Tag Archives: COVID-19

The Coronavirus Crisis in the U.S. Is a Failure of Democracy

By David Litt – It’s become commonplace to refer to COVID-19 as “the worst public health crisis of our lifetimes.” But what has cost the United States so many lives and jobs during the pandemic is not, at root, a failure of public health. It’s a failure of democracy.

Despite our political polarization, and in the face of an unprecedented threat, the American people have been in remarkable agreement about what they expect from their government. From the time the virus was discovered, our scientists and public health officials urged aggressive action and put forward plans to save lives. Poll after poll has shown that a clear majority of Americans trust want our leaders to heed the experts’ advice. Yet that hasn’t happened. We were far too slow to implement social-distancing guidelines – a delay epidemiologists found is responsible for 90% of U.S. coronavirus deaths – and now we’re acting far too quickly to reopen the economy.

In other words, with lives on the line, our elected leaders are ignoring the people’s will, and Americans are dying as a result. In our shining city on a hill – the global model for representative government – how could this possibly happen? more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Some basic economics of COVID-19 policy
A look at the trade-offs we face in regulating behavior during the pandemic
By Casey B. Mulligan, Kevin M. Murphy, and Robert H. Topel – The costs of the COVID-19 crisis come in two primary forms. The first is the direct impact in terms of health and lives lost. The second is the indirect impact that comes from efforts by individuals, private institutions, and governments to mitigate those health impacts, such as social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and mandatory business closures. It is imperative that we keep in mind that both are costs, and that less of one typically means more of the other. Like it or not, the first lesson of economics is that there are trade-offs, and choices are inevitable.

Regardless of how we choose to bear them, the costs of the pandemic will be large. Some very rough estimates provide perspective. Based on our earlier work on the value of mortality reductions and improved health, we estimate that an unrestricted pandemic infecting 60 percent of the US population and with an infection fatality rate (IFR) below 1 percent would result in roughly 1.4 million deaths, heavily concentrated among the elderly, with a total value of lost lives of about $6 trillion. For comparison, that is equivalent to about 30 percent of annual US GDP, suggesting that even small progress against the spread of the disease can be quite valuable.

Against this, we estimate that efforts to slow the pandemic via a nationwide shutdown of “non-essential” economic activities would carry a cost approaching $7 trillion per year (roughly $20 billion per day), even ignoring other long-run costs from reduced values of human and physical capital and any intrinsic value of reduced civil liberties.

Of course, an unrestricted pandemic is implausible even in the absence of government interventions, as individuals have powerful incentives to engage in self-protection once the risks are even partially known. Even so, these are big numbers. more>

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Updates from McKinsey

Innovating from necessity: The business-building imperative in the current crisis
The coronavirus crisis is a world-changing event. Here are early solutions and concrete steps leaders can consider as they plan and build new businesses for the next normal.
By Jason Bello, Shaun Collins, Ralf Dreischmeier, and Ari Libarikian – The rapid, global spread of COVID-19 has unleashed what is possibly the biggest shock to our lives and livelihoods in nearly a century. While COVID-19 is above all a humanitarian crisis, businesses have also suffered as economies skid to a near halt. But already, there are signs of creative business building, as companies respond to the crisis with innovative solutions born of necessity. They are throwing out the old assumptions that govern how they do business, as they rethink how to interact with customers and employees, are required to build more resilient supply chains, and reexamine attitudes toward privacy and data sharing.

That ability to envision new ways of operating will be crucial to weathering the crisis. Those that succeed will set the tone for the next normal that will follow and define the subsequent generation of paradigms for consumer and corporate behavior. These will become the operating structure for the next decade. Companies that hope to lead in this world should ask themselves some fundamental questions:

  • How will your customer needs change as we head into a post-crisis “new normal”?
  • How will you create human-like interactions with customers you will never meet?
  • How will you repair devices you can’t touch or hold?
  • How will you find your next digital star employee who sits across the globe and is in a different industry?
  • How will you create resilience in your supply chain, without tying up more capital?
  • How will you shift your costs and operations to variable structures to handle an increasingly volatile and dynamic world?
  • How will you bring out digital products in days or weeks, as your competitors are trying to do?

