Editor's Note: This is not a quantitative finance post and is an editorial piece by Jack Vogel on a topic in which he has a lot of passion. Feel free to skip this article if you are only looking for information on financial research.
I’m starting with the hypothesis that most people love their family and friends. I am writing this as I am concerned about loved ones I know.
I don’t want them to get the disease.
No one does. We all have the same concerns.
However, I’m very concerned that people do not understand what social distancing means.
I’m really concerned.
I think it is a good idea to briefly discuss (1) why we are “social distancing” from one another and (2) what does this really mean? If we, as a country and as a civilization, want to succeed against this virus, I think both are important for everyone to understand.
Without understanding the (1) why and the (2) what, we will most likely fail.
Unfortunately, failure isn’t a great outcome. It means people will die.
So please, take a short amount of time and read my summary below. 1
Why are we social distancing?
If you haven’t noticed, coronavirus (Covid-19) is not the flu. It’s not even close.
The flu doesn’t shut down ~ half of the economy.
To be clear and up-front, I am not a medical professional. So how can I possibly answer this “why” question?
Because as much as the coronavirus is a medical issue, it is also a math issue.
What do I mean by this?
There are millions of variables that doctors worry about for individuals and the individual’s health. However, with any disease, there are two main variables to be concerned with when it comes to overall public health. 2
The two variables are (1) the mortality rate and (2) the spread-rate.
The first variable is self-explanatory – the mortality rate. The higher the number, the deadlier the disease. Public health officials, very validly, get concerned when they see diseases with high mortality rates -- especially if there are limited hospital resources.
However, they also get concerned about diseases that have high "spread rates." 3
In the references below, I dig into the details.
The takeaway from the numbers should be the following:
- The disease is deadlier than the flu.
- It spreads easier.
Thus, we know why. If we do nothing, this will most likely spread to a lot of people!
A lot of people will die.
How many? Again, it depends on assumptions, but the math is straight forward. Here is one study by researchers at the Imperial College London, suggesting a death count of over 2 million Americans.
That's not a great outcome. So we are going to social distance.
But what does that mean?
What does Social Distancing Mean?
Given that we know why we need to social distance, what does this mean?
Guidelines are 6-feet away, wash your hands, and don't touch your face.
But let's be a little more conservative.
Here, I’m going to be brutally honest.
This means you interact with no one outside of your household.
If you have a family that lives in the same physical house, obviously, you will interact with them.
No one else.
A quick trip to say hi to the grandparents?
Having people over?
Organizing a neighborhood get together?
Having kids over for playdates?
Going to the store every day because you are bored?
Any interaction is what we are trying to avoid!
Unnecessary interaction is, in a sense, a slap to the face to all those needed to still work these days--especially the (1) healthcare workers, (2) delivery personnel, (3) and businesses ramping up production of foods/materials needed to live. 4 Their work is necessary and should be commended.
Please, DO NOT INTERACT WITH OTHER PEOPLE UNLESS YOU ARE NEEDED TO DO SO!
Let’s make this rather simple – if everyone, and I mean everyone, in the U.S. stopped interacting for 2 to 3 weeks (assuming 14-day max incubation period), there could be no spread between anyone except in the house you are living in. 5
As Americans, we are blessed with many freedoms. I think giving up 2-4 weeks of social interaction is something we can do. But this is a time when everyone needs to participate.
So please, I beg you, stay home.
By interacting with others, we are prolonging the pain.
We all want this to end.
- I intentionally tried to keep this article short. ↩
- To be clear, I am talking about public health here, not individual health. ↩
- Generally termed "R-naught", I kept spread-rate for simplicity. ↩
- There are many others that fall into this category as well! ↩
- Clearly, spread may occur if people go to medical facilities if they need treatment. This highlights the need for proper medical equipment for professionals. ↩