Saturday, June 27, 2020
Add It All Up - the Real Costs of Covid-19
Things we know - people on holiday are also taking a holiday from Covid-19. Many of them take a break from wearing masks or social distancing. Whether gathering on some beach or strolling the streets of a resort town or downing a few beers at a tavern, they're likely to concentrate and, in the crowds they're mingling with, there is apt to be someone or a few someones shedding the virus.
We've got all the object lessons we need. Thanks Florida. Thanks Texas. Thanks to all the states that opened up and are now heading back into lockdown. And special thanks to all those irresponsible people who have shown that exercising their "constitutional rights" can turn into an economy-wrecker even as it taxes healthcare systems to the breaking point.
Here on beautiful Vancouver Island we're starting to see another wave - the summer tourists. Some, it seems, have heard that for a period of several weeks we were sort of Covid-free. What a great place for a summer holiday.
For a number of these little, coastal towns, tourism revenue is the bread and butter of the local economy. Many businesses make their real money between the beginning of June and Labour Day. If something goes wrong they may not be around next year.
Things change in the course of a pandemic. For the first few months people in my town were vigilant - masks, gloves, social distancing, hand sanitizer, hand washing, isolating at home. The whole deal. And it paid off. We drove Covid-19 into the ground and many other similarly transmissible viruses disappeared with it.
Only the sun has returned here and, with it, those masks are disappearing as though they had reached some 'best before' date. There's probably no way of knowing how many of those mask-liberated people are locals, how many are summer people but either way a return of Covid-19 seems inevitable. Everything we achieved may go straight out the window.
I wonder what that's going to cost? How does the summer tourism revenue stack up against the prospect of another lockdown and another struggle for the healthcare system?
Time magazine looked at a Boston-area woman who developed Covid-19. Hers was not a severe case. She did not require hospitalization. She did, however, make three visits to the emergency ward, a bunch of tests, and medications that she took at home. Her final bill came out just shy of $35,000. That's a lot of money when you're between jobs with no insurance. Remember that 'el Diablo Naranja' has chosen this auspicious moment to try to kill off Obamacare.
In Canada the costs are way less but still substantial. Covid-19 cases require special wards and some patients wind up on ventilators in intensive care units. A day in ICU can cost between $5,000 and $14,000. Daily ward rates run from $3000 to $7000. Even that adds up pretty quick.
While those numbers are, for this discussion, plainly anecdotal, they demonstrate that every new Covid-19 case we may experience from summer tourism will inflict a hefty cost beyond the economic costs of a second possible lockdown. How those costs would compare to whatever tourism revenue we receive over the summer is unclear. Then there's a question of to whom that tourism revenue accrues and who picks up the tab for the costs in the aftermath. Another example of "socialism for the rich'?