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

Biden enters final stretch with huge cash advantage over Trump

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Wilmington, Delaware, on Monday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden had $177.3 million in the bank at the end of September, per the latest Federal Election Commission filings.

Why it matters: President Trump's re-election campaign reported having $63.1 million in the bank at the end of last month.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Americans feel Trump's sickness makes him harder to trustFlorida breaks record for in-person early voting — McConnell urges White House not to strike stimulus deal before election — Republican senators defend Fauci as Trump escalates attacks.
  2. Health: The next wave is gaining steam.
  3. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots — University of Michigan students ordered to shelter-in-place.
  4. World: Ireland moving back into lockdown — Argentina becomes 5th country to report 1 million infections.

Court allows North Carolina mail-in ballots deadline extension

An absentee ballot election worker stuffs ballot applications at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections office in Charlotte, North Carolina, in September. Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

North Carolina can accept absentee ballots that are postmarked Nov. 3 on Election Day until Nov. 12, a federal appeals court decided Tuesday in a 12-3 majority ruling.

Why it matters: The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling against state and national Republican leaders settles a lawsuit brought by a group representing retirees, and it could see scores of additional votes counted in the key battleground state.