The media is swirling with half-truths and myths about the Coronavirus—Covid-19—and how it will impact the general public. Their scare tactics have the population buying big-box stores out of toilet paper, Purell, and soap. Is it all just hype? What could the potential impact be? Jim Best joins me today to have an evidence-based discussion around the virus that is trending worldwide. Jim spent 15 years in the Biotech and Medical device industry, educating salespeople on how to mitigate the risk of acquiring and spreading infectious diseases. He is currently a board-certified independent patient advocate and President of Serenity Cancer Patient Advocates.
This episode will only cite reputable sources, including the World Health Organization, the CDC, the New England Journal of Medicine, and The Lancet. All citations are listed below.
Outline of This Episode
- [0:25] Dispelling misunderstandings around the coronavirus
- [1:25] Why Jim starting researching the coronavirus
- [3:48] Why wasn’t there this level of fear about SARS/MERS/Ebola?
- [7:24] Is COVID-19 comparable to the 1918 Spanish Flu?
- [11:21] What is the possibility of the virus mutating?
- [14:56] Should I wear a mask?
- [17:22] Does Purell work to slow the spread?
- [22:01] What to do if you think you’ve contracted COVID-19
- [27:45] Common symptoms of the Coronavirus
- [31:48] Understanding the R0 equation (the spread of the disease)
- [35:43] The current mortality rate of COVID-19
- [41:38] You need to have a well-defined investment strategy
- [44:38] Is there a recession coming?
- [50:09] Don’t completely get out of the market
- [52:35] What’s happening with the oil industry
- [55:07] Do we need this wake-up call?
Is the Coronavirus the next Spanish Flu?
The media has started comparing the coronavirus pandemic to the 1918 Spanish flu. Jim points out that we can’t compare events that are 102 years apart, but that they have a similarity: they both are a ‘super-spreading event’. As soldiers started returning home at the end of World War I, they brought the flu with them and spread it worldwide. With the modern convenience of air travel, we are engaging in the modern-day equivalent of a super-spreading event. We could see wide-ranging effects similar to that of the Spanish Flu, but only time will tell.
Precautions you should consider
Jim and I discussed some common questions being asked by everyone concerned.
- Should you wear a mask? Globally, everyone appears to be donning masks. However, Jim points out that there’s no point in wearing them unless you’re sick. They help prevent droplets from your mouth reaching other people. It can help aid you to remember to stop touching your face and spreading the virus that way. Don’t hoard masks. You should leave them available for those who are sick and medical professionals on the front-lines.
- Is Purell effective? Purell is not as effective as washing your hands. Another downside is that it appears to be sold out everywhere. While hand-sanitizer IS better than nothing, it won’t kill a strain of bacteria called ‘Clostridium Difficile’. The bottom line? Surgeons don’t purell their hands before surgery, they scrub them with soap and water. Do the same.
- What do you do if you think you’ve contracted the Coronavirus? Firstly, do not go to the emergency room. If you don’t have the virus, the likelihood of it increases by stepping foot in an ER. Call your doctor or take advantage of any virtual care afforded you. Some retail giants are now setting up drive-in testing sites at their stores.
- What are the symptoms of the virus? The two prevailing symptoms are a fever and a cough (which can be difficult to differentiate from the flu, bronchitis, the common cold, etc.)
- How do I avoid catching the virus? The easiest way is to limit unnecessary travel and attendance at large events (most sporting or music events have already been canceled).
- What do you do if you HAVE been diagnosed with COVID-19? It’s best practice to quarantine yourself and wear a mask to prevent spreading it to others.
A technical discussion on the spread and mortality rate of the virus
‘R0’ (pronounced ‘R-nought’) is an equation that indicates how quickly an infectious disease could spread. Another way to phrase it is the average number of people who will catch a disease from a single infected person. The best-case scenario is the R0 stays below 1—signifying that the spread will likely die-out. If it rises anywhere above 1 it is likely to continue spreading.
We must preface this by pointing out that this is a variable and multiple factors impact this number daily. If people practice social distancing and isolate themselves if infectious, it can lower the R0 range.
At the time of recording, COVID-19 is at an R0 range of 1.4-3.9 with a variable fatality rate anywhere from 0.7% (in South Korea) to 5% (in Italy). Taking an optimistic viewpoint of the R0 and fatality rate calculation—based on today’s numbers—we could be looking at the possibility of 285,000 people dying from the virus. If you calculate it with a 3.9 R0 and a 1% fatality rate—we could be looking at 2.4 million people (in the United States) dying.
It is concerning, which is why the government is taking action to slow the spread of the virus. The more precautions we take to slow the spread, the lower the R0 will fall—lowering the number of people potentially impacted.
How the coronavirus could impact your portfolio
Everyone is wondering—is the market going to crash? Are we about to see a recession? I believe the probability is high. The window of opportunity is open and the Coronavirus is an outside catalyst that could push our market over the edge. A few months ago, this virus didn’t exist. Suddenly, it plunged the entire world into chaos. So how should you move forward with your investment strategy if there is an impending recession?
Firstly, you must always have a well-defined investment strategy. Humans are emotional about money. We work hard for it and feel the need to protect it—which can lead to poor financial decisions. So please find someone who knows what they’re doing to guide you. Gain a basic understanding of how the economy works.
Whatever you do, it is probably not wise to go completely out of the market. If you know what you’re doing and have a good investment strategy you’re looking at probabilities. The average portfolio is a 60/40 split between stocks and bonds. If you are 100% sure that a recession is coming, a defensive strategy would be to shift your portfolio to a 50/50 split. It can protect you in a downturn and psychologically helps alleviate your worry.
The bottom line is we don’t know what’s going to happen. The R0 could drop significantly, slowing the spread of the virus. We could see a vaccine come to market quickly. Warmer weather could slow the spread of the virus (similar to how the flu slows). The Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson stated “We’re in the middle of a very important experiment worldwide. The question is—will people listen to scientists?”. So stay educated, prepared, and vigilant. Don’t let the mass media misinform you or incite fear. Above all, listen to the people who actually know what they’re talking about—scientists.
Resources & People Mentioned
- The W.H.O. report on SARS
- Advice on the use of masks
- The Lancet on viral mutations
- How to make hand sanitizer (W.H.O. recommendations)
- What to do if you’re sick (CDC)
- The New England Journal of Medicine on Covid-19
- Country-based mitigation measures
- Early Transmission dynamics of the Coronavirus
- W.H.O Coronavirus situation report
Connect with Jim Best: Reclaim Serenity
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