Quarantining at Work

The Washington Post has good piece on one factory practicing an idea I mentioned a few weeks ago in my post on safety protocols, quarantining at work:

For 28 days, they did not leave — sleeping and working all in one place.

In what they called a “live-in” at the factory, the undertaking was just one example of the endless ways that Americans in every industry have uniquely contributed to fighting coronavirus. The 43 men went home Sunday after each working 12-hour shifts all day and night for a month straight, producing tens of millions of pounds of the raw materials that will end up in face masks and surgical gowns worn on the front lines of the pandemic.

…Nikolich said the plants decided to launch the live-ins so employees could avoid having to worry about catching the virus while constantly traveling to and from work, and so the staff at the factory could be closed off to nonessential personnel.

The article also indicates why price increases are critical to increase supply:

They were paid for all 24 hours each day, with a built-in wage increase for both working hours and off time, the company said. It did not disclose the specific percentages.

Hat tip: Jonathan Meer.


Supplies of substandard goods that is, as anyone with awareness of what such a price increase actually means in real terms. Which is not that the machines magically double their output from one day to the next, but that anyone in a position to profit from taking the money upfront will do so, at least until stopped by someone in authority.

"Chinese regulators are ratcheting up a crackdown on price gouging and other illegal activities in the chaotic market for melt-blown fabric, a key material in medical masks, warning profiteers to expect heavy punishment if they continue to exploit the global pandemic.

The move came after the price of melt-blown fabric prices multiplied up to 40 times higher amid the desperate global demand for masks.

It will help ensure the quality and stability of medical supplies - a critical issue for China not just economically but also politically as some foreign elements continue to smear China's pandemic aid efforts, analysts said.

The price of melt-blown fabric rose nearly 40 times to about 700,000 yuan ($98,980) a ton in half a year, with some likening its production to a "money printing machine." www.globaltimes.cn/content/1186082.shtml

Here is an example of a CHinese manufacturer not being dumb enough to trust a small Chinese supplier - "Two out of 200 samples from small workshops met standards for medical use, Chen said. Meanwhile the price of the Sinopec material has climbed as high as 700,000 yuan, fueled by middlemen."

And obviously, this person will never become the CEO of a major American corporation - "When you have so much demand at one end and skyrocketing materials at another, and so many new producers rushing into the sector, pressing hard for earlier delivery, it is just inevitable that chaos arises from all this. Supervision and regulation is needed here," the insider said.

And yet the quality of these Chinese products has been really poor. Or in the case of N95 masks promised to Pakistan, recycled bras.

Back to the future. Of course, that was the practice long ago, when employers supplied everything, housing, food, even sex. I suppose a pandemic takes us backward rather than forward, even as it highlights how backward we are. Let no crisis go to waste. Trump is even using the crisis to supersede the authority of Congress, arrogating unto himself the power of the purse. Indeed, are we not going back to the monarchy? Isn't it ironic that the political party so concerned about the growing power of government would deliver us unto monarchy. Hamilton, indeed!

When people are scared, they want a strong leader. The rest of the time, not so much. We will have a relatively free and fair election in November (that is proof we are not in a monarchy) and, if things go as they have been, this time next year we will have an incompetent leader instead of an evil one. One step at a time, man.

The party "so concerned about the growing power of government" was so concerned only when it did not seem possible to use that power to transfer income to high net worth people.

Not all heroes wear capes.

And where did their food come from? All the supplies they used? Did they really not sneak out for booze and a roll in the hay with the wife or girlfriend?

Yes, that was my question. How effective are the isolation techniques, both for the workers/residents/inmates and for the service people who come in to their quarters.

Perhaps they don't need to be super effective, if the workers are in general young and healthy. For the residents of senior homes, isolation probably helps -- but has also failed spectacularly and horrifically in some cases.

I've heard "person to person" contact is #1. Especially in shared quarters. After that "surfaces." Then "things." One report was that China had not found transmission through food.

So even if they were delivered hot food, they have taken out the number and one and two vectors.

But I thought it said they cooked on site which is even better.

That's why we should all shelter in and prefer to cook at home.

I mean, as far as aged-care homes go, it seems like you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Multigenerational households (c.f. Italy)? Young people having to go out to work bring it home to their parents/grandparents --> carnage.

Fewer multigenerational households, dependent elderly in nursing homes and other facilities (c.f. US, Canada)? One visitor or care worker brings in the disease and residents and workers then catch it from each other --> carnage.

Although in some senses, the lack of multigenerational households might be better from the perspective of this pandemic. In countries without that tradition, older, but not yet very frail, people often live alone (or with their partner) -- so they are able to isolate independently at the moment. The ones who are bearing the brunt in the single generation household -- aged-care facility model are probably the very, very old, frail and sick who require constant nursing care. As much as it pains me to say it, having been in dementia care facilities during my grandmother's long illness, their residents mostly don't have much life, or quality of life, to lose.

"The article also indicates why price increases are critical to increase supply"


Four decades of voodoo economics, reaganomics, free lunch economics has argued lower costs increases supply!

Keynes argued for lower capital prices from lower to ideally zero profit so prices were purely labor costs. Thus requires paying workers so much for their labor, or so much for their savings, than workers are the ones who limit supply.

"I feel sure that the demand for capital is strictly limited in the sense that it would not be difficult to increase the stock of capital up to a point where its marginal efficiency had fallen to a very low figure. This would not mean that the use of capital instruments would cost almost nothing, but only that the return from them would have to cover little more than their exhaustion by wastage and obsolescence together with some margin to cover risk and the exercise of skill and judgment. In short, the aggregate return from durable goods in the course of their life would, as in the case of short-lived goods, just cover their labour costs of production plus an allowance for risk and the costs of skill and supervision."


"Now, though this state of affairs would be quite compatible with some measure of individualism, yet it would mean the euthanasia of the rentier, and, consequently, the euthanasia of the cumulative oppressive power of the capitalist to exploit the scarcity-value of capital. Interest today rewards no genuine sacrifice, any more than does the rent of land. The owner of capital can obtain interest because capital is scarce, just as the owner of land can obtain rent because land is scarce. But whilst there may be intrinsic reasons for the scarcity of land, there are no intrinsic reasons for the scarcity of capital. An intrinsic reason for such scarcity, in the sense of a genuine sacrifice which could only be called forth by the offer of a reward in the shape of interest, would not exist, in the long run, except in the event of [[[the individual propensity to consume proving to be of such a character that net saving in conditions of full employment]]] comes to an end before capital has become sufficiently abundant. But even so, it will still be possible for communal saving through the agency of the State to be maintained at a level which will allow the growth of capital up to the point where it ceases to be scarce."

Oil workers at Prudhoe Bay Alaska are already doing a model like this. 8-12 week shifts with 14-day quarantines at each end.

Well... an interesting Innovation, yet the employees, if they were under age 65 and healthy enough to work, were very unlikely to be seriously affected by Covid-19 anyway.

If Covid-19, had the lethality of the Spanish Flu perhaps this would be a proper response.

End the lockdowns.

Outrageous. The employees were price gouging their employer during a time of crisis.

Just as increases are necessary at the micro level (did anyone ever doubt this?) so the fed's targeted rate of inflation should increase. Instead, the expectation of inflation over the next 5 years is less than 1% pa, implying that bod traders think the Fed plans on an excruciatingly slow recovery, like 2008-2016.

Comments for this post are closed