Updated Mar 20, 2020 - Economy & Business

The case for extreme measures

Felix Salmon, author of Edge

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There's no such thing as being too early. That's the big lesson from the COVID-19 crisis: The risks of overreacting are minuscule compared with the risks of waiting to see how bad things get before you act.

Why it matters: The U.S. is already suffering from waiting too long to prepare itself for the medical emergency.

  • And Congress is debating a trillion-dollar fiscal stimulus plan — one that former Minneapolis Fed president Narayana Kocherlakota says should be closer to $2.5 trillion.
  • Top of mind for decision-makers should be the risks of not doing enough.

The big picture: The first case of COVID-19 in South Korea surfaced on Jan. 27 — exactly the same day that the first case of COVID-19 was found in the U.S. The Korean response was swift and aggressive; the U.S. response wasn't. The result is that Korea has the pandemic under control, while the U.S. does not.

How it works: The Federal Reserve is a good example of a U.S. agency that has tried to err on the side of doing too much too soon. It slashed interest rates on March 3, two weeks before its scheduled meeting, and then brought them down to zero during the weekend of March 15, along with a passel of other actions copied and pasted from the 2008 financial crisis handbook.

  • The Fed even backstopped money market funds on Thursday, despite the fact that they are currently experiencing inflows and need no such backstop. Better safe than sorry.

The bottom line: When Italy quarantined 16 million people on March 8, it felt like an extreme measure. Now that Italy's COVID-19 death toll has surpassed China's, it doesn't look so extreme.

  • No one is harmed by doing too much too early.
  • The cost of doing too little is measured not only in billions of dollars of economic activity, but also in human lives.

Go deeper

Updated 6 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 5,945,737— Total deaths: 365,368 — Total recoveries — 2,515,675Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 1,747,087 — Total deaths: 102,836 — Total recoveries: 406,446 — Total tested: 16,099,515Map.
  3. Supreme Court: Chief Justice Roberts sides with liberals in denying challenge to California's pandemic worship rules.
  4. Public health: Hydroxychloroquine prescription fills exploded in March.
  5. 2020: North Carolina asks RNC if convention will honor Trump's wish for no masks or social distancing.
  6. Business: Fed chair Powell says coronavirus is "great increaser" of income inequality.

Deaths without consequences

Community organizations and activists demand police accountability at a rally in Grand Central Terminal to commemorate the 5-year anniversary of Mike Brown's death by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Photo: Erik McGregor/Getty Images

Seven years after the launch of the Black Lives Matter movement, it's still rare for police officers to be charged in the deaths of African Americans — and even more rare for an officer to go to jail.

The big picture: The Minneapolis police officer who was captured on video kneeling on George Floyd's neck has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter — which is already a step beyond the consequences other police officers have faced. But it's no guarantee that he will face jail time.

Teenager killed after shots fired at protesters in Detroit

Detroit police during protests on Friday night. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images

A 19-year-old man was killed on Friday night after shots were fired into a crowd of demonstrators in downtown Detroit who were protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, per AP.

Details: The teenager was injured when shots were fired from an SUV about 11:30 p.m. and later died in hospital, reports MDN reports, which noted police were still looking for a suspect. Police said officers were not involved in the shooting, according to AP.

Go deeper: In photos: Protesters clash with police nationwide over George Floyd