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Commentary: The End of COVID-19: When? How? What?

By Thom Neff #303 
August 8, 2020
 
The current pandemic has disrupted life everywhere.  Many of us now find our lives more restricted, perhaps more lonely, and likely with more time on our hands.  My approach to this new reality is fairly simple: Daily, I read the NYTs and the London Times, re-watch classic TV series like MI-5 on Amazon and Peaky Blinders on Netflix, and re-read classic books like The Catcher in the Rye, The Good Soldier, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  However, since I spent my former professional life as an engineer and contractor, solving problems all over the world, I also follow all the appropriate current literature on Covid-19 and offer a few thoughts on my current opinion of what may happen going forward.
 
I am concerned for my friends at CRTN.  My concern arises from the fact that I’m currently at my home in MA where we had 320 new covid cases yesterday, while FL had over 6,229.  This pandemic appears out of control in the US, as a country, while certain states are doing quite well in controlling it.  The difference results from a variety of factors, but two critical ones appear to be: (1) strong leadership based upon science, and (2) proper behavior by citizens.  MA’s GOP governor is a great leader who follows science, and inspires his citizens to respond intelligently.  The numbers speak for themselves.  Globally, the US has the worst record of any country in the world, in terms of total cases and total deaths.  The CDC in the US and the WHO globally are, in my opinion, good sources of information on the current situation, and for information on how various countries and/or states are doing in their efforts to control the virus.  They are not perfect, but they are attempting to learn from experience, and modify procedures as new data and new understanding occurs.  NOBODY currently knows when this pandemic will end, how it will end, and what the new normal will look like.  However, there is near universal agreement that wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding closed indoor spaces, avoiding large outdoor gatherings, and frequent hand washing will likely have a positive effect.
 
Unfortunately, this pandemic has also caused adverse and significant economic disruption to almost every facet of government, business and private life.  Again, the effects vary widely for select states and countries.  However, in general, the most adverse effects fall upon poor, minority, and/or people of color in almost any area.  Many global locations are currently in recession, and the threat of a more severe depression is very real.  The strength of online sales, and widespread remote working (and learning) have initiated profound changes that will clearly
help define certain aspects of what the post-Covid-19 world will look like.  As more evidence accumulates, it is also clear that no age group, nor ethnicity, is completely safe, although some groups appear to fare better than others.  New data forces scientists and researchers to update their models and conclusions, as the virus shows some signs of mutating into possibly unknown conditions.
 
It is obvious that where communities are faring better, i.e., lower cases and fewer deaths, there is in place strong, clear, science-based leadership, and a responsive citizenship that is generally following the current suggested guidelines.  The US does not have a national, federal plan to control the virus, leaving it largely up to the states to fend for themselves.  The numbers, i.e., the US being No. 1 in the world in both number of cases and deaths, strongly suggests that we are on the wrong track.  It is also interesting to note that the countries that are doing well in this battle are generally ones that have universal health care, strong and comprehensive social welfare
systems, and extensive sick leave and unemployment benefits.  The virus has no political agenda, it has the potential to attack and kill anyone, anytime, anywhere.  The global numbers prove this.  These are verifiable facts.
 
It is easy to find many current predictions and/or forecasts of how, and when, this pandemic will end.  A prediction is specific, i.e., this event will happen on a specific date and time.  So far, ALL predictions have been WRONG, because of the changing nature of the virus, and the widely varying attempts to control it.  A forecast is more general, i.e., in the next three months, this event has a 25 percent probability of happening.  Current forecasts of the ending of this pandemic are all over the map, thus we are left to individually figure out what we will do to survive.  This virus has created a dilemma for all of us.  The definition of a dilemma is a situation wherein all of the participants seek to find a strategy that will have a positive outcome for them.  John von Neumann developed Game Theory to address such situations.  He is considered one of the most intelligent humans to ever live, and Game Theory is widely used in many fields to help people develop good strategies that result in positive outcomes.  Game Theory has proven that in these dilemma situations, when people act only in their own self-interest, the outcome for everyone is not good.  Even when they cooperate, the best, worst outcome, is all they can hope for.  We need to compromise, i.e., give up something just to minimize the adversity of the outcome.  We are not alone.  Your outcome will be affected by your strategy, and, by the strategy of all the other participants.  
 
Given these facts, it makes sense to select among your chosen actions ones that are currently proven to help.  Good luck.