America’s first reaction to the Coronavirus was a weird combination of toilet paper panic buying and spring break beach parties.
Today we stand on a Coronavirus Shock Wave precipice. Cities like New York and New Orleans are dangerous hotspots while the rest of America lurches toward self-isolation, trying to reach a consensus about wearing face masks, closing beaches, and attending church. The national question is whether our collective efforts will be enough to slow this epidemic until a vaccine is deployed.
Our economy stands on a similar shock wave precipice. Millions are now unemployed. Encouragingly, we have national legislation and Federal Reserve actions posed to pump trillions into the marketplace. The question is whether these funds will arrive fast enough to stave off a major economic crisis.
How much we suffer from the Coronavirus Shock Wave singularly depends on America embracing exponential growth realities.
Linear growth is what most of us intuitively relate to. An example of linear growth is 2, 4, 6, 8, 10. We have a comfort level that the next number will be 12.
Exponential growth is less intuitive. It is captured by the example 2, 4, 16, 32, 64. The speed and scale of exponential growth overwhelm our sense of normalcy, experience, and intuition. It is the very definition of disruptive change.
Exponential growth’s formula is . (Bear with me, I haven’t put a mathematical formula in a published article since graduate school.)
The moving parts of this formula applied to the Coronavirus are as follows:
“y” is the number of people infected at a moment in time
“a” is how many people are infected at a start period
“r” is the growth rate
“X” is the number of time intervals.
Let’s assume 2,000 people are infected with the Coronavirus in a city or county. (Currently, there are over 350,000 reported cases across America. Disturbingly, because of a lack of testing, we have no idea how many people are actually infected.) Without a flattening of the infectious rate curve, the current estimates suggest that the number of infected people doubles every six days.
Using the assumption of 2,000 infected people and a doubling of infected people every six days, then within two months, the number of infected people will grow to one million!
Imagine cities with one million people infected. Going by our recent experiences, 200,000 will need hospitalization. At current mortality rates, over 20,000 will die. This is the crisis that NYC and New Orleans now confront. Their hospitals are approaching maximum occupancy. They are running out of medical masks and protective gear. Their medical staffs and first responders are being infected and some are dying.
This is not just a big city issue. Our entire population, rural and urban, is exposed. There is no vaccine. There is no medicine proven to cure the infection yet. The only mitigating solution is to shift from an exponential growth rate to a linear growth rate.
The key point here is that Coronavirus will not be eliminated by self-isolation best practices. That will only happen when a vaccine becomes available and a national inoculation occurs.
Social isolation best practices, including the wearing of face masks, will drop the rate of infectious growth from exponential levels to linear growth. The shift to linear growth will enable our existing health system to provide sufficient care. It will allow our economy to recover, but very importantly, under a threat of a relapse into exponential growth.
The second of this three-part series outlines the impact that a Coronavirus Shock Wave will have on you, your business and the country. You will be forever changed. The issue is whether it will be for the better.