COVID-19 fatality projections are sinking like stones. That shouldn’t be a surprise, as reality has never begun to match the models’ numbers, just as it hasn’t in past epidemics. The Hill reports on the administration’s falling fatality numbers:
Anthony Fauci, a leading member of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, said Thursday he thinks the U.S. death toll from the virus could be much lower than the 100,000 to 200,000 first estimated by the White House.
Was that really the first estimate? At one time, people were talking about deaths in the two to three million range. I suppose no one wants to be reminded of those predictions at this point.
Fauci said on NBC’s “Today” show that given widespread mitigation efforts, the death toll will likely be closer to 60,000 as the U.S. now has more data about the growth and spread of the virus throughout the country.
That is what the IHME is now projecting, too. Their numbers are sinking rapidly; 60,000 is just a way station in the downward trajectory. The actual number of COVID-19 deaths, currently, is 14,696 according to the Centers for Disease Control.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes smells a rat:
The most cynical interpretation of all this, one I can't quite bring myself to accept, is they rolled out the model showing 100k deaths after they knew it would be less than that so they could anchor everyone to that # and take a vicotry lap when "only" tens of thousands died. https://t.co/hYiUCHhO5g
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) April 8, 2020
Hayes has been widely denounced for floating a conspiracy theory. But what some call conspiracy, I call politics. Did politicians know that early estimates were wildly off base? It depends on what the meaning of “know” is. And, actually, President Trump set the bar at a reasonable level when he referred to 100,000 deaths. That is far lower than some of the early projections.
Hayes, given his partisan orientation, confined his speculation to the Trump administration. But what about all the Democratic governors and mayors who are poised to claim credit for limiting COVID-19 fatalities? Here in Minnesota, our governor preposterously alleged that absent his actions, there would be 74,000 deaths in our state. The actual count, as last recorded by Scott: 39. Do you think any Democratic governor or mayor will fail to take credit for lives allegedly saved?
All incumbents, regardless of party, share a common interest in citing bad model predictions and claiming credit for the models’ failure to describe reality. No doubt self-isolation measures have helped to some degree, but it will be easy for politicians to give their policies credit for what largely is attributable to models that were wrong in the first place, just like prior models for prior epidemics.
Politicians quickly figured out that there was little down-side to taking harsh, economy-killing measures. They could be blamed for doing too little, when the inevitable deaths occurred, but who would blame them for doing too much? As the feckless Andy Cuomo said, if we save just one life, destroying our economy and devastating the lives of millions is worth it.
One of my partners linked earlier today to an excellent piece by Mollie Hemingway in The Federalist. The whole thing is well worth reading, but for now, Mollie’s penultimate paragraph quotes Tucker Carlson:
Tucker Carlson recently said, “If the coronavirus shutdown was crushing college administrators or nonprofit executives or green energy lobbyists, it would have ended last week. Instead, it’s mainly service workers and small business owners who have been hurt, and they’re not on television talking about what they’re going through. You need to look closely to see their suffering.”
I think that is right. But here is a glimmer of hope, from the TaxProf Blog: “BigLaw Starts Cancelling Summer Associate Programs, Delaying First Year Associate Start Dates, And Cutting Salaries.” Prof. Caron cites many examples, but I like this one:
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (ranked 44 by Am Law) co-chairs Steve Baumer and Lisa Mayhew sent a firm-wide email letting everyone know that all employees making over $40,000 will be taking a 15 percent pay cut.
Biglaw has been awash in cost-cutting measures designed to keep the firms afloat during these hard times. The latest example of that comes from Am Law 100 firm, Nixon Peabody.
The firm already announced massive staff layoffs, and now lawyers are also seeing the axe. According to multiple tipsters at the firm, the firm is cutting 10 percent of non-partner attorneys, and tipsters report even senior associates were impacted. The cuts are divided by approximately 5 percent layoffs (with three months of health insurance) and 5 percent furloughs (presumably with full benefits).
Big law firms are losing money? Now it’s serious! Every small businessperson in America can take heart from the expectation that people who really count with the Democratic Party will soon be agitating to restart our economy.