• Modelling errorThe Fatal Mistakes Which Led to Lockdown

    On the basis of what were fateful decisions about economic lockdowns as a proper response to the coronavirus made? And why is there such resistance to efforts to go back, cautiously and intelligently, but in a determined fashion, back to semblance of normalcy? Dr. John Lee writers in The Spectator that those who insisted on lockdowns and who now question economic and social reopening explained that they are being “guided by science.” In fact, he writes, “they are doing something rather different: being guided by models, bad data and subjective opinion. Some of those claiming to be ‘following the science’ seem not to understand the meaning of the word.” The decision-making leading to lockdowns was of exceedingly low quality, as is the resistance to economic and social reopening. The reason for both? “An early maintained but exaggerated belief in the lethality of the virus reinforced by modelling that was almost data-free, then amplified by further modelling with no proven predictive value. All summed up by recommendations from a committee based on qualitative data that hasn’t even been peer-reviewed.” Lee concludes: “Mistakes were inevitable at the start of this. But we can’t learn without recognizing them.”

  • Cost comparisonIs the COVID-19 Pandemic Cure Really Worse than the Disease? Here’s What Our Research Found

    The coronavirus pandemic catapulted the country into one of the deepest recessions in U.S. history, leaving millions of Americans without jobs or health insurance. There is a lot of evidence that economic hardship is associated with poor health and can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseasemental health problemscognitive dysfunction and early death. All of that raises a question: Is the U.S. better off with the public health interventions being used to keep the coronavirus from spreading or without them? In a new working paper, Olga Yakusheva, Associate Professor in Nursing and Public Health at the University of Michigan, writes in The Conversation that she  and a research team of health economists from U.S. universities set out to answer that question from a humanitarian perspective. They estimate that by the end of 2020, public health measures to mitigate COVID-19 – including business lockdowns, school closings, etc. —  would save between 900,000 and 2.7 million lives in the U.S. The economic downturn and loss of income from shelter-in-place measures and other restrictions on economic activity could contribute to between 50,400 and 323,000 deaths, based on an economic decline of 8%-14%.

  • VaccinesU.S. Will Pay $1.6 Billion to Novavax for Coronavirus Vaccine

    The federal government will pay the vaccine maker Novavax $1.6 billion to expedite the development of a coronavirus vaccine. It’s the largest deal to date from Operation Warp Speed, the sprawling federal effort to make coronavirus vaccines and treatments available to the American public as quickly as possible. Katie Thomas writes in the New York Times that the deal would pay for Novavax to produce 100 million doses of its new vaccine by the beginning of next year — if the vaccine is shown to be effective in clinical trials. That’s a significant bet on Novavax, a Maryland company that has never brought a product to market.

  • Border securityEroding Private Border Wall to Get an Engineering Inspection Just Months after Completion

    By Jeremy Schwartz and Perla Trevizo

    Months after the “Lamborghini” of border walls was built along the Rio Grande, the builder agreed to an engineering inspection of his controversial structure. Experts say the wall is showing signs of erosion that threatens its stability.

  • China syndromeU.K. Will Not Be Able to Prevent “Misuse of Data” by China if Huawei Deal Goes Ahead: U.S. Ambassador

    Robert Wood Johnson, the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., warned that if the U.K. allowed Huawei access to the U.K. 5G communication infrastructure, there would be no way for the U.K. to prevent Chinese intelligence agencies from misusing the data collected by Huawei in the course of the company’s operations. Experts say that even more worryingly, if Huawei is allowed access to the nascent U.K. 5G infrastructure, the company, with a flip of a switch, could take down the entire U.K. communication system when ordered to do so by the Chinese government.

  • LockdownsSoftware Tool Could Be Used to Limit Lockdowns, Safeguard Economy

    People hunkered down at home while many businesses, churches, and schools closed this spring to curtail the spread of the COVID-19, but one George Mason University Engineering researcher says that drastic lockdown strategy may not fit all areas of the United States. Sai Dinakarrao, an engineering professor, is working with other researchers to develop a software tool that factors in differences between parts of the country.

  • Oil spillsNew Lessons from the Worst Oil Spill Disaster ever

    By Nancy Bazilchuk

    Ten years ago, the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico killed eleven men and resulted in the largest accidental oil spill in history. Years of investigations concluded that the drilling crew missed critical warning signals that would have stopped the problem. A new analysis suggests that wasn’t the case.

  • Argument: Business survivalWhy Japanese Businesses Are So Good at Surviving Crises

    On 11 March 2011, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake triggered a powerful tsunami, launching 125-feet high waves at the coast of the Tohoku region of Honshu, the largest and most populous island in Japan. nearly 16,000 people were killed, hundreds of thousands displaced, and millions left without electricity and water. Railways and roads were destroyed, and 383,000 buildings damaged, including a nuclear power plant at Fukushima. “In lessons for today’s businesses deeply hit by pandemic and seismic culture shifts, it’s important to recognize that many of the Japanese companies in the Tohoku region continue to operate today, despite facing serious financial setbacks from the disaster,” she writes. “How did these businesses manage not only to survive, but thrive?”

  • RemdesivirGilead Sets Price of Coronavirus Drug Remdesivir at $3,120 as Trump Administration Secures Supply for 500,000 Patients

    Gilead Sciences, the maker of the first covid-19 treatment found to have worked in clinical trials, remdesivir, said Monday it will charge U.S. hospitals $3,120 for the typical patient with private insurance. Hannah Denham, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Christopher Rowland write in the Washington Post that sSoon after the announcement, the Trump administration said it had secured nearly all of the company’s supply of the drug for use in U.S. hospitals through September, with a contract for 500,000 treatment courses, which it will make available to hospitals at Gilead’s price.

