Coronavirus. We Got This.

Despite the slow-growing anxieties and government incompetence, expect Americans to be resilient in fighting the pandemic.


Last night, around 6:00 P.M. at the Whole Foods Market on the corner of Bowery and Houston streets in New York City, people frantically picked the store clean of just about everything, especially frozen and canned goods. This store is always crowded—I've been told it's the busiest Whole Foods in the country—but the checkout lines were the longest I've ever seen them. The bare shelves there looked disturbingly like ones in Venezuela circa 2017. Similar scenes played out all across the biggest, most-populated city in the country, where folks were desperate to stock up on food, toilet paper, and other staples as the coronavirus spreads. Especially in Manhattan, desperation is creeping into everyday life.

Just a couple hours before, Mayor Bill De Blasio had declared a state of emergency without really explaining what that meant, other than extra vigilance in officially reporting coronavirus cases, plus letting 10 percent of the municipal workforce telecommute. He promised that a full quarantine of the city was "unrealistic" and not in the cards, but also stressed that the situation was changing on an hourly basis. So who knows what diktats might come over the weekend from one of the least-liked and most-knuckleheaded elected leaders on the planet? This is the guy whose first action upon taking office in 2014 was to try to ban horse-drawn carriages from Central Park and move all the horses up to a retirement farm upstate.

Earlier in the day, another widely distrusted politician, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had banned gatherings of more than 500 people across the state. Broadway theaters, museums, and legendary venues such as Carnegie Hall announced they were locking their doors for the foreseeable future. Suddenly you could ask yourself: Is this Fun City or a grim reboot of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death?" Cuomo had also instituted the nation's first "containment area," a sort of soft quarantine, in New Rochelle, a cartoonishly inoffensive Big Apple suburb best known as the place where the fictional Petrie family lived in the old Dick Van Dyke Show.

"We will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus," declared President Donald Trump in a widely panned speech from the Oval Office on Wednesday night. Amidst official next-day corrections of the president's remarks, the markets tanked; Trump's optimism has done little to buoy spirits. The cancellation of annual college basketball tournaments and the rest of the NBA and NHL seasons, along with the delay of baseball's opening day and a number of high-profile movie releases, underscore that we're at the early stages of a pandemic that might kill anywhere from a few thousand Americans to 1.7 million of us. (That latter figure comes from a worst-case scenario exercise conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Only two things, one inarguable and one more speculative, seem clear at the current moment. The first is that the federal government's response has been generally incompetent and ineffective from the get-go. As Reason's Ronald Bailey has written,

Officials at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stymied private and academic development of diagnostic tests that might have provided an early warning and a head start on controlling the epidemic that is now spreading across the country.

Mass fingerpointing is underway in the political arena, with Republicans and Democrats now fighting over who exactly is to blame for all this and what to do next. Unsurprisingly, political leaders are pushing stimulus programs that are remarkably similar to the legislative agendas they had before anyone knew what the coronavirus was. After all, there's an election to win (or lose) in November.

Second, as governments at all levels try to redeploy our public-health apparatus more effectively, individual citizens will take more responsibility for their own roles in reducing the pandemic and securing not just their own health but that of their neighbors. If the CDC and other government actors screwed up by insisting on a tightly controlled, centralized, and sclerotic response to the coronavirus appearing in the United States, there's every reason to believe that regular Americans are doing everything they can and should do to minimize the spread of the disease, from being more careful about hygeine to voluntary "social distancing" and minimizing contact.

As important, shortages of hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and the like can be unnerving but are almost certain to be temporary and short-lived. Market economies are remarkably good at ramping up production, creating workarounds, and generating substitute goods and services in all sorts of ways.

The most surprising thing about the scene last night at Whole Foods in New York wasn't that it was so crowded. (Like I said, it's always crowded.) It's how chill people were, how polite and respectful. These are the first days of a health crisis that will unfold over weeks and maybe even months, so I'm cautious about loading too much significance into any early indicators. A month down the road, perhaps we'll be at each other's throats like warring factions in a zombie-apocalypse flick. More likely, we'll have minimized the spread of the disease thanks to changes in our behavior, increased the effectiveness of our institutional responses, and learned how to get along a little better than before.

NEXT: Will Trump's New Travel Restrictions Help Combat Coronavirus?

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  1. Is this when Reason finally starts to backpedal and step away from the hysteria is has been stoking for the past month?


    1. Just two posts down ENB is uncritically sharing wild-eyed statements from Obama admin hacks that make Alex Jones tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories look reasonable.

      I’m beginning to wonder if Reason isn’t a respectable libertarian version of /b/ where people can post whatever shit they want and no one cares.

    2. It is comforting in a time of national emergency to know that Geraje is here to satisfy the demand for the bigoted hayseed perspective on pandemic management that remains in the wake of Pres. Trump’s falsehoods, unwarranted boasts, and counterproductive statements.

      1. Equally comforting to see cut/paste lies and general bullshit spouted by bigoted asshole, bigoted asshole.

        1. Open wider, Sevo.

          The backlash against disaffected clingers is just beginning.

