Vaccines Are Not Enough

Vaccines Are Not Enough

Houston, we have a problem,” said the Apollo 13 crew. Now Houston is a problem as some of its largest hospitals reach 100% ICU occupancy. Ditto for many other cities around the US. This is a problem and it’s getting worse.

Meanwhile, the same pandemic that is filling hospitals is also killing jobs. The latest employment report showed the US lost 140,000 jobs in December. We are still down almost 10 million jobs since last winter.

I wrote last week how the economy won’t improve until we get the virus under control, which depends heavily on how fast we vaccinate people. The pace has picked up but it’s still not enough—especially as scientists find the “B.1.1.7” variant is significantly more contagious and is spreading rapidly.

If we want to emerge from recession this year, speeding up vaccinations is necessary but probably not sufficient.  

The Apollo 13 astronauts made it home because people saw the problem and found creative solutions. We need to do it again.

Photo: NASA

Tough Decisions

On March 23, 2020, President Trump said this at a coronavirus task force briefing:

“America will again, and soon, be open for business—very soon—a lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. A lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. We’re not going to let the cure be worse than the problem.”

The “cure” to which the president referred was the business and school closures he had asked states to implement a few days earlier. At that point, the US had a total of 43,850 confirmed cases and 762 deaths. Now we mark similar numbers every few hours.

Nonetheless, with Trump’s encouragement, governors began lifting their orders in April. And the economy did improve in the next few months. But the health problem intensified, too, and now the economy is stalling again.

Of course, these are tough decisions for all national leaders. They had varying success, as you can see in this graph. It plots per capita COVID-19 deaths vs. 2020 GDP growth. Ideally, you want to be in the top left, meaning relatively fewer deaths and relatively better economic growth.

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