These questions are second nature to disruptive business builders, who are used to overturning assumptions and innovating in the space left when an old assumption is removed. They know that a crisis of this scale brings seismic shifts, changing the expectations for business and creating new opportunities to innovate. They are formulating new solutions to both help resolve the crisis and reimagine their industries in the aftermath. We know there is no going back to the way things were. The goal now is to define the best possible next normal for when the crisis subsides. This article will look at some of the early solutions and outline concrete steps leaders can take to begin their own journeys.

The extraordinary constraints and imperatives brought on by the COVID-19 crisis have rapidly thrust businesses into challenges they could never have envisioned. Many have had to innovate new capabilities for remote operation almost overnight, complete digital transformations in weeks rather than months or years, and launch new products in a matter of days.

We believe the COVID-19 crisis will be a period of substantial business building and innovation. more>

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Updates from McKinsey

Coronavirus: Implications for the semiconductor industry
The coronavirus is shifting demand patterns for major semiconductor end markets. How will these changes ultimately affect the semiconductor industry, and how can leaders respond?
By Harald Bauer, Ondrej Burkacky, Peter Kenevan, Abhijit Mahindroo, and Mark Patel – Despite ongoing quarantines, shelter-in-place orders, and other stringent measures, COVID-19 has continued to spread. As deaths climb and the human toll mounts, leaders are focused on containing the virus and saving lives. In parallel, efforts are under way to mitigate the devastating economic consequences of COVID-19, which include business shutdowns, record unemployment, and unprecedented drops in gross domestic product (GDP) across many countries.

The semiconductor industry, which has historically been a major source of high-tech jobs, is among the many sectors that have had to adjust their production planning and operations as COVID-19 shifts demand for major semiconductor end applications. In addition to exploring the impact of such changes on semiconductor demand, this article provides insights about the industry’s evolution post-crisis and outlines how semiconductor leaders should prepare themselves for the next normal.

The COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented in our time. While the recession during the financial crisis from 2007 to 2008 was driven by stagnating consumer demand, the COVID-19 situation induced a shock to both global demand and supply, creating a dual challenge. This unique phenomenon makes it difficult to extrapolate from past crises to make predictions.

Nevertheless, this article aims to provide guidance on how semiconductor demand will shift in the short- and mid-term—taking into account extensive surveys, research on the recovering Chinese market, and global GDP projections. Our GDP projections in this article are based on two of the nine scenarios that McKinsey developed for global GDP recovery, both of which assume that the spread of coronavirus is eventually controlled and catastrophic economic damage is avoided. In the first scenario, global GDP recovers in the fourth quarter of 2020; in the second, recovery is delayed until late 2022. more>

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Updates from ITU

COVID-19: How mobile phone contact tracing can save lives – and preserve privacy
ITU News – Contact tracing is a key public health response to limit infectious disease outbreaks such as the global COVID-19 pandemic.

More than ever, authorities worldwide are using the power of mobile technologies to help them understand and manage the spread of COVID-19.

GPS, Bluetooth, cellphone masts and AI-powered big data analytics are now being used in countries across the world to collect data that helps authorities improve these efforts and save lives.

But how can we preserve personal privacy and maintain public trust while using these technologies to perform crucial contact tracing?

Key experts discussed these issues on Friday in Episode 2 of the AI for Good Webinar Series: COVID-19 – Using mobile phones & AI for contact tracing while respecting privacy.

One central goal of contact tracing is to identify people who have come into close contact with people who have the virus, explained Reinhard Scholl, Deputy Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB), as he kicked off the webinar.

