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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 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congressman criminally charged with lying to feds

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) has been indicted on charges he falsified records and lied to federal investigators probing an illegal foreign donation scheme, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Driving the news: DOJ says a Fortenberry associate, who later cooperated with investigators, informed him he'd likely received illegal donations from an intermediary for a foreign national, but that Fortenberry denied any knowledge of such a scheme when contacted by the FBI.

"Assassin's Creed," but for schools

"Viking Age: Discovery Tour." Image via Ubisoft

For the third time since 2018, Ubisoft is releasing a nonviolent version of its latest “Assassin’s Creed” game as part of a unique effort to turn one of the medium’s most popular series into an educational tool.

Driving the news:Viking Age: Discovery Tour” transforms last year’s “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” from a bloody 150-hour game about Viking conquest in 9th century England into a peaceful four-hour game about merchants and monks.

School enrollment fell by almost 3 million from 2019 to 2020

Kindergarten student Natalia Bayoumi holds the hand of her father Amir Bayoumi as he walks to the front door of Normont Elementary School in Harbor City, CA. Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The number of individuals enrolled in the U.S. education system dropped by 2.9 million from 2019 to 2020, according to new data released Tuesday by the Census Bureau.

Why it matters: This marks the lowest level of school enrollment for those under 35 years-old in over 20 years, per the Census Bureau.