Coronavirus – Covid-19: Economy vs Human Lives

The Teacher’s Corner — Post #2

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Hoy seguimos con la esquina del profesor Carlos (The teacher’s corner). Esta es una sección en donde el profesor Carlos compartira sus experiencias de su vida y actualidad. En este caso hablara de anecdotas, historias, pero con el agregado que será en inglés para que puedan practicar el “Listening” o comprensión auditiva. En esta oportunidad el tema el Coronavirus o Covid-19. Se hablará del tema en general pero de ahi nos concentraremos en lo que la mayoria de paises esta evaluando: La economia vs vidas humanas.

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Coronavirus: The Economy vs Human Lives

Policymakers and governments across the world are trying to decide whether to shutter millions of stores, restaurants, and offices in hopes of controlling the spread of COVID-19. These drastic policies, enacted across much of the U.S., will undoubtedly save lives. Yet the economic toll of these measures is expected to be in the trillions, leading some commentators, including President Trump, to argue that the cost of reducing the pandemic could soon exceed the human cost of the pandemic itself.

However, new research suggests that not shuttering these businesses would be much costlier to society, once both the economic and human costs are factored in. Although if we continue with business as usual, it would avert a severe recession and would also cause hundreds of thousands more deaths—and, based on accepted estimates of the cost of a lost life, this increased human toll will more than cancel out the expected economic benefits. The researchers conclude that containment measures are not only economically justified—they’re the only way to ensure that people will change their behavior enough to minimize the full cost of the virus.

Let’s see what would have happened if governments hadn’t stepped in and people were allowed to decide for themselves how much to risk exposure by shopping and working. Such a scenario (which assumes there’s no vaccine for the virus) would likely result in a relatively small recession, with aggregate consumption falling slightly in the peak infection months. The long-term effect on GDP, too, would be relatively small.

Yet when you account for the human costs of such a severe policy, the consequences are stark. The model suggests that hundreds of millions of Americans would become infected, and several million would die. The researchers peg the economic cost of a lost life at $9.3 million, (As of 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency set the value of a human life at 9.1 million. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration put it at $7.9 million — and the Department of Transportation figure was around $6 million. Are any of these the right answer? —— the standard number used by the federal government in such calculations, derived from decades of economic studies that look at how much additional compensation people expect for doing potentially life-threatening jobs (the assumption being that that difference is the economic value we place on a lost life). Based on this figure, the total costs of doing nothing reach the tens of trillions of dollars. (Even when the researchers substitute more conservative estimates of the value of a human life, the total cost remains staggering.)

How much is a Trillion – 1,000,000,000,000

If you stack 1000 thousand dollar bills you would reach an altitude of 67,9 miles or 109.27 kilometers.


So, Do we need to have a Permanent Lockdown?

A total crackdown will prevent herd immunity from ever taking hold. “If you reduce the number of deaths to zero, then you’re never going to get out of this, because the minute you lift containment, you’re going to have a second epidemic,” Rebelo explains. Gradually ramping up containment and imposing strict limitations on working and shopping, on the other hand, allows small portions of the population to be exposed to the virus, so that, once containment measures are rolled back or, the vaccine arrives, the virus will eventually be under control.


A good solution would be to move to smart containment, where you know the health status of different people.  There are some versions of that already in Asia, where people walk around and take your temperature, and if you have a fever, you have to go home. It is also important to test as much as possible.  Such measures could help reduce the economic pain, while still minimizing the death toll.

By bringing together the economic and human dimensions of the pandemic, it helps clarify the immense value of robust and smart containment policies


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