“Is it possible to have both privacy and health?” asked Scholl. “The fear is that the short-term emergency measures that have been taken right now will stay long after the madness has passed.”

Indeed, many countries have felt the need to relax privacy laws during the crisis in order to use data to prevent the spread of COVID-19. more>

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Updates from McKinsey

COVID-19: Implications for business
By Matt Craven, Linda Liu, Mihir Mysore, and Matt Wilson – The coronavirus outbreak is first and foremost a human tragedy, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. It is also having a growing impact on the global economy.

At the time of writing, there have been more than 160,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 6,000 deaths from the disease. Older people, especially, are at risk. More than 140 countries and territories have reported cases; more than 80 have confirmed local transmission. Even as the number of new cases in China is falling (to less than 20, on some days), it is increasing exponentially in Italy (doubling approximately every four days). China’s share of new cases has dropped from more than 90 percent a month ago to less than 1 percent today.

Our perspective is based on our analysis of past emergencies and our industry expertise. It is only one view, however. Others could review the same facts and emerge with a different view.

Many countries now face the need to bring widespread community transmission of coronavirus under control. While every country’s response is unique, there are three archetypes emerging—two successful and one not—that offer valuable lessons. We present these archetypes while acknowledging that there is much still to be learned about local transmission dynamics and that other outcomes are possible:

  • Extraordinary measures to limit spread. After the devastating impact of COVID-19 became evident in the Hubei province, China imposed unprecedented measures—building hospitals in ten days, instituting a “lockdown” for almost 60 million people and significant restrictions for hundreds of millions of others, and using broad-based surveillance to ensure compliance—in an attempt to combat the spread. These measures have been successful in rapidly reducing transmission of the virus, even as the economy has been restarting.
  • Gradual control through effective use of public-health best practices. South Korea experienced rapid case-count growth in the first two weeks of its outbreak, from about 100 total cases on February 19 to more than 800 new cases on February 29. Since then, the number of new cases has dropped steadily, though not as steeply as in China. This was achieved through rigorous implementation of classic public-health tools, often integrating technology.
  • Unsuccessful initial control, leading to overwhelmed health systems. In some outbreaks where case growth has not been contained, hospital capacity has been overwhelmed. The disproportionate impact on healthcare workers and lack of flexibility in the system create a vicious cycle that makes it harder to bring the epidemic under control.

Based on new information that emerged last week, we have significantly updated and simplified our earlier scenarios. more>

Simple steps to reduce the odds of a global catastrophe

By Warwick J. McKibbin and David Levine – The novel coronavirus COVID-19 may become a footnote in history – a disaster narrowly averted. It could also become a global pandemic similar to some of the worst pandemics of the twentieth century.

For example, assume the COVID-19 is as easy to spread and as dangerous as the 1957 Asian flu. Based on the epidemiological estimates of mortality and morbidity rates from that experience, our best estimate from a 2006 study on pandemics was that such a virus might kill more than 14 million people and shrink global GDP by more than $500 billion  (McKibbin and Alexandro Sidorenko. Global macroeconomic consequences of pandemic influenza. Australian National University, 2006). These estimates are far higher than the costs were in 1957 because our world is increasingly connected and urban. Preliminary results currently being updated  in 2020 suggest even higher numbers for worse case COVID-19.

We hope that scientists can rapidly develop a vaccine. Unfortunately, there is much we do not yet know about this new virus.

At the same time, we do know the virus mostly spreads when people sneeze or cough. The germs then spread when people inhale infected droplets. The germs also land on surfaces. People who touch their own mucus or an infected surface then spread the virus on their hands. For most respiratory infections, perhaps half the cases spread from people’s hands.

Fortunately, even without a vaccine, we already know how to slow an epidemic of respiratory infections.

If everyone coughed or sneezed into their elbow or a tissue (not into the air or on their hands), the germs would not travel very far. And if everyone washed hands with soap before preparing food or eating, that route of transmission would end. more>