Fighting Coronavirus and the National Shutdown

Hello readers – Scott Asner here.

I hope that you are all staying safe.

Today, I thought I would take some time to think out loud about the state that we find ourselves in regarding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It has been several weeks since most cities and states have implemented shelter-in-place orders – closing non-essential businesses and public areas and placing millions sheltering in their homes. This strategy has certainly worked to help mitigate the spread of the virus, but it has also presented new challenges. As of this point, more than 33 million Americans have lost their jobs and we could be facing some long-term economic damage.

Essentially, we are at war with this virus, and we have difficult decisions to make in the weeks and months ahead. Whether it be at the federal, state, or individual level – decisions for how to respond will inevitably come to a point of factoring in the common denominator of cost. Hopefully as we learn more about this virus, it will help us make more informed decisions that will allow us to balance safety and our way of life.

As is so common in life, there are no perfect solutions. We are having to triage, as we balance the sanctity of life verses our way of life. But there are ways to think about balancing safe measures with opening our nation back up and running.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, researchers are finding that many people who contract coronavirus display zero symptoms, which also indicates that the virus is much more widespread than we know. And while the research is still out on the lasting effects of the virus, this seems to be good news and gives us hope that it is less deadly than our worst fears.

It will require thorough studying, research and solid testing to confirm just how dangerous this virus is, but I believe that we will eventually ascertain a reliable hospitalization and death rate – hopefully sooner rather than later. We can also expect to learn more about which underlying medical conditions may place individuals at a higher risk, and under what circumstances the virus may spread. Once understood, all of these factors and more will provide experts and leaders with a better guide for balancing the economy and public safety.

If it is discovered that the virus is far less of a public safety threat than originally thought, then states and cities will likely begin to lift restrictions in proportion to the risk that comes with doing so.

And the cost of risk is not a foreign concept. You could also take car manufacturing and safety testing as an example. Every day, automotive manufacturers make decisions to balance safety mechanisms with the cost of production. Everything from the types of material used on seatbelts, to the types of airbags installed – all parts of a vehicle and design choices are based on practicality and the risk involved.

As we move forward against the coronavirus outbreak, we should continue to implement smart and practical safety policies as best we can, but in continuing to do so, we will eventually be forced to factor in the inescapable risk involved.

Testing is the key. The most important thing we can do right now is test as many people as possible. Knowing the likelihood of various health outcomes is a critical step in allowing the public to make an informed decision. Obviously, each individual’s decision tree would be dramatically affected if the actual lethality of the virus is found to be 1/1000 as opposed to 1/10.

I am confident that with the world mobilizing its brightest minds to help solve this crisis, we will find the right balance and can begin to repair the damage done to our economy and communities.

Wishing you all the best,

~ Scott Asner, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, Missouri

The Coronavirus Pandemic and Control Groups

Hello readers,

I hope you are all doing well as we continue to endure the coronavirus pandemic.

It has been a difficult time for many of us. People we know may have become ill, and others may have lost their sources of income. Here in Kansas City, and in many other parts of the country, we are currently under shelter-in-place laws that have essentially shutdown businesses and public spaces. These are unprecedented times, and we all want nothing more than to resume our lives as normal, and as fast as possible.

In the meantime, we may finally have the opportunity to study and make headway against the virus with a few cases that could somewhat serve as control groups. What is interesting about these groups, is that they could be tremendously helpful in determining how the virus functions under various conditions and the true likelihood that it can spread from person to person.

Unlike in places like New York City, where there is no true way to manage or measure just how many people come into contact with the virus, these are groups that we can observe with confirmed numbers at the outset. We can use these fixed numbers to then calculate important factors involving the virus. I.E. the severity of the disease by observing the number of mild cases and severe cases, significant symptoms, percentage of fatalities and cases of permanent harm.

With accurate data, we can make better policy decisions to deal with the virus.

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Diamond Cruise Ship

Now known as the “Coronavirus Cruise,” this ship suffered one of the earliest known widespread cases of COVID-19 outside of mainland China in late January 2020. With nearly 4,000 passengers aboard the ship, the virus infected around 800 passengers over the course of a few weeks while docked off the coast of California, 107 of which were American.

This widely reported incident has become a major case of study for researchers, who have now determined that nearly half of all infected passengers were asymptomatic at the time of their diagnosis.

Marion Correction Institute

This case is interesting, if only to illustrates how a tiny virus originating in China could find its way to a landlocked facility located in the American Midwest in a matter of months. With nearly 2,000 confirmed cases, a shocking 78% of prisoners in this facility have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Unlike the Diamond Princess where passengers boarded and disembarked at locations all over the world, this population has remained fixed in a defined area for long periods of time. Researchers may be able to use this case to gain insight into how the virus spreads in closed spaces and help them understand what makes it so contagious.

South Dakota Smithfield Plant

In another example of how the virus can quickly spread in self-contained environments, this meat processing plant has confirmed 238 cases of coronavirus. This particular facility produces about 5% of the entire nation’s pork supply, but as of now, reports indicate that 2,200 workers at 48 different meat packing facilities have been infected, representing 1/3 of the nation’s biggest beef, pork and poultry processing plants. At this rate, we may be facing a severe shortage of common meat products, as many of these plants have been forced to close temporarily.

Here, we again see the potential for this virus to spread to remote areas with very little international travel. And with the high infection rate at these plants, researchers may be able to learn valuable clues about the nature of this virus and COVID-19.

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With the sheer number of variables present in typical cities and towns, it can be difficult to gather accurate information about the nature of this virus and its spread. We need a stabilized environment to assess the reality of the dangers we are facing, and the cases mentioned above may be the closest examples of control groups that we have had thus far. It will be interesting to see what we can gather through studying them closely.

In the meantime, I wish you all the best and hope that you and your loved ones continue to remain safe.


~ Scott Asner, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, Missouri