COVID-19 pandemic roundup

  • I’ve started a notebook at Cato tracking abuse of government’s emergency powers. First installment tags NYC mayor de Blasio (claims he will shut down synagogues “permanently” if they defy his orders), L.A. mayor Garcetti (going to use the city utility to shut off violators), and a Gotham group that sees the crisis as the perfect excuse for an edict banning tobacco;
  • Drones spy on Brits taking country walks: “Here’s the problem, beyond the creepy secret surveillance: These people in the video are not in violation of this new law. The Derbyshire Police are in the wrong.” [Scott Shackford]
  • To get more ventilators, just order private companies to make them, say fans of the Defense Production Act. Not as simple as that [Megan McArdle]
  • “Needed fast: a plan to open up the economy again in a virus-safe way…. figure out what combination of personal distancing, self-isolation, testing, cleaning, etc. will allow each kind of business to reopen, at least partially.” [John Cochrane and more; Chris Edwards, Cato]
  • Many states have laws against wearing face masks on the street, which one hopes will go unenforced for masks meant to intercept virus transmission [Jacob Sullum]
  • In retrospect, it might have been wise for the World Health Organization to express its opposition to tobacco use in some way other than by calling it a “pandemic” [Pierre Lemieux]


  • Make sure you include Bill de Blasio telling people as recently as a couple of weeks ago that it was alright to go out to restaurants, to the movies, and to Chinatown for the Lunar New Year Festival. Include that he wasn’t going to close the school until the governor and teachers’ unions made him. What’s the incubation period again?

    Include the bus companies the ran commuter buses to and from NYC for up until this week, spreading the virus to Eastern Pennsylvania, Northern New Jersey, and Western Connecticut.

  • I see a lot of discussion about making everyone wear masks. The first question I have is where will the country get 330 million+ masks. Even making them out of t-shirts as is now being suggested won’t be enough. The second question (or point) is that there is no discussion about cleaning them. People wear them outside, they breathe in air which may or may not have the virus putting it on the surface. They are going to walk around and as the breathe out, they will push the virus off their masks into the air some place else. When they get home or to work what are they going to do: take their mask off and throw it on the table, desk, sofa or anywhere convenient. In industry, we were required by OSHA to have a mask storage and cleaning program. This was to prevent cross contamination.

  • Here’s another one for our notebook at Cato.
    “Coronavirus: NJ Gov. Orders State Police To Commandeer Needed Medical Supplies”

  • RE: Tobacco / COVID-19 “Pandemic”

    There is another irony.

    The maker of Benson & Hedges and Lucky Strike cigarettes claims it has developed a coronavirus vaccine made from tobacco plants.

    British American Tobacco (BAT) said it can manufacture up to three million doses a week starting in June if it gets support from the UK Government.

    The unproven vaccine is currently being tested on animals. But BAT is calling on Whitehall to fast-track the vaccine through rigorous human trials which could otherwise take the best part of a year and make the June date impossible.

    BAT said it had pivoted its vast resources – the company is worth £65.5billion – to fighting the pandemic.

    The London-headquartered firm added that it would sell the tests to the Government ‘at cost’, meaning without making any profit.

    Tobacco firms are currently barred from doing deals with governments under World Health Organisation rules, but BAT said it planned to contact the WHO.


  • RE: Ventilators.

    There is much more to this than the things listed in the article.

    First up is materials. Many states have declared foundries and metal production to be “non-essential.” Where are factories supposed to get the metal to make the ventilators? The same is true of integrated circuit production.

    Secondly, is a design. We cannot imagine a ventilator company giving their patented designs which cost them tons of money to develop and get approved. A company in New York says they can make 1000 ventilators a day, but need a design and are working with a British firm to supply the design.

    Two “A” would also be “what company is going to give up their design to other companies to make the same product in such numbers that would keep the US (if not the world) supplied with ventilators for the foreseeable future and beyond. What company is going to sign their own death warrant and if they do, aren’t there legal issues with stockholders if they do so?

    Three: Companies are already asking that if they make ventilators that they be indemnified from legal repercussions. Companies that make one product generally have a history with that product. Making a new product will open up all sorts of lawsuits – even unfounded ones. (“Did you or your loved on suffer or even died when they were connected to an Acme ventilator? Contact us. You may be eligible for compensation for your loss….”)

    Four: FDA approval of the “off brand” devices. How long that will take is anyone’s guess but it won’t be fast.

    It seems clear that pointing at a factory and saying “make these things” is not easy nor going to happen. In WWII the “arsenal of democracy” was unleashed when regulators were told to stay out of the way, and companies were free to innovate and make a profit. Now we suppress innovation and companies through regulations. Unelected officials who have never designed anything, manufactured anything, worked in a factory, or owned a business are telling companies what they must do.

    It has been a recipe for disaster.

  • “plan to open up economy”—hmmmm.

    So let’s say the idea is that those who have had it get to get their lives back–ok, so how do you deal with the people who say that those who have had it include a lot of people who were really irresponsible? With the argument being, “Hey wait a minute, we did the right thing at the behest of the government, and now we are being treated much less favorably.”

  • I suspect some of the DPA actions have been made because the companies involved wanted them to be made for legal reasons.
    It’s harder (not impossible – see the asbestos mess) to sue a company for damages related to something they were forced to produce by the U.S. Government.