Now, many experts tell Vox, that scenario seems impossible. “Two or three weeks ago, we were still hoping for containment,” says Tara Smith, an epidemiologist at Kent State University. “We’re really past that. ... The horse is out of the barn.”
The assertion was based off an estimate from Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, who predicted some 40 to 70 percent of all adults around the world would catch the virus within a year. Lipsitch has since revised that estimate downward and with a greater range: He now estimates it’s “plausible” that 20 to 60 percent of adults will catch the disease. (If this comes to pass, while being bad, it’s not apocalyptic: Most cases of Covid-19. are mild. But it does mean millions could die.)
In Washington state, health officials are now asking community groups to cancel events that bring together more than 10 people, and are recommending that people telework if they can. Pregnant people, people older than 60, and those who have underlying health conditions are being asked to stay home. More states and communities may have to impose such measures in the coming weeks. So be prepared for them.
Napkin math here is that at 60% infection and 3% mortality, we'll be seeing 130 million deaths worldwide. In percentage terms of the overall global population, that's on the same order as total global deaths resulting from all of WWII (usually estimated as 2% of the total global population at the time). Even at 20% that would be 43.3 million.
I don't think anyone figures we'd be talking black plague numbers. It's unlikely we'll see bodies in the streets, with Google street view cars hurriedly converted to automated meat wagons ambling down the road while broadcasating tinny announcements of "Bring out yer dead, bring out yer dead". But deserted streets and huge numbers of failing businesses are a real possibility. As Krugman was recently quoted as saying "[Covid-19] probably won't kill you, but it certainly might kill your job".
Price gouging and panic-buying have already started. My SIL who works at Amazon mentioned tonight that overnight they removed more than a million listings overnight for price gouging and things like hand sanitizer either can't be found or are being resold for $300 for a six-pack (not actually kidding, though I don't know how many are buying). I know Costcos on the west coast are barren this week after being normal last week. I things are quiet where you are, pick up stuff now, because if a panic sets in, you'll see empty shelves everywhere as quick as you can sneeze.
So, no panic, but stay safe, and be at least reasonably prepared. Sensible amounts of non-perishable food, water, plenty of good soap, maybe masks if you have to go out (and get good ones if you can. Some N95-standard ones are shit, even though they technically meet N95 standards). The big beard trend might be coming to a sudden end. Have whatever supply of medications you allowably can. If you have family members who are at risk due to respiratory conditions or other factors, take extra measures to keep them safe (if that's YOU, then be ready to take extra precautions).
We've had to cancel our trip to Seattle entirely. And that's hard because Starr's dad is 85 and we haven't seen him in a few years (he's currently healthy at least). It FEELS like we're making an excuse not to go, even though it's the objectively sensible thing to do. Washington state is already being particularly affected as is air travel. Even if no one gets sick, what are we even going to do with most venues closed? We're a little old to go burglarize Pike Place market for fish that are six days past their expiry. And we might even end up quarantined when we (try to) come back if things get worse while we're visiting.