Save the Economy – Just Quarantine Seniors?

I’m a senior myself. After hearing some stats and discussion on CNBC this morning, I’m wondering if a lot of businesses and money could be saved by just quarantining seniors and folks with underlying conditions instead of the whole population. Carl on CNBC stated he read that out of all the deaths in Italy (over 29k edited to correct number of 2,500, so far), no one under 30 years old had died. Are we going about this in such a way that we will crush our economy when it might not need to be everyone under a quasi-quarantine.

I have no idea if the above has merit, but I thought a discussion about it might, since I personally know of two small businesses that are likely to fail in a few weeks. Tax breaks don’t help if you have no income.

Thanks to anyone who contributes, and good luck to us all!

14 Replies to “Save the Economy – Just Quarantine Seniors?”

  1. It’s good to be thinking about possibilities.
    My guess is that most of the at-high-risk population that can afford to do so is self-quarantining to the extent it can. I know we are, and the (small number of) family and friends our age are also doing so.

    As to the at-less-risk population: I’m no epidemiologist, but what I’ve heard and read, that passes my sanity check, is that this particular virus is very highly communicable — that means it spreads very easily, but doesn’t say anything about how dangerous it is. The odds seem to say that with less quarantining, a quite large percentage would contract the virus quickly. The key word being quickly.

    It also seems to be the case that a significant percentage of people who get the virus, get sick enough to require medical care. One major problem we’re trying to avoid is swamping the medical care system with a rapid spike in case count. “Medical care system” includes personnel, equipment, medicines, diagnostic capability, hospital beds, etc. If we can slow the spread, the spike is shallower, and delayed in time. This can hopefully allow manufacturers to increase inventory.

    So don’t think of “quarantining the kids” as trying to prevent them from getting the virus ever. we’re trying to keep as many people as possible from getting the virus soon.

    And, of course, I may be totally wrong in this guesswork.

  2. Thanks Xanti for bringing this topic up!
    Here is a good article on how this could get better until a vaccine comes. As the article I linked says, for those that are healthy, getting COVID-19 is not life threatening and it may actually help stop the spread of the disease sooner as those that get it generate antibodies to protect themselves. However it is true the biggest issue is protecting health compromised people from getting it and a sane approach might be focusing on them instead of broad quarantines?
    I was thinking why not create a hotline to give advice and to help setup delivery of food and protective stuff to those that meet the criteria and even free for those with financial problems? I think it could be way more effective, less disruptive, reduce number of people overwhelming the hospitals and clinics, and less costly than broad quarantines and we could put more money into preemptive identification of pathogens and finding vaccines and putting them into production sooner in the future?

  3. watersweet says:

    Resources
    Risk
    Benefit/Reward
    It’s a very tricky equation that’s been around for a long time.
    Take the genetics of Insulin dependent diabetes.
    The more of those folks we keep alive, the more susceptible offspring they produce.
    Do we treat them and allow their free will to determine their choices?
    These situations are the very foundation of this country which attracted both sets of Grandparents to leave everything.
    They came here with nothing including the language.
    Their children served in the Military and many attended college.
    Next generation, mine, is successful beyond their imagination.
    And the future?
    As they routinely told me:
    We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
    Let’s make sure we’re ready.

  4. I appreciate all your responses so far. Part of the reason I posted this is the sad reality, for me, that two people close to me will likely lose their jobs and their businesses with this public “stay home” policy. The one that may lose their job will be due to the business going under. In both cases, these are businesses where the owners live on the cash flow and don’t have the ability to pay the employees not to come to work. And, a tax break later won’t help them without any earnings coming in. A government loan is of no benefit either, since it just puts them in a debt position they can’t afford to pay.

    My idea might be to just continue with a lot of the targeted restrictions, but just for seniors and other defined risk groups. I don’t have the data, but would presume that most people that aren’t in the at risk groups wouldn’t be very sick long, for the most part, and therefore wouldn’t overwhelm the hospitals or clinics. I would think that we would have enough data, to consider an alternate approach, such as this, in the next week or so. Hopefully, before too many small businesses in the U.S. have to go under.

