BRANDON J. WEICHERT | THE WEICHERT REPORT
The world has watched in bemusement at Americans of all stripes swamping their local grocery and convenience stores in a mad dash to stock up on non-perishable items, namely paper products, such as toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizers, household cleaning supplies, etc. These Americans have been doing this for the last week and a half, since President Donald J. Trump announced that the country would be invoking social distancing as a rule and would be moving toward a war-time footing.
It’s amazing to me how many Americans are simply ignorant to the woes of supply chains. Perhaps it’s because this is part of my job: understanding how systems operate, but it has taken me some time to appreciate how individual choices can appear rational to the individual but totally irrational–destructive even–to the community. Thus, the perfectly normal assumption that “social distancing” over an indeterminate amount of time, all in order to combat an unseen enemy the likes of which we have little understanding of, would necessitate an individual to stock up necessities as soon as possible becomes an irresponsible decision in the context of group dynamics.
Because the supply chain is perfectly calibrated for operating at what is a predictable and normal day, week, month, and year. Throw in disruptions, such as a run on toilet paper or hand sanitizer, and you will face strategic bottlenecks. This is precisely what the country is watching today. It’s not that toilet paper and these other products are not available–they are. It’s that these products are not available in abundance, where they are needed, and when they are wanted. The supply chain is desperately striving to catch up. And, unless other grave disruptions occur to the society soon, the supply chain will catch up; the desired services will be provided to those seeking them. And by the time they are available, other products deemed essential–say, perishable products, like food–might soon suffer through a weeks-long bottleneck.
These bottlenecks in the supply chain are mirrored in concerns over bottlenecks in the medical system. Whether we are talking about toilet paper at the grocery store or ventilators for COVID-19 infected patients, the strain of crisis is felt in the systems we most need during times of crisis. This sounds obvious yet the actions of many Americans fail to live up to such obvious observations. When griping about why the country must slowly lock itself down from the rest of the world; to understand why the Trump administration is going to increasingly force social distancing upon us and why our economy will become more akin to that of the Great Recession–possibly even the Depression era under FDR–it is because the Trump team is valuing lives over profits.
That’s right. Despite what you’ve heard in the “mainstream” media, the Trump Administration is disinterested in placing corporate profits and economic growth over the potential loss of life due to coronavirus. You see, if the Trump team wanted to pretend as though everything were normal; if it wanted to keep the economy propped up as long as possible to enjoy a convenient political talking point in a contentious election year, they’d do the opposite of what they’re doing. Critics on both sides of America’s gaping political divide keep lamenting the fact that the Trump administration is “killing the economy to flatten the curve.”
Yes, Trump is. Thank God! If the toilet paper apocalypse and hand sanitizer panic is any indication, this is the best move he could be making in the long-run. After all, it isn’t that medical services will be unavailable to you or anyone else during this time of COVID-19. It’s that the system will be under immense pressure to stay operational without additional cases most of which could have been avoided had people simply socially distanced themselves from others. In this way, then, we reduce the number of infected (there will always be infected). And allow for those who have gotten infected to receive quality care, rather than forcing overburdened hospitals to triage people.
What’s more, you have to understand that a hospital is not just the COVID-19 resolution center. Again, this is obvious. But, when the crisis comes, it won’t be so evident to most folks. That’s because the media will be drowning you out with horrible images and hopeless fear-scenarios. Certainly, things are likely to get very bad–at least for a time. But, we can make it through this–especially if we follow the protocols prescribed by the Trump team. Understanding that hospitals, on a good day, are already nearing their breaking points, throwing someone infected with a novel, highly transmissible disease to which there is no cure presently, is a truly terrifying scenario.
Think about your local grocery store again. I recently went to my local Publix to pick up some routine groceries that we were running low on. Ordinarily, such a grocery run would take me 15, maybe 22 minutes to complete. It took me more than hour. I had to fight through panicked crowds; hunt for the products that were normally easy to find; and spend time looking for a store clerk to help me in my search. Ultimately, I found what I was looking for (because those items were not yet things that people were panic-purchasing. Although, I am certain that they inevitably will). Now, apply this observation to a hospital. There are already sick people with tough prognoses. If they receive timely treatment, they’ll survive. But, if they don’t things become problematic. Throwing in massive numbers of COVID-19 cases will make it more difficult for medical staff to treat the other sick people and, on top of the novel disease outbreak, doctors will also be dealing with emergencies in general.
Therefore, the system will breakdown. That is why the Trump administration keeps talking about “flattening the curve.” You think not being able to wipe your bum (which few are actually in danger of at present) is bad? Imagine if you fall and break your leg, are taken to your local emergency room, are made to wait for hours as they are swamped with COVID-19 cases (because no one respected the social distancing guidelines), are soon exposed to the illness floating around the ER, and do not receive timely care as the medical staff and equipment are otherwise indisposed dealing with Denny who decided to take his much younger mistress to Fort Myers Beach and hang around the stupid Spring Breakers because he “wanted to feel young again,” and caught COVID-19 while there.
Yeah, that’s what the president and his team are trying to avoid. And you can–must–do your part in this also. It’s true: flattening the curve; preventing the medical system from being overwhelmed at the start of the disease outbreak so that it can tend to the ill in the most effective manner for the longest time, may kill the economy temporarily. But, having a good economy won’t matter (and won’t last) if million of Americans are dropping like flies because of COVID-19 at around the same time. Not only would COVID-19 become a nightmare health crisis that shuts down our ailing health system, but it would also become an economic catastrophe and lead to a complete political change in this country that would eventuate in a Joe Biden presidency–and, trust me, no one should want that.
Stay home. Stay safe. We can rebuild the economy after we prevent the outbreak.