Since then, the supply of medical and protective equipment has improved. Doctors are finding out when to put patients on ventilators and when to take them off. We have recognized the importance of protecting vulnerable populations, including the elderly. Infections have now become smaller on average, reducing mortality. With help from the Coronavirus Assistance, Relief and Economic Security (CARE) Act, economic activity has stabilized, albeit at a low level.
Or so we are being told.
In fact, the more dangerous phase of the crisis in the US may actually occur now, not last spring. While mortality among the infected is declining with improvements and a more favorable age profile, fatalities are still ongoing at around a1,000 per day. This corresponds to levels in early April, reflecting the fact that the number of new infections is again half.
In any case, mortality is only one aspect of the toll of the virus. Many surviving Kovid-19 patients continue to have chronic heart problems and impaired mental function. If 40,000 cases a day are the new normal, the implications for morbidity – and for human health and economic well-being – are indeed grave.
And, like it or not, there is every indication that many Americans, or at least their current leaders, are ready to accept 40,000 new cases and 1,000 deaths a day. They have evolved to number. They are impatient with lockdown. His politicization is a mask.
This is also a more dangerous phase for the economy. In March and April, policymakers pulled out all the stops to prevent economic bleeding. But if the economy moves south again, policy support will be less. Although the Federal Reserve can always devise another asset-purchase program, it has already lowered interest rates to zero and has uprooted several relevant assets. This is why Fed officials are pressuring Congress and the White House to take action.
Unfortunately, Congress is unable to imitate the bipartisanship which is able to pass the CARS Act in late March. The weekly supplement has been allowed to be abolished for $ 600 (£ 462) unemployment benefits. The divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump and other Republican leaders from “Democrat-led” cities means that help is not on the cards for state and local governments.
As a result, if the economy stumbles a second time, be it due to insufficient fiscal stimulus or the flu season and the second Kovid-19 wave, it will not receive the additional monetary and fiscal support that protected it in the spring.
The silver bullet on which everyone counts is, of course, a vaccine. This is, in fact, the greatest danger of all.
There is a high probability that a vaccine will be removed in late October at the behest of Donald Trump, whether Phase 3 clinical trials confirm its safety and effectiveness. This viewer encapsulates memories of Gerald Ford’s hasty swine flu vaccine, also inspired by a looming presidential election, resulting in Guillain-Barré syndrome and multiple deaths. The episode, linking a controversial scientific paper to autism to vaccination, did much to promote the modern anti-wax movement.
Again, the threat is not just a side-effect from a defective vaccine, but also widespread public resistance to a vaccine that undergoes its Phase 3 clinical trial and has the support of the scientific community. This is particularly worrisome, as suspicion about the merits of vaccination increases in the result of an epidemic that public-health officials, capable of such cases, failed to avoid.
Studies have shown that living through an epidemic negatively affects the confidence that vaccines are safe and influences affected children to be vaccinated. This is especially so for individuals who are in their “improbable years” (ages 18–25) at the time of exposure because it is at this age that attitudes about public policy, including health policy, are largely formed . This increased skepticism about vaccination, observed several times and in places, remains to balance the lifespan of the individual.
The difference now is that Trump and his appointments, by making reckless and untrustworthy claims, exacerbate the problem. Thus, if steps are not taken to assure the public of the independence and integrity of the scientific process, we will be left with only the option of “herd immunity”, which would have given Kovid-19 many known and dubious comoridities. There is no option at all.
All of this serves as a warning that the most dangerous phase of the crisis in the US is likely to begin next month. And before the flu season begins in October.
• Barry Eichengreen is a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former senior policy adviser at the IMF.
© Project Syndicate