          1. Backlash? Whatta you gonna do, not serve me my coffee?

            1. He’ll forget to pick up the dog poop when he does his dog walking job.

              1. He will still greedily swallow the results of his position as glory hole attendant.

          2. Haha. Rev, your distinctive blend of unearned smug superiority and vague, meaningless threats are absolutely terrifying! Oh no’s!

            Seriously tho, good parody, old man. Don’t change a thing.

  2. That latter figure comes from a worst-case scenario exercise conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    At least now we know who the “experts” are. Is that worst case where everyone gets the Coronavirus and AIDS at the same time?

      1. Will they go to the store and pick up toilet paper for me?

  3. I fully expect people on the right to hitch up their pants and get on with life and the lefties will go into a fetal position in the corner if they get a sniffle.

    1. Really? Seem like the people on the right have been running around with their hair on fire yelling conspiracy theories. Or selling quick cures (thinking Jim Baker here). While most of the rest of us conservatives, moderates, and liberals have been saying we need to get testing and get data. Focus on the problem and address problems as they come.

      1. Even your attempts at gaslighting are lame.

        1. I think he outed himself as Voxs Yglesias.

      2. Mod, you progs are never rational or correct. What an absurd notion.

      3. “liberals have been saying <>” — Hate to burst your bubble there but the ‘focus’ on ‘need’ isn’t really “addressing any problem” but it makes a problem arise; that of self-entitlement and authoritarian [WE] delusions.

        It’s amazing how the left can run around screaming that Trump is ignoring the problem then hear them say the right is the ones running around with their “hair on fire”…. Y’all have no sense AT ALL!

    2. Lots of folks out and about in my lefty neighborhood today. Wouldn’t have guessed anything was amiss from the line to get a table at the local coffee shop. Guess they are ignoring the advice of the scientists they claim to worship.

      1. Even DiCaprio takes the private jet to the climate conference. Global Virus Jihad needs a Greta for socialists to start a real hypocrisy movement.

  4. Wow a libertarian take from a libertarian magazine. Kind of a rarity these days.

    1. It is a sad sad world that The Jacket has become the only reliably libertarian voice. I have noticed this at least since the impeachment began. But I guess he is the only one old enough not to have been completely infected by SJW nonsense growing up in school.

      1. He has a very mild TDS case. Opposite of Coronavirus TDS mostly damages the young.

      2. No kidding. You know it’s really bad when Goth Fonzie is the closest thing to a voice of reason among the full-time regs.

  5. >>and learned how to get along a little better than before.

    that’ll last

    1. Sadly I think you’re right. Esp since – this first wave will die down.

      Unfortunately – its the second wave that’s the big one

      1. “ More likely, we’ll have minimized the spread of the disease thanks to changes in our behavior, increased the effectiveness of our institutional responses, and learned how to get along a little better than before.”


  6. These stores should at least open a few 1000 items or less express lines.

  7. as governments at all levels try to redeploy our public-health apparatus more effectively, individual citizens will take more responsibility for their own roles in reducing the pandemic and securing not just their own health but that of their neighbors.

    I disagree that this will happen at the purely individual-as-self-worshiping-uberhero level. It will happen with individuals in voluntary civic association with others. The sort of stuff that deToqueville marvelled at re Americans. The stuff that AJ Nock warned was being threatened. The stuff that Putnam observes as now-extinct.

    Echo had an interesting idea a couple days ago – that libertarians need to be building community right now. To SHOW what the alternative can be. To resurrect that classical liberal idea. I’ve got a decrepit old blog site that I’m willing to repurpose for this. If you’re interested, comment there. The blog-comment format here can’t really work to do that cuz topics scroll too fast (and drive-by sock-puppets turn discussion into a sewer)

  8. Anyone remember H1N1?

    That should have been far scarier based on the populations it affected. Did we have this kind of panic with that one?

    1. No. I’m not sure the percentage of media outlets owned by financial firms, but creating hysteria while shorting the markets is evil brilliance.

      Example: the western U.S. had cycles of drought and fire forever, as monsoon lightening strikes hit in drought years. The worst on record dust bowl-before climate hysteria. The fires have gone up due to the population increase of idiots who shoot flamethrowers or throw cigarette buts into a tinder box drought areas. I had noticed years ago (whenever Vox was up and running) that they blame the fires on climate change to push the wealth redistribution narrative- its the new normal.

      I’m afraid every time a bug hits anywhere in the world, this will be the new normal. The government has to spend, tax the top 50% and redistribute wealth to the bottom 50% cause the common cold, or whatever the crisis du jour.

    2. 60 million Americans infected (more really – I got it but never went to doc, so not included in the stats).
      300,00 Americans hospitalized.
      18,000 Americans dead.
      And nothing but the tiniest peeps from the MSM

      1. Also, 80% of deaths were under 65.

      2. There was a declared state of emergency, I recall. But they didn’t shut down all the amusement parks and sports leagues back then. Some cruise lines did get shut down.

        We’re still in the very early days, though.

      3. Yeah you’re right. I’ve never heard of this ‘flu’ thing. Every year. IDK how it is possible that 30-70% of the population in different age groups gets the vaccine. Every year. How are they finding out about that?

