When is it safe to reopen the economy? One relevant metric is R0, which tells us whether the spread of the virus is growing or shrinking. Anything above 1.0 means that each infected person is in turn infecting more than one person and the epidemic is still growing. Anything below 1.0 means that fewer people are being infected and the virus spread is starting to decline:
Morgan Stanley’s updated COVID model today puts the U.S. national R0 equal to around 1.11 and the epidemic doubling time at about 43 days; reflecting a slowing epidemic, but one where spread is still expanding.
— Scott Gottlieb, MD (@ScottGottliebMD) May 12, 2020
If this is true, we aren’t anywhere near to reopening. At the very least, we’d want to see a sustained R0 of 0.9 or less since reopening is bound to increase the infection rate. Here’s what the Rt Tracker says about this on a state-by-state basis:
I think it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t consider reopening until your 90 percent error bars are fully below 0.9 at a minimum and stay there for a week or two. There is not a single state that hits this standard. Hell, there are only ten states where the error bars are even below 1.0. In his testimony today, Anthony Fauci agreed:
Dr. Fauci cautioned that more cases were inevitable as states eased lockdowns. He said the benefits of current therapeutics were modest and warned that there was no guarantee an effective vaccine would be available in the near future. “If certain areas prematurely open up, my concern is we might see spikes that turn into outbreaks,” he said during the hearing. “The consequences could be serious. Even in states that reopen with a deliberate pace…there is no doubt that when you pull back on mitigation, you will see some cases reappear.”
For the mild-mannered Fauci, this is about the equivalent of a lung-piercing scream: Don’t reopen yet! The epidemic will blow up again if you do.
But we’re reopening anyway. If we had competent leadership urging everyone to stay the course for at least another few weeks, things might be different. But we don’t and they aren’t. Anyone smart will continue to stay at home as much as possible regardless of what the crackpots in the White House say.