Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Bold prediction time: what will happen with COVID-19?

So the latest news (courtesy of the New York Times):
Americans should brace for the likelihood that the coronavirus will spread to communities in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday. 
“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
So, readers, here are my questions:
  • Will COVID-19 cause major disruptions to daily life in the United States ?
  • How long will the disruptions last? 
  • Will these affect the disruptions affect the broader economy? 
  • If so, how will the disruptions affect chemical manufacturing and the employment of chemists? 
My answers are "yes, very likely (cancelled flights, conferences, concerts, etc", "a month or two, probably", "0.25% to 1% of GDP" and "don't know" and "it couldn't be helpful." Readers, what do you think? Am I looking at this wrong? 


  1. My take...lot of collateral damages because we are so much dependent on freaking Chinese! Our fearless leaders full of wisdom though we are going to save more money, more profit etc. by outsourcing everything! They all went greedy and no one at the top will pay the price but I count many who are at the lower stream will pay yuge price. COVID-19 is slow motion disaster that is unfolding! 10 years back it was different and nearly 10 years later we are dealing with COVID issue. Both man made!

    1. I don't think the problem is so much sending work to China but how much - our supply chain isn't diversified. It's like investments - if you diversify too much, then you can't take full advantage of areas where you can make money, but if you don't diversify enough, then if something bad happens, you are more likely to suffer big losses. For the most part, it seems like the prime actors in the economy aren't concerned with preventing catastrophic failures (because, I cynically assume, they will survive them fine and everyone else can go fly a kite) and so they tend to concentrate their efforts where they can make money with little concern for the durability of the companies or supply chains they make.

      If you live in a specialist economy, stuff like this will happen, and you try to build durability into systems to survive. Unfortunately, when you don't care about the future, durability is not relevant...until the future shows up.

    2. Agreed. It seems to me that the tolerance for risk is going up. Companies are much more willing today to throw up their hands and say "force majeure, not my problem" than they were 10 or 20 years ago.

    3. Like the proposal to not require companies to show they can pay for their waste disposal and problems, some of the tolerance is because the people that don't plan for the future won't have to pay for the costs of not doing so ("socialize the costs, privatize the benefits"). If it doesn't harm them when they mess up (and won't be around when the costs of their actions come due), then it doesn't profit them to deal with it.

      I agree with the last three hypotheses of CJ. I'm not sure how bad it will be here, but the loss of outsourced production will hurt.

  2. Ill be delighted to get sick so I can take off a month or so to read papers and have a great excuse not to be in the lab. I'm not over 80 so I'm likely to live through it.

    1. I wish I shared your enthusiasm for getting sick, and (sort of) wish I had a job where I could just check out for a month and not face any consequences!

  3. meanwhile, APS National Meeting has been cancelled because of concerns related to COVID-19.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20