  5. watersweet says:

    Both my son’s have been furloughed today.
    There isn’t the data to support your thesis.
    We haven’t seen the real effects of Covid 19 in this country…yet
    Once again, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
    Let’s make sure we’re ready.
    btw, both son’s are secure and healthy.
    Sheltering in place.
    And at their ages, they will likely recover if it infects them but no guarantees.
    We can’t shelter our kids from the world, it’s part of becoming adults.
    And this isn’t Italy…yet

  6. I’m not sure I understand your comment about someone’s Paw Paw, etc. My idea was not fo force anyone into quarantine, just to do something like we are now, and suggest that all at risk people stay to themselves and self quarantine. This wouldn’t be to keep them from giving the virus to anyone, but to protect them from catching it. No one would be offended, as the people that were out and about would be the people that weren’t worried about it.
    The government advice might read like this “All people at risk for catching the Corona Virus are advised to shelter in place and avoid group settings until a suitable vaccine and/or viral drug solution has been approved for public use.”
    This could spawn some new short term businesses to take them food, goods, etc. And, it wouldn’t put many businesses under.
    I know my idea has many potential holes in it. But I’d like to know people are considering simpler, less totally draconian solutions for our situation.
    Thanks again, and be well!

  7. Tim Dawson says:

    I’m an old retired family doc and doing some rough math…
    Population of US between 18 and 64 is ~201,000,000.
    Assume only 30% become infected and the death rate for those ages, as published yesterday, is 0.5%. If all we do is quarantine those over 65, a reasonably expected number of deaths would be 301,000. Steve Hilton from FOX has accused the CDC and Anthony Fauci (a true hero) of being willfully and conspiratorially overwrought in their recommendations for action by all ages. The number of seriously ill, ventilator requiring patients in just this “low risk” population will far outstrip the entire supply of ventilators in the country. If that sounds just hunky dory, then by all means just quarantine the elderly. Otherwise, FOLLOW CDC RECOMMENDATIONS.

  8. just a thought, we are used to dealing with the flu. It kills about 40,000 people each year in the US alone, old and young. It is more contageous than the Covid 19 but less deadly. We are used to dealing with it while life goes on. Perhaps something to be learned there. I too am supporting children who are losing work (I’m retired) so the financial impact of our current course of action is real. I would consider alternatives. Worldwide, less than 40,000 have died from Covid19. We need a more rational approach than shutting down society and everyone buying toilet paper, guns and ammo.

  9. waltworks says:

    Just a few random thoughts:
    On Sunday, California (Governor Gavin Newsom) requested all individuals over age 65 or with the noted chronic health conditions to self-isolate. I don’t believe it was in any way a mandate. Also, as I understand it, people in at least seven Bay Area counties have been “ordered” to “shelter in place” and leave home only for specified essential activities. I believe the Bay Area guidelines are required to be followed.

    As to your suggestion to somehow isolate only certain groups by age or health status, I, personally, am not in favor of it. I am as concerned as anyone about the economic impacts and don’t have any great suggestions (though I have ideas) on precisely how those impact should be addressed. I just don’t think different rules for different groups is an acceptable approach. Newsom’s requests seem more reasonable to me–at least for now.
    I don’t live in California at present and would be glad if anyone in the affected areas could add any detail or make corrections to what I wrote. At the present time, my spouse and I are voluntarily “self-isolating.”

