The coronavirus surge means an economic stall is inevitable

Now, there is a slight bit of good news that, while new cases are increasing in many states, so far the death rates have not. This appears to be because new cases are hitting younger people who are more able to fight off the disease. However, we are also learning that this virus can be nasty even for younger people. A high proportion of people hospitalized from COVID-19 end up with serious damage to one or more organs, particularly the lungs, which can end up permanently scarred. One study from China found that the vast majority of people with asymptomatic cases showed at least some lung damage in scans. Strokes and heart attacks are also common complications, due to what the virus does to the blood. A need for long-term care or rehabilitation is common, and a small fraction of patients end up permanently disabled.

Furthermore, the most important economic rescue program — the enormous boost to unemployment insurance — will expire at the end of July.

Therefore, on our current track I see no way around one of two possibilities. Either people will look around them and refrain from fully going back to their normal activities, and the economy will stall out. Or they actually will resume normal activities, which will sooner or later spark galloping outbreaks in most states, leading many more people to self-isolate, and the economy will stall out. Even Americans’ bulletproof individualism will not keep people going to bars and restaurants if tens of thousands of people are dying and hundreds of thousands are becoming severely ill. To quote the Florida woman mentioned above: “I think we were careless and we went out into a public place when we should not have.”