My oped on covid 19 that the FT has just kindly published, emphasizes we are operating in a fog — of irreducible, radical uncertainty. As Mervyn King wisely put it. ” “No one can really know the nature of this virus.”
Six years of studying medical advances — Im going to be teaching a new course on this at HBS next year — convince me there is no techno magic that will clarify. Reliable, large scale screening is a Theranos like fantasy: its not just the “upstream” scientific breakthroughs that are a bottleneck — there is a long “downstream” chain — of producing tests, distributing them, training operators to administer them and physicians to interpret them that are at least as great a constraint.
(There is a reason the CDC recommends against routine laboratory testing for flu diagnosis — even though the tests and protocols are well established.)
And without tests, uncertainty about infection and death rates — and efficacy of containment choices is unavoidable.
Our best guess/guide at this point I think is the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Covid could be better. it could be worse. But i dont see any reason for doing more than was done in 2009. This certainly wasn’t nothing — but it didnt involve fnearly global lock-downs and immediate large-scale, harm to people’s livelihoods. And with no exit plans or criteria even.
Some can afford extended sheltering in place. A great many cannot.