  10. IN Wisconsin , they closed all the bars, schools, and restaurants except for takeout. In the grocery stores. I was treated rudely at the Woodmans store when I told them I wanted to bag my own groceries. People do not get it. There was no effort to provide social distancing. We need to do what Italy, France, and San Francisco are doing. Stay home except for groceries and medications. The news said that we are short 790,000 ventilators. We can only survive if we can flatten the curve. Sadly it may be too late. It is not only the senior citizens who need to stay home, it is everybody. Young people think they will be okay but their actions could lead to the death of their parents and grandparents and everyone with asthma, diabetes, and heart conditions. I hope you survive. We need Winston Churchill’s Fireside chats and FDR’s leadership. We need a hero and we need to act like we did in WW II when we were a nation at war and everyone was doing Victory gardens, working in bomb factories like my dad, being in the Navy like my uncle, , or teaching morse code to the coast guard like my aunt. Thanks for the post. STaying home is getting boring and frustrating. Listening to the news heightens my fear of dieing prematurely. I am a good saver and investor and saw my portfolio sink. that is sad but in the end life and good health are all that really matters. I wish you good health in these tough times. I hope there is a light at the end of the tunnel. My dad watched his parents go broke during the great depression. They survived on their family farm. We will get through this but many of us will perish.

  11. @Xanti
    A really tough set of problems, with limited technical understanding of the virus, let alone effective treatments and preventive vaccines. That said, inaction is not an option. I am especially concerned about all those small businesses and their employees, most of whom don’t have much financial flexibility or back-up resources.

    There is talk of emergency unemployment insurance, which could help. $1,000 checks to everyone? That doesn’t seem prudent to me. Why not focus any emergency cash on those who need it most? Say, 2019 income below some threshold, like 2X the poverty level? Then there are SBA possibilities, as well as some banks that seem to be stepping up to the plate. The situation is urgent for many folks in the service industry; rent is due on March 1.

    As for quarantining, I see most people in the senior group voluntarily complying – cancelling weekly dinners and bar nights, bowling leagues, etc. No one had to force them to do this, but the temptation to over-reach and lean on enforcement instead of persuasion is ever-present in government agencies, especially those in big cities like LA, SF and NY.. Americans are better-persuaded to do the right thing with positive motivation, and tend to resent nanny-state mandates. .

  12. Quarantining just seniors won’t stop the spread of the virus. Younger adults can, and have, caught the virus, and thus can spread it. While there haven’t been any reported deaths (as far as I’ve read) among children, they, too, can be carriers who spread the virus, as they very likely still catch the virus but are asymptomatic when they come in contact with other people.

  13. Shannon1981 says:

    Xanti, I’m 67. I’m already compromised with numerous health issues. Now, don’t go nuts here, it’s just me thinking out loud…
    Maybe, if we’re short-handed and short-supplied in almost every resource, I should not consider treatment for me should I acquire the virus.
    As long as I stay quarantined and everyone else is protected from me should I acquire the virus.
    Let what’s left of my immune system fight it off if possible or not.
    Leave limited resources for those who have a better chance at survival.
    Yeah, I want to stick around, no doubt about it and of course I want to be here to care for my wife…
    But, if it isn’t in our/my cards, why use something up that someone younger, healthier, etc., might need.
    What’s wrong with that? I’m not advocating this for everyone, just me.
    Isn’t this what we send our young women and men into when they join the military or the peace corps, or risk their lives as firefighters, rescue personnel, police officers or enter into the hands-on-side of the civilian medical branches?
    Sacrifice. Sacrifices for our country. Sacrifices for our fellow Americans.
    In my book, it’s the same.

  14. Please don’t be fearful. I know it is easier said than done, but you and I have been through this before. It won’t last forever. Try to remember your coping skills and add to them. Always look on the bright side. Is it really that bad to die? I think not and you shouldn’t think it is. If you are religious, fall back there. If not, that’s okay, too. There is always something to be joyful about.

    A Beautiful Day.
    A Beautiful Woman
    A Handsome Man.
    Cloud formations
    The ability to walk, speak and hear.
    There’s always something out there that you should be Thankful for. You just have to find it for yourself.
    Good Luck, You’ll Be Okay,
    Clark

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