        1. Also touching on a key component that people who make frivolous comparisons to the flu miss: we have treatments and a vaccine for the flu. We don’t have those for this coronavirus.

    3. Not as bad as HIHN.


    Now that the number of new people infected with the coronavirus in China is slowing down, the country’s Communist Party is ratcheting up threats against the West, with a particularly nasty warning about access to life-saving drugs aimed at the United States.

    In an article in Xinhua, the state-run media agency that’s largely considered the mouthpiece of the party, Beijing bragged about its handling of COVID-19, a virus that originated in the city of Wuhan and has spread quickly around the world, killing nearly 5,000 people and infecting thousands more. The article also claimed that China could impose pharmaceutical export controls which would plunge America into “the mighty sea of coronavirus.”

    1. Golly gee. Who could have possibly predicted that response – when we flew into Wuhan to evacuate Americans, which required the Chinese to waste their time getting those folks through the lockdown to the airport – and we didn’t even drop off any medical supplies (which were in massive shortage in Hubei then) as a thank you and a neighborly gesture.

      1. “ when we flew into Wuhan ”

        Well then you are an ass for not taking supplies.

        1. We were the only country that evacuated its people without taking in supplies

  10. Expect Americans to be resilient?

    The general public is losing their shit over something that won’t even make the vast majority of people all that sick. Americans have been conditioned to panic. We “shelter in place” and now practice “social distancing”.

    When are we going to wake up and realize that all of this nonsense is to control the public. And like the sheep we are we continue to just go along. BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY!!

    What a bunch of baloney.

    1. I live in NE TN. People here routinely lose their shit albeit in slightly less dramatic fashion. Every time there is an impending snow storm people run out and clean the stores out of bread and milk. And by ‘storm’ I mean a snowfall, most any snowfall, which we get a few of every winter. they don’t stock up on much else, just bread and milk. You’d think if they were serious they might throw in a couple dozen eggs, but no.

      Right now it’s about the same, but they must be really scared because they’ve also cleaned out the toilet paper. And the Lysol. Otherwise the grocery stores are fine.

      1. Some here in CO — whenever a stray snowflake drifts down the Californicators rush en masse to buy up all the bread and milk. Doesn’t bother me though. When the real snowpocalypse comes along I know I’ll have a wide selection of well-fed Californians to pick from.

      2. Here on north coast.

        Would not call it panic but there is real impact. Some school closings, churches, my wife has a conference call today and her job will almost certainly be shutting down public contact operations.

        Stores out of Clorox and TP. We are all seeing it.

        “In every emergency first take your own pulse”

        Samuel Shem from the House of God and a medical aphorism.

        1. DeWine has been leading…and now I’ve got to look after my grandkids for 3 weeks!

          Where’s my vape?

      3. NE TN…they use TP! Who knew?

    2. Heck, there are some people who have existential freak-outs because Trump said something mean on Twitter.

      This panic is magnitudes beyond the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 because, even though it was only 11 years ago, we still had real shit to deal with.

  11. Nick’s hair dye can kill it off

  12. Taiwan got this. They’re right next to China and get millions of visitors a year from there but they only have about 50 cases total.

    We fcked this all up, and it’s because of Trump and the RW’s refusal to acknowledge inconvenient truths.

    1. Well, don’t stop there… what in the blue fuck should Trump and the RW have done?

    2. Taiwan was hit hard by MERs and H1N1 and developed technology to track individuals and outsiders decades ago. And coordination and information sharing is easier there.

      Under Hillary we’d be quarantining and testing around 200,000 migrants inside the nation. And few hundred would be just darting all over the country because we lost them.

  13. Trump’s rose garden speech – which wisely included some CEO’s from companies that will be involved with the testing, etc. has likely surprised a lot of people. Wish he’d stepped up sooner, but I think the new initiatives will help a lot. I predict we get out of this crisis without anywhere close to the worst case scenarios reported on in recent days.

    1. It was a good speech, but I don’t think the idea about testing people at Walmart parking lots was really thought out.

      Let’s get sick people (at least sick enough to get tested) at the busiest store around. Because you know they won’t stay in the parking lot

  14. Whole Foods? I work at a Walmart and the crowds there are vicious and ugly, with fights and scuffles and a lot of angry, panicked people

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  16. owh my god, i hope fast good in world. Becasue this virus very fast in human.

    model kebaya I’m beginning to wonder if Reason isn’t a respectable libertarian version of /b/ where people can post whatever shit they want and no one cares.

  17. Amazing how stupid some of you people are. It’s all in the math. The death rate is far higher than flu, it’s spreading as bad or worse…

    The thing is it’s not what the damage will be if we do a good job containing it that’s a problem… It’s if it runs completely hog wild. Millions WOULD die in that scenario, including 1/500 PRIME age people, 1/250 middle aged people, and a fuck ton of old folks, some of whom are still economically productive.

    1. Really? The swine flu was just as bad, declared a pandemic but the reaction is 180 degrees different……….

  18. One percent of the population is at risk of mortality. More people get killed by the regular flu. So, why the gross overreaction? (rhetorical question)

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