The un-measured effects of COVID 19

The un-measured effects of COVID 19.

As part owner of a small business heavily impacted by COVID 19, I see first hand how businesses, small and large, alike are bearing the full brunt of this global pandemic.

I spent hours pouring over statistics and dashboards multiple times per day, tracking the number of cases in different parts of the world, along with other metrics. My partners and I are waiting for the exponential curve to start flattening out here in Canada, like it has in a few other countries that have taken extreme measures – but we’re not confident our governments are doing enough, and it’s clear that a large part of the general population remains unconcerned (or at least unwilling to change their behaviour / routines of their own volition)

We know that the overall death rate of the virus is roughly 3%. We also know that rate varies widely by age and health, affecting the elderly and chronically ill in hugely disproportionate numbers (while leaving the young and healthy relatively unscathed). These metrics have been reasonably well documented over the past few weeks.

With the markets in collapse and the global economy on pause, the biggest stress is the uncertainty of it all. No one can say for certain whether we’re nearing the beginning of the end, or whether this is just the end of the beginning. Doctors and scientists are speculating anywhere from a few weeks to potentially years before this is under control – this uncertainty is causing unprecedented levels of stress for people form all walks of life – from parents (who don’t know when they will be able to take their kids back to school), to the elderly and those with aging parents (who rightfully fear for their lives), to employees (who are not sure where their next paycheque will come from), to small business owners (who are scrambling to trying to salvage their livelihood), to retirees (who are watching their retirement savings evaporate).

And what about the “death rate” of businesses during this period? This is actually reasonably easy to quantify – I’m sure someone will eventually take stock of this when the dust settles, but for now consider that according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, roughly 10% of all jobs globally were linked to travel and tourism in 2017. I would suspect the figures would be similar (if not higher) for the dining and entertainment industry. And those are not the only two impacted industries – there are other industries that are also suffering a virtually 100% shut down as a result of COVID 19.

It will be interesting to look back in 1-2 years and tally up the economic impact of this pandemic – but at least that can be measured. What’s harder to quantify is the ripple effect that the economic side of COVID 19 will have in the long run with respect to people’s actual health, and how lost jobs, careers, and livelihood will ultimately result in lost “life-years”.

Even if the long-term financial and mental health effects of this virus end up being relatively minimal, the fact that it’s everywhere and impacting virtually all 7 billion of us gives those small effects a massive multiplier when considering total global impact.