Saturday, March 14, 2020

Coronavirus VI - Update

OK. Now I'm starting to get a bit irritated.  I warned my wife there would be runs on the stores several weeks ago and we ought to get some non-perishable food.  She pretty much told me to shove it--that I didn't know what I was talking about.  Now the local stores are empty, not just of sanitizer, but most food.  And she's blaming Trump.

I'm not sure how she expects a president to keep shelves stocked in a capitalist economy.

But what really irritates me is that people didn't buy just a bit more, they went all out at emptying the stores.  I really didn't expect empty shelves for most food items.  Do people have empty refrigerators, freezers and pantries during normal times?  Empty space that would allow them to do massive stocking?  I guess they can fill up the kid's bedroom with canned goods.

But from what I can read and infer, production and shipping of most items has not been severely impacted.  Supplies should be getting to the stores, just like Amazon continues to deliver (items not associated with cleaning and sanitization).

Another thing I had worried about early, but at least recently have discounted, is the possibility that electricity or water supplies could be curtailed.  But I haven't heard of any lockdowns where those essentials have been cutoff.  Not Wuhan, not Italy, not even the one-mile radius that New York imposed.  Apparently, government is at least competent enough not to intentionally start riots and kill people with no electricity or water.

Second, HEB (our local grocery monopoly) has apparently said it may close some stores--temporarily?  My wife points to the empty shelves.  But HEB prides itself, and advertises that it buys local.  But there are no stories on the news or online that supplies cannot get to the stores, only that they are being sold out.  Intermittent empty shelves may create some unhappy customers.  But same input (slow) and same output (quick) seems to me to imply that profitability should not be affected.  Why would a store close unless their supply stopped or unless customers stopped buying?

Restaurants to me seem to be the highest risk small business in my area.  I know I won't eat in a fast food restaurant until this is over.  They didn't clean their tables even before this 'pandemic'.  But I can take a Clorox wipe with me to a sit-down restaurant and feel fairly safe--as long as no one is coughing around me.

It's the actual extent of the spread of the virus through the community that seems to present the greatest unknown, and worry.  Johns Hopkins says 43 people in Texas (out of 29 million residents) have the virus.  I assume they are quarantined or self isolated.  They may be the people at Lackland they brought in from the cruise ships.  Anyway, either the virus has spread unnoticed (i.e., most people get mild symptoms), or very few people have it.

Now minimizing social distance and trips out seems wise.  Having a decent stock of food and cleaning supplies is always good.

Better yet would be widespread testing of everyone to show that 43 out of 29 million is the true number of corona virus cases in Texas.  And we would be free to go out!  Testing only the severely sick may be economically practical, but it is a fool's solution if you want to continue with a strong economy.

I'm assuming the government is doing whatever it can, as quickly as it can, to prepare for a more significant spread.

But it ought to be also working to get widespread testing for the general public to allow for a calming effect, and for targeted care of the sick and those who may spread the virus.

It's been warm the past week.  I hope spring is here for good, and the virus will back off.

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