Trump Is Wrong About Opening The Economy In One Chart (updated)

“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” – John F Kennedy January 1961

(Updated on 3/28 to reflect actual numbers.)  US did surpass China on March 26th.  Growth rates have been slower than I projected by 3.6%

Trump is asking the US to return to normal and open the economy by Easter, 15 days from now.  Unfortunately the reality is new cases of Covid-19 will only have slowed by then so any widespread gathering will set us back to the beginning.  Expect the economy will be closed for 25-40 more days, the math of this calculation follows.

I was reading this article,

Bill Gates: If I were president, this is what I would do now to fight corona virus

While the article is marginally interesting, yes Bill is smart but this is not his area of expertise so I take his thinking with a grain of salt.  I did find this jewel of a chart in the article.


This chart is the most important chart you have seen this year.  Why?  It shows us how long this is going to last.  You can see from the chart that after 21 days of “flattening the curve” cases of covid-19 are growing faster in the US than they were at day 8 in China.  The chart also shows that at the current infection rate the total number of cases in the US will exceed the total number of cases in China on March 26.  Likely by the end of March, 6 days from now, the US will be the world wide epicenter of the pandemic.

Many of you will argue that per capita this is not true, Italy and Spain will still be the epicenter.  Yes, that may be correct, but it is important to recognize that China, a country of larger geography and population than the US, has been more effective at “flattening the curve” than the US.  Of course, it used draconian measures the US will never use.  This means we can use China as a best case scenario for the US.  8 days into the crisis, China had 6,000 cases and today they have 81,000, an increase of 1300% in 23 days to control the virus.  Today the US has 120,000 cases almost double the 65,000 cases in the US 3 days ago when I first wrote this post.  If we assume the same 1300% increase as China, from the start of drastic measures until the virus is under control, then we should expect 860,000 cases in the US 17 days from now.  At the current US mortality rate of 1.5%, we would expect 12,000 more people to die.

In truth it is much worse that that.  The chart above is logarithmic so the current slope of the line in the US shows the number of cases doubling every 2-3 days.  Also note the infection rate in the US has remained fairly constant since the virus was discovered in the US 22 days ago.  (the rate of spread has declined from 28% 2 days ago to 20% today)  That constant infection rate indicates the measures the US has been taking to flatten the curve have had limited effect.  True, in areas, measures have recently increased dramatically so the curve should start to flatten in 7-10 days.  (it is actually starting to flatten now with the decline to 20% cutting 4-7 days off the estimate)  It took China 20 days to flatten the curve with draconian measures, we should assume it will take the US at least twice as long to achieve the same results using less draconian measures so as many as 40 days from today to control the virus (2 x 20 days to flatten the curve).  At 28 days from first US case, 6 days from now, the US will likely have 175,000 cases* when the curve starts to flatten.  Peak infections in the US will likely be more than 2,500,000 and the virus will take more than 37,500 lives assuming we can adopt the draconian measures of China and only have a 1300% increase from day 28.  Given the US population is not adopting draconian measures, the US could see 5 million cases and 75,000 deaths, taking twice as long to control the virus as China.

So the question you have to ask yourself, are you doing enough for your country or are you simply life as usual?

*  assumes growth rate of 28%, 25%, 20%, 16%, 13%, 10% daily growth rates.

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