The early coronavirus victims will save our economy
Because of COVID-19, we are in social isolation. We all wonder when this will end. The isolation is moving the unemployment rate to Great Depression level. This makes us question if all of us must be in quarantine.
Eventually, most of us will be infected. We feel sorry for those who die from it, but those who survive will have antibodies against the virus. These people are protected and need not isolate themselves. Their chances of being reinfected are low. They can physically rejoin society in relative safety. This means that people can trickle into the physical workforce. How quickly will this happen? On 7 April 2020, we had about 30,000 people in the United States infected that day. At that rate, we will all be exposed in 30 years. I do not want to wait 30 years to get back to normal.
We can count on herd immunity to save us. This is when so many of us are immune that if one of us is infected, he is unlikely to infect a succession of people to cause another epidemic. The number of people to get the virus to provide society this kind of immunity is believed to be one third to two thirds of the population. Now we need only wait for ten to twenty years.
The number of official COVID-19 cases is not the real total. It is just those who were tested or diagnosed. The real total may be much higher, which is actually good. Suppose that the U.S. has 60,000 COVID-19 deaths when the situation settles down, perhaps in a few months. Suppose that it also has 6 million confirmed cases. It may have 60 million exposures. We then need to wait until we get to two to four times as many of these exposures.
While we are waiting for our herd immunity to come in, the economy will desperately need for those infected and recovered to stop their quarantines. If only the confirmed cases are considered to be recovered, presumably 6 million people, then only 2 percent of our labor force can work normally. If those who believe that they were exposed and have antibodies go back to work, then the subset of them who are incorrect may restart the epidemic. The solution to this problem is to test people who believe that they have antibodies. The FDA is now evaluating several competing tests for accuracy. They may be approved within weeks. At that point, as people test positive, they can rejoin the physical workforce.
Without antibody testing, normal economic activity will resume state by state as dictated by the federal government. It will take a long time to recover.
By using the antibody test, we may have in just a few months an order of magnitude more people working efficiently. As more people become exposed, then recover, then get tested, they can trickle into the workforce. Once we get up to two thirds of the people exposed, we can declare victory and not require the test.
We should cherish those who were infected and recovered. They are the key to our salvation.