The US GDP continued to decline at a more than 6% rate for the first quarter; surprising yet again the clueless economists who predicted a much better number. This seems to be the hook used on every story about new economic numbers. The numbers were either better than expected or they were much worse than expected; unfortunately they are almost always worse.
The WHO is warning the world’s governments to expect a Flu pandemic and that they should be prepared for a prolonged health crisis. Economists have not put out any estimates on what the Pandemic will do to the world economy. Assuming a workable vaccine is possible, it will be 2010 before any meaningful number of people can be treated even in the developed countries. At the rate this outbreak is progressing it probably won’t matter much by then. State labs across the country are referring probable cases to the CDC; look for tomorrow’s headlines to be much more dramatic than today’s.
Obama has suggested that parents should make contingency plans for when the schools are closed. I hope he is making contingency plans for when large swaths of the country are closed. I’m sure the economists will be surprised at the numbers.
On the effectiveness of masks: surgical masks are intended to protect the patient and do almost nothing to protect the wearer; tight fitting masks work but only as long as they stay dry (for about 2 hours) and should not be reused. A respirator style mask would be better if you have the right filters but those only have a limited life as well. The only practical measures are to keep people at a distance and never, ever touch your nose or eyes with your hands. Maybe wear a bucket on your head.