Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Ultimate Cornavirus Worst Case Scenario for the United States

By Robert Wenzel

Panic continues to hit Wall Street and most of the rest of America as fears of a global pandemic intensify because of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).

So let's take a look at an absolutely worst-case scenario where everyone in the United States gets infected. Yes, let's take a look at a case where every man, woman and child gets infected---though there are indications that children tend not to get infected with COVID-19. Let's go into full Nancy Messonnier nutjob panic mode and even count kids.

With the full US population of 330 million infected, that would mean roughly 6.6 million dead at the current general publicized rate of 2.0% deaths of those infected. But if you move for a moment a step away from Messonnier panic, most coronavirus researchers will tell you they believe the death rate is a lot lower, probably in the 0.2% range or, putting it another way, for the entire US, 660,000 deaths would occur if everyone is infected. They believe that the death rate is significantly lower because of the strong likelihood that many of those infected with just mild symptoms treated themselves without doctor or hospital visits, and thus not showing up in tabulations.

Certainly, any death is tragic, but 660,000 deaths are roughly in line with the number of deaths in any given year from either heart disease (650,000) or cancer (600,000). And keep in mind this is if EVERYONE in the US is infected.

Overall, 2,813,503 peoples died in the US in 2019.

Putting on the accountant's eye-shade for a moment, a few things need to be understood. First, those who have been dying from the virus have been elderly or are seriously ill, thus, most are unlikely to be a part of the workforce. So outside of a week or two away from work by laborers because of the virus, the US workforce itself wouldn't be impacted.

For those who are concerned with supply-chain issues for the US, it should be kept in mind that it appears that the virus has peaked in terms of infection in China and that manufacturers are slowly resuming their operations. So it is difficult to see how supply chain issues will be any worse than 2 months of problems at most. (Most cargo ships crossing the Pacific Ocean between China and the US take between 2 weeks to a month).

But getting back to the worst-case scenario vs. reality, no way will the entire US population become infected. Between government-mandated lockdowns in regions, if there are breakouts of the virus, and self-isolation by individuals, the number infected if the virus hits the US in earnest will be relatively low. The lockdowns and self-isolation would likely have the most significant temporary impact on the economy, mostly it is about over-the-top panic.

In China with a population of nearly 1.4 billion, more than 4 times the population of the US, the number of infected to date has been reported as only 77,600 cases and 2,663 deaths.

It is possible this number is under-reported but it is obvious that the number is nowhere near even a hundred million. That is not even 10% of the population. The current confirmed is .0055% of the population. One hundred times greater is not even 1% of the population.

In other words, taking what has gone on in China, and considering even a much greater extreme here in the US, the threat to the US economy from the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) is at most a minor speed bump--mostly the result of the lockdowns and self-isolation panic, which aren't done for killers like the flu.

There may be some greater medium-term consequences for the cruise line industry with fears from the general public but this Messonnier panic and crashing stock market, as if the economy is going to go back to the stone age, doesn't make any sense.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.comand Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bankand most recently Foundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics and on LinkedIn. His youtube series is here: Robert Wenzel Talks Economics. More about Wenzel here.


  1. I think we are going to be okay. Too bad the press is dishonest. The flu will kill more people this year like other any other year. The flu is double bad if you get a bacterial infection. I'm not too worried about this for now. I would guess more people also get sick or die of food poisoning of some sort.

  2. Come back to this article in 6 months. You will be proven wrong.

    1. If we force an economic shutdown, there will be no way to come back to the article because the internet—and everything else—will be gone. Did you look at the DATA? Or are you drinking the mainstream media Kool-aid of fear and panic? People die every day. Especially the elderly and others with one foot in the grave already.
      It's sucks, yes, but that's the way it is. Stop replacing logic with emotions.

  3. Finally. A voice of reason. People are addicted to the narcotic of fear. They're too busy panicking about coronavirus to consider the catastrophic—and lethal—effects of an economic collapse.

  4. When you get use too going into a bank with everyone wearing a mask and sunglasses on and the protest start from a black guy being murdered by white police officers then you will know you were wrong... When the second wave comes in and makes the original spread look like a splash, then you will know. When you can't buy bullets or guns but it's not because of demand, then you will know. When the nation gathers to protest what is going on with society and looters ruin their own neighborhoods and the president is willing to call on the US Military against it's own people even without state governors approval, then you will know. When you can't remember what life was like before this pandemic hit the world, then you will know.... You were wrong! O 2 late for you now isn't it!