Today, at the daily White House Coronavirus Press Briefing, President Trump stated that “the peak in death rate” in the coronavirus pandemic “is likely to hit in two weeks,” and said the federal government will be extending its social-distancing guidelines through April 30.
Elsewhere I have read that Trump is following the recommendations of Scott Gottlieb, the former head of FDA, who now is at the American Enterprise Institute. I could not determine what model Gottlieb is basing his recommendations on, but it could be the Imperial College model.
Regardless of what model is behind Trump’s decision to extend the guidelines for another month, the models are incomplete as a decision-making tool because they do not consider the effect on the economy of another month of shutdown:
Trump recently said that we cannot let the cure be worse than the disease. I’ve got to believe that he knows the economy will be devastated if we don’t start getting back to normal soon. That leads me to believe that he must be getting some really apocalyptic mortality projections to extend the guidelines an additional month.
The American people have a right to know the details of the model behind Trump’s decision to extend the guidelines. If it turns out that the model is based on an overestimated death rate like the Imperial College model, we need to raise our voices and try to get Trump to change his mind and go back to the original Easter timeframe because the extension is based on junk-science.
If it’s not the Imperial College model or some facsimile, but rather a model that is more reflective of the data we have been collecting, then we need to have a national conversation about the economic costs of extending the guidelines. We don’t shut the economy down for the flu. If the mortality rate of Coronavirus is going to resemble the flu, then why do we need to shut the economy?
And if it appears that the mortality rate will be higher than the flu, then we need to talk about whether the higher mortality rate can nonetheless be addressed by measures less drastic than extending the guidelines.
But we need to know exactly what model is driving the decision to extend the guidelines. If we are headed into an economic downturn potentially worse than the Great Depression, we better be damn sure that the policies that are leading us there are indeed warranted.
And the long-term damage is inestimable. The press is going to put all of the blame for an economic train-wreck on Trump, and will have no compunction saying that he overreacted and killed the economy. The damage from four years of a President Biden and a Democrat Congress is inestimable.