibit outdoor activities or suspend elective surgery, as it had in March and April. Cases have begun to drop, while hospitalizations have declined 35% since their July peak.

“In March, people didn’t realize the benefits of mask use,” said Dr. Ghaly, the state’s secretary of health and human services. “The evidence on being outdoors rather than indoors is quite compelling.” Compared to April, “We know so much more.”

—Graphics by Hanna Sender

Write to Greg Ip at greg.ip@wsj.com
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 楼主| 发表于 8-27-2020 15:06:42 | 显示全部楼层
(2) Karol Markowicz, Enough! Time to Seriously Loosen Lockdown Rules for Restaurants and Others. New York Post, Aug 24, 2020 (print day)/
https://nypost.com/2020/08/23/it ... aurants-and-others/

Note: WSJ on the same day (Aug 25; in its op-ed section under the heading: "Notable & Quotable: Enough") republished part of the above opinion. (The writer is a columnist with New York Post. Both WSJ and New York Post are owned by News Corp, founded by Rupert Murdoch.) The full text of WSJ's republication (an abbreviated version of that in New York Post) is as follows:’


"We can't live like this anymore. The constant new rules, the continued dance around reopening. New York City is failing. Our governor and mayor are keeping us in a state of disarray.

"Throughout this crisis, we've seen a division: One group, the pajama-wearers, can work from home indefinitely, never leaving their couches. They happily collect their checks and spend their time smug in the satisfaction that they have handled this pandemic flawlessly. They bake bread, buy a Peloton bike and post Instagram pictures of sunrises from vacation homes. They’re happy to listen to every backward directive from elected officials. They haven't suffered like their fellow New Yorkers.

"The second group has either worked through the lockdown or had sleepless nights wondering if their businesses will ever reopen. They've contended with ever-changing rules, ever-deferred opening dates and constant attacks on their livelihoods. * * * Many of these people compare their lives right now to living in a totalitarian regime, where rules make no sense but people are afraid to say so.

"The East Village bar Lucky had its liquor license pulled, according to the website Eater, after the owner started a petition “to reverse the state’s new mandate that bars must serve substantial amounts of food with any alcohol purchase.” The Village Line bar in Erie County mocked Cuomo with its menu items, and it too had its liquor license suddenly pulled.

"If you speak up, your pain could be extended, and every business owner in New York knows it.

"You don't have to think the coronavirus is a hoax — I don't — to see these rules make no sense. But what they highlight, more than anything else, is that we are not all in this together.

"Stop torturing small-business owners with nonsensical regulations and unfair enforcement. Enough.

"We want our lives back, all of us — not just the pajama class.
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