Okay, I’m not a very reliable opinion-maker when it comes to consistently writing these posts. I would be remiss, however, if I did not jump on the COVID-19 bandwagon like everyone else. I’m not a doctor, a financial advisor, or a professional prepper. I’m just a dude, a trashman with trash ideas.
I wish I could tell you that what I’m about to say is chicken soup for the skeptic’s soul, but I believe there are some realities that we must accept if we want to make it through this. Denial isn’t really an option.
Is the virus deadly? It would appear so, to some degree. It seems to especially target the elderly, while sparing the young. Should we panic?
Our Dear Leader tweeted statistics about the yearly flu, which seems to kill around 0.1% of its victims. COVID-19, on average, seems to be killing closer to 2%, making it about 20x more deadly, on average. That seems pretty serious, but it doesn’t quite reach the threshold of zombie apocalypse. In the dreaded zombie apocalypse scenario that we see in movies, there is no coming back from the disease…98% of the people who are bitten by zombies do not fully recover.
Side note: I'd argue that the real zombie apocalypse is the spread of socialism.
So, when should we panic? Cooler heads should not panic; they should carefully assess the situation, calculate the risks, and take steps to prepare themselves socially, physically, and financially. Some Australian researchers have suggested a worst-case scenario of 15,000,000 deaths worldwide, roughly 0.2% of the population. That means your chance of getting COVID-19 is maybe 10% and your subsequent chance of dying of it is probably about 2%, depending on your age and health. That’s 0.2% probability, or 2 in 1000. In an average year, roughly 36,000 Americans die in automobile accidents, 40,000 from the flu, 20,000 from cancer, and a whopping 647,000 from heart disease. Those deaths, which we seem to accept as common, surpass the worst-case scenario for what COVID-19 would do in the U.S. Considering that the virus has an affinity for the elderly, it’s quite possible that those who suffer from it the most are the same ones who were already struggling with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or asthma.
Again, worst-case scenario, per the estimates of those Australian researchers, we could see around 650,000 deaths in the U.S. when all is said and done. That is indeed a lot of people, but we’re still left with 326,000,000 people. It seems the world will go on.
Some people will indeed find this scary, but they should also be scared of heart disease and diabetes. For everyone else, the challenge will be to keep calm while others freak out. Remaining calm does not mean denying the reality; no matter what, we will all be economically affected by the cooties pandemic.
Remember the cooties game? For most people (all?), cooties did almost no physical damage. However, it did a ton of social and economical damage. God forbid you were believed to have contracted cooties. You were immediately quarantined by your circle of friends, cut off from the rest of the world.
The greater threat of COVID-19 is the cooties angle. What we’ve seen of quarantines is just the beginning. U.S. news from yesterday tells us that several universities have sent students home to do the rest of this year’s studies online. Howard County Public Schools sent out a message yesterday to say that all out of state field trips are canceled. Presidential candidates are canceling rallies. The Securities and Exchange Commission is going to a telework status. None of these organizations have had physical interaction with COVID-19; rather, they are afraid of cooties. Perhaps they are justified.
My family had hoped to take a trip out west this summer. While I’m not worried about contracting COVID-19, I am quite worried about contracting cooties. To pay $3000 for plane tickets today, only to take the risk of either having the flights canceled or getting quarantined upon return, seems a bit foolish at this point. We haven’t decided yet, but we’re already making backup plans, and we’ll probably end up staying local for our summer vacation. I have a feeling there will be some crazy good vacation deals this summer. Even AirBnB’s splash page now has a large notice about COVID-19.
On Monday, the Dow Jones dropped 2,000 points, because investors know what a cooties outbreak means. At this point, the only “good” news that we might see is, “COVID-19 Vaccine Developed!” President Trump can try to stimulate the economy with tax breaks and what-not, but those will have very limited impact, if any. Tax breaks will not stop the spread of the virus. No, cooties is going to be here for a while.
