COVID-19 Speculations

COVID-19 Speculations, by Blueberry Town.

1. A large number of Americans, exceeding millions, will become infected.

2. The death rate in the United States will be substantially lower than in China, because we have much lower rates of respiratory illnesses and our medical intervention will, most of the time, be more aggressive.

3. Still, Americans value life and are afraid of dying, so social norms will change rapidly, and perhaps permanently, because of this event.

4. Shaking hands at large gatherings — sales meetings, conventions, and the like — will go out of style. I imagine we will try lots of things, but I hope we settle on a more equal version of Japanese bowing. (It will be interesting to see whether any of our presidential candidates stop shaking hands to make the point.)

5. Workers who do not perform in-person functions (construction workers, massage therapists, real estate brokers, and so forth) will be encouraged to work remotely for a period. Many of them will find they like working at home, and in the end many employers will agree. This will rapidly accelerate the decentralization of work. If you own a huge office building, consider selling it. …

8. The Japanese have already sent their school children home for a month. This might turn out to be a reasonable thing for Americans to do, but it would be much harder for us. What happens to the kids who need school lunches? Who supervises the kids at home if the parent(s) [both] [all] have in-person job requirements? What happens to high school football practice in Texas? We may yet find out. …

9. The world will move away from China as a sole source for anything. … The American heartland will be a long-term economic beneficiary to a degree that will surprise even Trump and his acolytes.

10. We will expose huge gaps in our own competencies, gaps that we have long been worried about, in our quiet moments, but are reluctant to admit to ourselves. For example, a big reason why Chinese companies make so many medicines on which we depend is that China produces a staggering number of students with chemistry degrees. If you need to hire 200 chemists in a hurry, China is the place to do it. That won’t change until Americans raise their children to study useful things again (#SUTA). This event may do it. I predict that the number of Americans studying biology and chemistry will increase significantly. …

13. Businesses will learn new habits, including that they can get by with much less travel. Obviously, this will be very tough on airlines and lodging companies. …

15. If the first effective vaccine for COVID-19 in fact comes out of Israel, virtually all the people who believe in boycotting and divesting from Israel will take the vaccine anyway. None of them will change their minds.