Productivity in Crisis

There is so much fear-mongering around the COVID-19 (a strain of severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS) pandemic. While the pandemic is real, the approach to quashing the virus is unrealistic and is damaging not only our economy, but our mental health, as well.

Simply stated, the disease statistics do not support the measures.

Of all those infected, 80 percent will experience mild symptoms and make a full recovery while 15 percent “might” need hospitalization. Of the 15 percent, some will die. The world death rate is 20 percent, but this is only for closed cases and does not account for active tested cases. Nor does it include all cases (i.e., those that have the virus but were never tested).

This is one time where I will invoke Trump’s infamous “fake news” claim. The percentages of overall deaths relating to COVID-19 are false. If the entire population is not tested for COVID-19, then the percentages are exaggerated, and the number of people reported to be infected is inaccurate.

Is the virus deadly? It can be, but so is the flu. So is heart disease. So is tuberculosis. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 people per year. As of April 18, COVID-19 killed about 159,000 people worldwide. When was the last time we shut down the world economy during flu season? Right. Never.

You may say that vaccines exist for a lot of diseases, so COVID-19 is new in that regard. Maybe, but the entire world population does not get an annual flu vaccine or any other vaccine, either. This is a fact. However, not to worry – Big Pharma is working on that vaccine, just like they did on the others.

Disease or no disease, good hygiene is important and social distancing makes sense when dealing with someone with a contagious illness. However, where is the logic in shutting doctors’ offices, shutting stores, shutting private and government offices, and shutting other so-called non-essential services to protect, possibly, 15 percent of the population that is immunocompromised? And where is the logic in socially-distanced lines outside grocery stores and pharmacies? It is utter nonsense!

I may sound like I do not care, but that is not true. I care deeply about my family, friends, and community in which I live. I’m sure you also care for those you know and love. However, the extreme measures imposed on us by governments are not in our best interests. The measures may be in the best interests of the top one percent, but after this is over, most of the population will be decimated not because of the virus, but because of the inane shutdowns that led to economic devastation.

If the entire USA gets COVID-19—population of about 330 million people—based on current statistics of 15 percent hospitalizations, about 49.5 million people may need to be hospitalized. If Canada’s entire population of about 38 million contracts COVID-19, about 5.7 million may need hospitalization. These are big numbers. However, remember that these numbers assume that every person gets the virus. But this isn’t true, is it?

Not everyone will get sick. Not everyone EVER gets sick at the same time nor does everyone EVER get the same diseases that anyone else might get. Some people will NEVER get COVID-19, even if they are in direct contact with someone who has the virus. The same applies to other diseases.

Good hygiene and social distancing may help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The Centre for Disease Control recommends putting distance (at least six feet) between yourself and others, practicing frequent hand washing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces—especially when someone is ill. That seems like common sense when dealing with anyone with an infectious disease. However, all of this can still be done while keeping businesses open to maintain our economic productivity.

As I ponder our current situation, I ask myself if I’m missing some important information about the virus that might help justify the extreme actions imposed on our livelihoods. However, I do not see the logic. I cannot reconcile how shutting down the economy does any good for anyone – whether you are sick with COVID-19, heart disease, the flu, measles, or any other illness.

One thing is certain: We have become drones (perhaps terrified drones) of the government while those selling the “practice” of good hygiene and social distancing are raking in profits. This is occurring at the same time as millions of workers are laid off and businesses are closed (some likely forever). Yes, governments are providing support through wage subsidies and loans to those who have lost their jobs and businesses, but when this is all over, someone will need to pay back those subsidies and loans. Be prepared to expect higher taxes in your near future.

There is inequity even in the government stimulus. Not every family of four gets the same government benefit. Some families get the full benefit, while others receive nothing. Some people want to go back to work because they do not qualify for unemployment insurance and are running out of money; others want to seriously injure those who break the quarantine. For some, quarantine is optimal – a moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flipflops, with a cocktail or coffee. But for most, this is a desperate financial and family crisis.

