Are we missing the forest for the trees on coronavirus?

Author: Adam Button | Category: News

What if far more people already have it?

What if far more people already have it?
Markets are optimistic right now. To me this looks like a relief rally because we've avoided a financial crisis via unprecedented central bank and fiscal stimulus. The actions are unprecedented.

In order to get a real bottom, we get need to get some kind of good news on the virus.

What it could be is that many more millions of people already have it. One number to consider is that 34% of people being tested in New York state are positive. That's higher than almost anywhere and particularly anyone who is testing at scale.

Based on that alone, it's safe to assume that far more people than believed already have it. If you extrapolate from that, then it's far less fatal. Even with 37,258 confirmed cases in New York, there are only 385 dead.

The best case scenario may be that it's simply not that deadly except among the aged, unhealthy and people who have an unusual immune response.

The number of positive cases among the wealthy and famous who have access to testing is also a sign that it's far more widespread, but also much less lethal.

I'm not breaking any new ground but it's a theory that's getting easier to defend. If it's true, this could be a complete v-shaped bottom.

When it gets difficult to square is Lombardy. The overwhelming numbers there and high rates of sick and dying people don't add up. Only 39% of tests there are positive, which is only slightly above New York. In Italy as a whole it's 22%. One factor is certainly age. Italy is among the world's oldest countries and the virus undoubtedly is much more dangerous for the elderly but that doesn't even come close to explaining the difference.

Another interesting theory is the viral load theory. I don't think there's any real evidence that I know of but virologists are pondering whether people who are exposed to more of the virus get much sicker. That may explain why so many healthcare workers are dying. There are now 36  doctors who have died in Italy. There are 6500 healthcare workers with it in Spain.

We also have to consider that there's some other inexplicable factor at play too, perhaps related to diet.

Of course it's all just speculation and it will be the experts that ultimately figure it out, but a huge flip-flop from a top UK expert makes me wonder if markets will sort it out before public health officials.

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