Friday, March 27, 2020

Why I'm Optimistic About The Coronavirus

There are three mechanisms by which the Chicom Flu crisis ends.
  1. A vaccine is developed. After that, everyone who gets the shot is effectively immune. Life returns to normal.

  2. An inexpensive, rapid-results test is developed. Allegedly, the British already have one. If it shows you have the antibodies, it's the same as being vaccinated and you can get back to normal life. If it shows you've got an active case, you can self-quarantine or go to the hospital. If you want to go full authoritarian, the government can be alerted and you can be branded with a scarlet letter or wear a bell around your neck or be forced to shout, "Unclean!" wherever you go. In any case, life can return to normal for almost everyone.

  3. A treatment pans out. With a treatment, hospitals or doctors administer it, you get better and you end up with no disease and the antibodies. You can go back to normal life.
From an investor's point of view, one of those three things is considered complete, not when it is fully executed, but when its existence is confirmed. Remember that investors are trying to predict the future. If a rapid-results test is confirmed, then the future is set. You don't need to wait for 100,000,000 of the things to be shipped to be able to determine what will happen 6 months from now. They will be produced and shipped and used. As soon as it's confirmed, an inexorable machine will be set in motion and the outcome is known.

If you remain a pessimist, you're essentially saying that none of these three things will happen. Note that any one of them ends the crisis. If you're a pessimist, you're betting against Big Pharma which is pursuing what could be the biggest payday in history.

Big Pharma beat AIDS.

I'm not betting against them. You can if you want, but I'll take Pfizer and give you the points.

They've got equations and test tubes and microscopes and glowing liquids. How can you bet against that?


Kelly the little black dog said...

Don't you every get tired of being wrong about everything? I know I am! How's that stock market looking today.

(1) A vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus (there is no such thing as the flu you mention), will take AT LEAST another year. A Corona type virus, such as the common cold, regularly mutates into a virus that is similar to what came before, but different enough that it is typically NOT recognized by the immunized immune system. This is why there is no vaccine for the common cold, and why there is a new flu shot every year.

(2) Yes, you are correct here. That is in fact why South Korea and a few other Asian nations have been so effective at containing the spread without having to completely shut down the economy. But you don't have to wait until it is fast or inexpensive. You need to test early and repeatedly. The fact that we waited will greatly increase the damage done to this country's health and economy.

(3) Treatments only work if you keep the patient alive long enough for it to work. It is not a magic potion. Often such treatments only work if taken in the very early stages of the disease, before the body becomes overwhelmed. You can't identify who is in the early stages of the disease without testing. Which we effectively don't have. We test hundreds to thousands, when we need to test hundreds of thousands to millions. We are woefully short of the ventilators needed to keep people alive long enough for treatments to work. Next, there is a shortage of both the technicians needed to run and monitor additional ventilators and the drugs that can be used to treat the disease. Our healthcare system is on the verge of collapse because doctors and nurses are starting to get sick from being exposed to enormous viral loads while treating patients. They are running out of protective supplies and are exhausted. And we currently only have slightly more ventilators than needed to meet normal demand.

This is not an old person's disease. The numbers of young adults on ventilators is equal to the numbers of the elderly. No one is saying this is an Omega man event, that's just you throwing straw men again. The worse case scenarios are 10-15% of the population. Life will go eventually go on. But time is crucial. Yes more ventilators and drugs and PPE will eventually be made, but it will take time that we don't have. You may not have anyone old that you care about left in your life, but I do! This pandemic has been made worse by the philosophy of just-in-time inventory embraced by today's corporations, and people like you, who deny or down play its significance for political convenience. You're a damn engineer. Act like it. Educate yourself and stop parroting right wing talking points. And for your information it took big pharma 30 years to tackle AIDS, so a pointless example.

K T Cat said...

All of your objections are valid today. I'm suggesting that the tomorrow when one of these tripwires is triggered isn't so far off.

Ohioan@Heart said...

Kelly - First I am no where near as optimistic as KT, but his points are valid, as are yours. And, yes, I expect at least one round of CoViD-19 - The Sequel.

Vaccine: yep, really hard. But I disagree that the AIDS example is off the mark. Sure it took decades to really control HIV, the first step was being able to test for it then they found treatments to get people living much longer (and then many of them got to transition to ever better treatments). On the other hand the state of knowledge and technology in the biochemistry world have been revolutionized over that 30 years (take a gander at this plot for cost of a genome sequence over the last 20 years - heck 23andMe is a consumer product now, and while that's not a full sequence, the point stands). Things that used to take years now take days or hours. The rate determining step in vaccines will be proof that it is effective (a few months) and then proof of safety (longer, much longer).

Testing: Your point about massive (nearly universal) testing actually doesn't argue with KT at all. I'm sure he'd agree that our testing readiness was somewhere between insufficient and are-you-kidding-me (mostly due to FDA idiocy - but that's off topic for the moment). But the testing capability is changing as we speak (correspond?). Everyday we get closer to that end point.

Treatments: Right. Treatment to keep people alive while they cure themselves is the current goal (see my point on HIV, above). Yes, improving the testing will have synergistic effect on treatment success. Nothing here to argue about. But it also doesn't obviate KT's point that if we get to where we can treat effectively, then the world can effectively return to normal.

Supply Shortages: Everything you say is true. No one argues it. Yes, one of the first things I said to Mrs Ohioan as the scope of the problem was becoming clear was that now we will see how bad "just in time" can be. But, seriously, can we be prepared to handle every possible catastrophic event? Imagine the warehouses of medical supplies, ventilators, and EVERY OTHER kind of medical equipment. It's just not realistic. Sometimes we have to just deal with what is the best we can. And yes, when this is over we all owe the medical professionals who worked (and particularly those who will have died) more than we can ever repay.

"Not just an old person's disease": Of course it isn't. If it were, they'd lockdown us older folks and tell everybody else to go back to work. Last I checked they didn't do that. As to your "You may not have anyone old [enough] that you care about left in your life". I have an 88 year old mom, an 82 year old dad (in-law, if you wish to be precise) and my wife and I are both over 60 (and I have Type 2 Diabetes, so I'm anything but "safe"). I also have kids and grandkids. Does that give me the high cover to tell you that you are out of line with that statement? I hope so because here it comes: you are out of line with that statement.

With that said, I do hope you have a great day, stay healthy, and keep posting (I do appreciate your point of view).