  • The Russia connectionRussia’s Kleptocracy Is a Tool for Undermining the West

    By Lynn Berry

    The West misread Russian corruption, such as the money laundering revealed by the case against the Bank of New York and the release of the Panama Papers. The money was seen only as stolen cash, not as a vast slush fund to be used to buy influence and threaten the West. Belton’s book could not be more timely: She offers a treasure trove of details about a network of Russian intelligence operatives, tycoons, and organized crime associates who, beginning in the 1990s, ingratiate themselves with an indebted, not-yet-a-politician Trump. With U.S. banks cracking down on money laundering, they put their cash into real estate and paid Trump handsomely for the privilege of using his name. The Obama administration was slow to grasp the Russia’s interference intents and capabilities, but within the administration, Vice President Joe Biden was one of the most vocal in warning of the Kremlin’s ability to direct loyal oligarchs to carry out strategic operations and its use of corruption to undermine democratic governments. Trump and Biden will face each other in November.

  • Second lockdown?America's COVID Spike Shows How a Second Wave Could Bring a Second Lockdown

    So far, we have found only two ways to contain fresh outbreaks.The first, and by far the least costly, is contact-tracing and isolation. It can be done manually without a tracing app, but it requires lightning-fast reactions and extreme efficiency. The second containment method: lockdowns. But lockdowns are destructive for the economy, and they carry with them an exceedingly high cost in personal, social, and medical terms. Juliet Samuel write in The Telegraphthat in the face of a possible second wave, “the stage is set for the great experiment. The top priority must be to get the tracing system working. But even if our Government is somehow incapable of that, it may yet find a set of distancing policies that keeps virus deaths at a low enough level without shutting everything down. Perhaps there is a balance to be struck, involving a mix of mask-wearing, better care-home procedures, loosening rules for the young before the old, keeping people outdoors and planning ways to do so in winter.”

  • SwedenSweden’s Coronavirus Failure Started Long Before the Pandemic

    Many countries have criticized the Swedish government’s lax lockdown, but the deadly mistakes of defunding elder care and decentralizing public health oversight were made before anyone had heard of COVID-19. Carl-Johan Karlsson writes in Foreign Policy that Sweden has become a global outlier in ignoring calls for coronavirus lockdowns, with the government’s public health agency issuing recommendations rather than mandating certain behaviors, what’s considered a “light-touch strategy.” Critics of the Swedish approach point to the fact that Sweden has a higher death rate relative to its Scandinavian strict-lockdown neighbors (Denmark, Norway, and Finland). But Karlsson notes that a closer look reveals a more complex reality: the overwhelming majority of Swedish COVID-19-related deaths occurred in senior citizens care centers, so some criticisms of the Swedish COVID-19 response may still be premature, and others should rather be directed at mistakes made long before the current health crisis—namely the decline of central government oversight and, especially, a decadelong neglect of Sweden’s elderly population.

  • SurveillanceCoronavirus opens door to company surveillance of workers

    Employers are rushing to use digital tracking technology to reduce virus transmission in the workplace. Mohana Ravindranath writes in Politico that privacy experts worry that businesses will start using their newfound surveillance capabilities for purposes far beyond public health. The data could be used to evaluate workers’ productivity, see which colleagues are holding meetings or even flag an employee who unexpectedly ducks out of the office during work hours.

  • DecisionsPrudence, Protests, and Pandemics

    On 10 April, during one of the manic news briefings which initially characterized the Trump administration’s erratic response to the coronavirus pandemic, a reporter asked the president what “metrics” he would use to make decisions about re-opening the economy. “The metric’s right here,” Trump said, pointing to his head. “That’s my metrics. That’s all I can do. I can listen to 35 people. At the end, I’ve got to make a decision.”  — Greg Weiner writes in National Affairs that “Trump’s ruminations in these briefings — which have ranged from the false to the harebrained, from the confused to the dangerous — may encourage caustic reactions. But the remark about metrics ranks as one of the more sensible things he has said on the topic.” Weiner adds: “There is an excellent case that Trump’s judgment is questionable. Certainly, he has derided any notion of expertise as well as the sources — such as experience, as opposed to impulse — from which it could meaningfully arise. His own decisions have been poorer as a result. But Trump’s endorsement of judgment — seasoned, as one hopes it is, and as one must acknowledge the president’s has not been, by experience, evenness of temperament, and due regard for expertise — as the means of making political decisions is not only correct; it is unavoidable.”

  • Post-virus economicsEconomics after the Virus

    This novel virus has created a novel economic predicament. In a country after country, the government-imposed lockdowns have resulted in a recession which is fundamentally different from more typical recessions, which are the result of the market-driven business cycle. Arnold Kling, writing in National Affairs about the United States, argues that instead of crafting a new strategy to respond to these unprecedented circumstances, policymakers have dusted off the playbook they used during the 2008 financial crisis. “It is far from clear that these were the right plays to call in 2008,” he writes. “It is even less clear they are the right plays to call now.” He adds: “What is clear, however, is that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the deterioration of the concepts that underpin contemporary macroeconomic-policy thinking in America. That deterioration consists of a growing disconnect between the ideas that ground macroeconomic policy and the realities of the modern economy. The time has come to jettison both the Keynesian and monetarist paradigms that macroeconomic policymakers employ and to pursue an alternative paradigm more suitable to the conditions prevailing in today’s economy. Such a paradigm might be best described in terms of patterns of sustainable specialization and trade, or PSST. This new model offers us a more accurate understanding of the forces at work in our economy — and a more constructive foundation for public policy — than either the Keynesian or the monetarist models do.”