Mar 10, 2020 - Health

How to beat back the coronavirus

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Axios Visuals

The coronavirus is here and will complicate life for millions of Americans — but there are signs from Asia that it can get better if we're willing to take that pain now.

The big picture: Coronavirus is stifled by early and aggressive action — and no matter how well-intentioned, half-measures only seem to make things worse.

The magic formula from South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore:

  1. Social distancing on a massive scale, quarantining infected areas, canceling big events and closing schools and offices to slow down the spread.
  2. Intensive testing for all who want it, and surveillance and monitoring of the infected to try to limit outbreaks.
  3. Emergency efforts to ensure people don't avoid care over cost concerns, because everyone is at greater risk of infection if the uninsured and underinsured avoid treatment.

Between the lines: The U.S. response thus far has been a series of half-measures, with predicable results.

  1. Schools and companies have closed after cases pop up, rather than ahead of them. But the closings are beginning to accelerate.
  2. The entire country faces a massive testing shortage, lagging dramatically behind its peers.
  3. Governments have begun to use their muscle, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo dispatching the National Guard to help shut down facilities in the area of the state's main outbreak. Multiple states are beginning to declare states of emergencies.

The bottom line: The U.S. is not doing enough to prevent this thing from getting worse, and every day it delays will make it that much harder.

  • President Trump seems focused on preventing a coronavirus recession, but no amount of monetary policy or stimulus will compensate for a public health response that's equal to this virus.

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Editor's note: The chart above has been corrected. It originally showed the total number of U.S. cases, rather than the new cases each day.

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