A Few Sobering Realities
I feel that we’re still a the tip of the iceberg with the cooties panic. At some point all of the quarantines, all of the teleworking, all of the “not going to risk going out to dinner tonight,” all of the canceled family trips, and so on will take a devastating toll on the economy. Sure, there are a few companies that may profit (Amazon and Netflix, for example), but the airline industry could easily be bankrupted. The oil industry is already facing troubled times. What about the restaurant industry? Local gas stations? Automobile manufacturers?
Then there is the housing sector. It has recently seen another boom, but I can only guess that potential homebuyers are going to be a bit distracted by cooties. I’ve heard that the military is considering suspending some of the permanent moves of service members. That will have an impact on housing.
As people stock up on toilet paper, will they spend as much time at the shopping mall making discretionary purchases? Who is going to want to go to the movie theater? What about crowded stadiums? They barely take the time to pick up trash…they certainly aren’t going to take the time to sterilize the armrests.
So, what do we do about our retirement? There’ll be those who freak out and sell, sell, sell. Then there are those who will, with feigned stoicism, tell you to keep your investments where they’re at, because the market will probably go back up some day. Gold seems to be nearing an all-time high. I’m not going to tell you what I’m going to do, but let’s play with some numbers:
The Dow Jones stood at roughly 29,000 a couple weeks ago. Let’s assume that you’re a well-to-do professional with $250,000 in your retirement account. Hitherto, you have kept all of it in high-risk funds, thinking that you have 10 more years until you retire. As I write this now, the Dow is at 25,000, with the futures showing a 500-point drop on open. If you had kept your money in the high-risk, you would now see a “paper loss” of $38,793 from the last few weeks of trading. If, like some, you believed that 29,000 was simply too hot, and that it was a small bubble in the market, and you decided to move your money temporarily until the market cooled, you would have been spared that paper loss. Today you could transfer that money back into high risk at a 24,500 price point. If the market does indeed recover to 29,000, you would be at $295,918, over $45 g’s richer. That’s a nice little profit. Then again, if you don’t time it right, you could see a substantial loss. If the stock market were easy, we’d all be rich. It’s all a gamble.
If you didn’t move your money a few weeks ago, does it make sense to move it now? Is 24,500 the bottom of the market? Who knows. I sense that this thing will get far worse before it gets better. I’m not sure if we were in a 29,000-point-Dow economy three weeks ago, and we certainly aren’t in a 29,000-point-Dow economy today. We haven’t seen serious economic costs yet, just the cooties panic. That cooties panic will quickly translate into true economic losses though, as businesses shut down, flights are canceled, schools send kids home, etc. So do we think we’ll be in a 29,000-point-Dow economy tomorrow?
Preparations in the Shire
It’s good to live in the Shire of West Howard. Sparsely populated, illnesses seem to have a bit more trouble spreading out here. We’ve been stockpiling supplies in the the hidden caves for years, and we have plenty of beans, bullets, and bandaids to last us for a while. With spring almost here, we’re planning our vegetable gardens. I can’t think of a better place to be quarantined than the Shire of West Howard!
Should the zombies become a serious threat, we’ll blow out the Triadelphia bridge and put up barricades at other entry points. We will certainly miss our brothers and sisters of the between lands, but if they didn’t learn their lesson from the Great Child Redistribution War of 2019, I don’t think they’ll ever learn. God have mercy.
I hope you don’t want my advice. Why the hell would you want my advice? I’m just a trash man. Nobody knows where this thing will go, because 90% of it is going to be driven by human hysteria. The greatest threat is cooties.
If you’re nervous about the stock market, put your money somewhere safe. If you fear you may need to quarantine yourself, be sure you’ve stocked some emergency rations. If you don’t need to travel to Washington State, stay home. If you don’t have a nice nest egg in savings, don’t spend money on frivolous things right now, especially if you work in a service sector that relies on frivolous spending.
Stay cool. West Howard is a survivor. We’ll be fine out here.