COVID-19 Isn’t Declining Yet

When is it safe to reopen the economy? One relevant metric is R0, which tells us whether the spread of the virus is growing or shrinking. Anything above 1.0 means that each infected person is in turn infecting more than one person and the epidemic is still growing. Anything below 1.0 means that fewer people are being infected and the virus spread is starting to decline:

If this is true, we aren’t anywhere near to reopening. At the very least, we’d want to see a sustained R0 of 0.9 or less since reopening is bound to increase the infection rate. Here’s what the Rt Tracker says about this on a state-by-state basis:

I think it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t consider reopening until your 90 percent error bars are fully below 0.9 at a minimum and stay there for a week or two. There is not a single state that hits this standard. Hell, there are only ten states where the error bars are even below 1.0. In his testimony today, Anthony Fauci agreed:

Dr. Fauci cautioned that more cases were inevitable as states eased lockdowns. He said the benefits of current therapeutics were modest and warned that there was no guarantee an effective vaccine would be available in the near future. “If certain areas prematurely open up, my concern is we might see spikes that turn into outbreaks,” he said during the hearing. “The consequences could be serious. Even in states that reopen with a deliberate pace…there is no doubt that when you pull back on mitigation, you will see some cases reappear.

For the mild-mannered Fauci, this is about the equivalent of a lung-piercing scream: Don’t reopen yet! The epidemic will blow up again if you do.

But we’re reopening anyway. If we had competent leadership urging everyone to stay the course for at least another few weeks, things might be different. But we don’t and they aren’t. Anyone smart will continue to stay at home as much as possible regardless of what the crackpots in the White House say.

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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