Look at Sweden. Sweden stands apart. Sweden is not in complete lockdown, yet Sweden’s COVID-19 numbers are on par with similar populations. It is not any better or worse. But Sweden’s people are working and living normal lives – they gather in groups (less than 50), their restaurants are open, they are not forced to wait in lines outside grocery stores. They can shake hands if they wish.

Sweden has a mortality rate that’s about twice as high as that of Denmark (where full lockdown measures are employed)—0.01 percent of the population dead in Sweden versus about 0.005 percent of the population dead in Denmark—and only half that of France.

The bottom line is that this pandemic has created ill-conceived measures and these measures will ruin more lives than save.

We are all paying an extremely high price for COVID-19, indeed.

8 thoughts on “Productivity in Crisis

  1. Spot on Mary!! It’s one thing to say that the cure is worse than the disease but what’s happening now is no \where near a cure—the social cost of the economic upheaval are going to be absolutely immense—the economic fallout will be a pandemic in itself!

    From Peter Hitchens: “The real question is, is this serious enough to warrant putting most of our population into house imprisonment, wrecking our economy for an indefinite period, destroying businesses that honest and hardworking people have taken years to build up, saddling future generations with debt, depression, stress, heart attacks, suicides and unbelievable distress inflicted on millions of people who are not especially vulnerable, and will suffer only mild symptoms or none at all?”

    I am quite apprehensive about the “new normal” and how many of our civil liberties that have been given over to governments and “experts”

    • Thank you so much, Tom, for your candid feedback. Yes, it’s going to be a long road back for all of us from this crisis.

  2. A very interesting perspective, as we try to find a balance living in these unprecedented times. Well worth the read.

    • Thank you, Greg. Yes, 2020 will definitely be of interest to epidemiologists, governments, and historians alike. It’ll be interesting to see if Sweden got it right!

  3. Mary,

    It is indeed refreshing to see your blog based on the data. Data helps us put most matters in perspective and to make good decisions. And I might suggest the covid data does not warrant the steps that have been taken by governments around the world to shut down their economies (i.e. cost versus benefit).

    If you examine the data provided at you will see the number of covid cases in total, by country and by severity of symptoms. The data reveals that 96% of the cases have mild symptoms and 4% have severe symptoms. These statistics suggest we should look at how to best handle the 4% of severe cases. What do these cases have in common? How can we best protect this segment of the population?

    The data by country on this site also allows us to see what is going well and what is not. If we dig a bit deeper we can research the different approaches that countries have taken and the results realized. In fact, as this virus was emerging we might have thought about how countries have handled viral epidemics and pandemics in the past. What has worked well? What has not? This data and analysis would help us to use best practice.

    But guess what, data-based-decision-making is not that common. In fact, I have been leading a global research study on the extent to which organizations around the world use best management practice – ‘data-based-decision-making’ is the lowest rated principle and ‘using external data to compare performance to others’ (benchmarking) is one of the lowest rated practices

    An analysis of this pandemic would be fruitful. I’m hoping such a study can be done by the Global Benchmarking Network where I am a Board Member or the Certified Management Consultants where we have both enjoyed membership. There will be valuable lessons learned from such a study that will enable government to handle such a situation better next time.

    • Thank you for your feedback, Dawn. It is very much appreciated.
      I couldn’t agree with you more in relation to using data to drive decisions. While in this particular case, data may not have been fulsome to start, I believe decisions were made reactively and did not consider the best interests of the entire population.
      Time will tell if Sweden is the model to follow in the future.

  4. Well written Mary – thanks for advancing this perspective. I too have major concerns about the true ‘cost’ of these heavy-handed actions on long term health (physical, emotional and psychological) and both short and longer term economic viability. I’m guessing when it’s all said and done, we’ll find that the mortality rates are comparable to rates of those years with bad seasonal flus. The related ‘costs’ of the shutdowns will be both staggering and long term.

    • Thank you, Scott, for your comment. You’re right. When all is said and done, we’ll all know the true costs of heavy-handed government actions.

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