THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR…
I confess I am a relentless optimist. The joke of the two boys, one an optimist and the other a pessimist, portrays the difference quite well. The pessimist got a pony for his birthday. He sat looking at his new pony with large tears running down his cheeks. “Why so sad?” he was asked. “All ponies eventually die!” he blurted out between the tears. The optimist was given a room full of manure. He was happily throwing the manure up into the air, giddy with joy. “Why so happy?” he was asked. “With all this horse poop around, there has to be a pony somewhere!”
Despite all the pessimism we are steeped in, I am optimistic. One of our biggest fears is fear itself, as said so well by one of the icons of our nation, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who uttered those words during another crisis our country faced, different but yet similar in terms of even greater risk to life, lifestyle, the economy, and need for regulation of its citizens. A lot of damage has been done by the panic of the coronavirus, which I feel has been whipped up by the media and a lot of craziness in the social media. The rumors that the virus was created by the Chinese, the Russians, the Martians, the Jews, or the US military, with one of their weaponizing projects gone rogue, is just insane. First of all, we are not that sophisticated to create viruses (yet), although the Martians might be if they existed. And this would be a totally new way of terrorism that has never been accomplished by humans before. The global stock markets have shed 6 trillion dollars, while the US markets own 2/3 of that loss i.e., 4 trillion. This seems like another over-reaction in my view. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is nowhere near the aggressiveness of other pandemics we have had. The mortality is going to settle out at less than 1%, and the older population, especially the ones with comorbidities, are at greatest risk. The 1918 Spanish flu, which was the H1N1 swine flu killed 100,000,000. Both MERS and SARS were more aggressive, but peaked out before widespread epidemics. China has peaked out and is on the other side of the curve both in terms of the disease and in terms of its economy. Even their domestic air travel is showing signs of recovery. South Korea is close behind in beating the epidemic. The warm weather is coming. All previous viral epidemics showed an amelioration when the temperature went up, and this will likely do the same with this epidemic (something good that can be said about global warming).
I do have concerns about the wisdom of shutting down the whole country with its obvious detrimental consequences to the economy, when isolating the likely susceptible at risk are the only ones that really need to be. The rest of the healthy younger population could be getting herd immunity. But all the smarter people than me with a lot of data from other countries that have gone through this seem to think that the social distancing, the school closures, limiting the number of people gathering at no more than ten, and working from home, etc. are what is necessary. In the meantime, there are at least ten vaccine candidates out there with Moderna, Inc (Nasdaq: MRNA) in Phase 1 trials that have started today. Several anti-viral drugs that are already available have proven some efficacy against the coronavirus, as does serum from recovered coronavirus patients. Our President and Chief of Optimism thinks by July this will be contained. I do believe that everything that can be done is being done, and a lot of very smart people are involved. There are reasons to be optimistic. There really are no other choices.