Why is the virus still with us? What is the truth about this darned thing? What should we be watching, the case load expansion or subtraction, the hospital admittance or the body count?
The answer: all of these are wrong. We should be watching and accepting that this virus, this covid virus, is much more dangerous and insidious than anyone, including almost all of those in the medical community, thought and we still don't have a serious weapon or weapons to get people in and out of the hospital safely when they come down with it.
We have underestimated our enemy and it isn't the testing or the shortage of ICUs, it's the virus itself. Think of it: Spain crushes the virus after hideous losses. Now it is back. Asian countries with tremendous discipline can't stamp it out. Only China seems to have it under control but who really knows? And we have never even had an accounting from the WHO about how our country's top people could believe that asymptomatics couldn't pass it on or that masks wouldn't help stop the problem.
We know our society is way too free to deal with this virus in a way that can be sustained without destroying a part of the economy that must be triaged: brick & mortar small businesses without a big balance sheet to handle social distancing. In fact social distancing and the masks will be the death knell of smaller restaurants the moment it becomes too cold to have outside tables.
We just now have local and state politicians who have been given an immense power by a federal government that often times just can't seem to admit what works. Candidly, I started the mask competition at xprise.org/mask because I knew the president disliked masks and his obstinance blocked the most efficient and easiest weapon we have against this amazingly powerful opponent.
I keep coming back to that underestimation because it's behind the lack of testing - we have let a couple of firms control the process, namely LabCorp (LH) , Quest Diagnostics (DGX) , and, to a lesser extent Bio-Reference, control the testing. It's an obvious bottleneck: go read the articles about how slow CVS (CVS) has become in returning results. The Journal last week reported that CVS was beholden to LabCorp and Quest.
Instead hauling down the CEOs of Amazon (AMZN) , Alphabet (GOOGL) , Facebook (FB) and Apple (AAPL) , the House should be calling down LabCorp and Quest to see what's wrong and why shouldn't the military take over testing. Who else would know how to turn around tests more quickly?
We see these articles about quick turns, like the saliva test from Rutgers - now forgotten - or another from Stanford and we say, what happened to those? We hear they can't scale. But who says that? With the money the government is throwing at a vaccine, it would be worth it to divert some to figuring out how to cure the test bottleneck. But they aren't.
I think that whole thing is so fraught with misinformation and a lack of government regulation that it's come down to private industry to defeat this and that's not enough. Sure, the only reason many of the sunbelt governors caved was because big retail caved, perhaps because Costco (COST) , the mask pioneer, saw its sales go up, not down, after it initiated a must wear mask policy.
But think about the patchwork nature of testing. Do we really know how effective these tests are, even the good ones? Do we know who is administering them? Why has there been a critical delay when there are so many people who are unemployed looking for work? Do we know where exactly the darned bottleneck is? And why do Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NFL have no backlog? Do I have to visit the White House or play pro sports to get a test turnaround?
I could go on and on about the myriad ways we underestimated the disease but by far the most important one is a belief that we would come up with a vaccine soon and that's all that matters.
And it may be like this for months to come unless we own why this thing keeps beating us: it's smarter than we are, tougher, and defeats us at pretty much every turn except, alas, death, and even then it cheats us more than we cheat it.