How Will the Current Lockdown End?

Here is my two cents on what I see as the development of the six stages of the COVID-19 lockdown in the United States. (Please note that I am not advocating rebellion against government, just commenting on what I believe will transpire):

  • Stage 1 (through March)
    The vast majority of people readily accept what they’re told despite the economic hardship and inconvenience it causes to them personally. They comply with stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, and similar types of orders.
  • Stage 2 (early April)
    Most people continue to comply, but some will quietly violate stay-at-home and shelter-at-home orders, such as walking on closed trails or taking drives, in an effort to regain some sense of normalcy.
  • Stage 3: (mid-April to early May)
    Many start to consider that maybe some governments have been too draconian and capricious in their lockdown orders, and that models upon which government decision makers have relied have been too aggressive in predicting the number of deaths. They wonder why, like in Michigan, they can still go out to buy lottery tickets, but cannot purchase plants for their garden. We see the first inklings of rebellion as we saw with yesterday’s lockdown protest in Vancouver and Vernon, BC. A few state governments begin to re-open schools and allow previously “non-essential” businesses to reopen, albeit with restrictions.
  • Stage 4: (mid-May to early June)
    A large percentage of people, many small businesses, and some local governments defy lockdown orders in an attempt to return to semi-normalcy. An “underground” economy of previously legal activities like hair styling, residential construction, and nail salons emerges quietly.
  • Stage 5: (mid-June)
    The state and local governments still enforcing lockdowns choose either a) to back off and start to allow things to re-open slowly, or b) they ratchet up enforcement through more aggressive levying of fines and arrests, and in rare cases resort to violence to keep people and small businesses in line.
  • Stage 6: (late summer 2020 through mid-2021)
    Businesses do a post-mortem on how the state and local governments under which they operate reacted to the COVID-19 crisis. Business leaders make decisions about which jurisdictions struck the right balance between safety and the economy and begin to move operations to those locations in preparation for the next, similar crisis.

Obviously, there are lots of unknowns at this point and predictions are often and notoriously wrong. A case in point are the estimates of deaths resulting from COVID-19 published by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. On April 2nd, IMHE published their best guess of 93,531 death through early August, revised it to 81,766 deaths on April 5th, and revised it again to 60,415 deaths on April 8th. That’s not a slam against IMHE, whose scientists and modelers are no doubt very well-intentioned, but rather an example of the perils that exist in modeling just about anything, particularly in the relatively early stages of a crisis.