Coronavirus Update 5/15/2020

By Whitney Tilson

Friday, May 15, 2020

I’m so confused.

All day long I’m bombarded with two completely different story lines: on the one hand are countless articles about how COVID-19 is really not much worse than the flu and that, unless you’re old and sick, you pretty much have nothing to worry about. Some folks claim that 90% of people who get COVID-19 aren’t even aware of it…

On the other hand are countless stories like this one, by a fit, 33-year-old young woman who’s on the editorial board of the New York Times. While she survived, she was crushed by the virus, as were many of her friends. ‘I Wish I Could Do Something for You,’ My Doctor Said. Young, healthy people like me are getting very, very sick from the disease caused by the coronavirus. Excerpt:

Now I worry for Americans elsewhere. When I see photographs of crowds packing into a newly reopened big-box store in Arkansas or scores of people jammed into a Colorado restaurant without masks, it’s clear too many Americans still don’t grasp the power of this disease.

The second day I was sick, I woke up to what felt like hot tar buried deep in my chest. I could not get a deep breath unless I was on all fours. I’m healthy. I’m a runner. I’m 33 years old. 

In the emergency room an hour later, I sat on a hospital bed, alone and terrified, my finger hooked to a pulse-oxygen machine. To my right lay a man who could barely speak but coughed constantly. To my left was an older man who said that he had been sick for a month and had a pacemaker. 

…I am one of the lucky ones. I never needed a ventilator. I survived. But 27 days later, I still have lingering pneumonia. I use two inhalers, twice a day. I can’t walk more than a few blocks without stopping.

I want Americans to understand that this virus is making otherwise young, healthy people very, very sick. I want them to know, this is no flu.

Even healthy New Yorkers in their 20s have been hospitalized. At least 13 children in New York state have died from Covid-19, according to health department data. My friend’s 29-year-old boyfriend was even sicker than I was and at one point could barely walk across their living room. 

Maybe you don’t live in a big city. Maybe you don’t know anybody who is sick. Maybe you think we are crazy for living in New York. That’s fine. You don’t have to live like us or vote like us. But please learn from us. Please take this virus seriously.

I know a lot of this is what I call “the tyranny of the anecdote” – but the problem is, the anecdotes are coming from both sides! 

I’m going to be exploring this in future emails…

Whitney Tilson

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About Whitney Tilson

Prior to creating Empire Financial Research, Whitney Tilson founded and ran Kase Capital Management, which managed three value-oriented hedge funds and two mutual funds. Starting out of his bedroom with only $1 million, Tilson grew assets under management to nearly $200 million.

Tilson graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a bachelor’s degree in government in 1989. After college, he helped Wendy Kopp launch Teach for America and then spent two years as a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. He earned his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1994, where he graduated in the top 5% of his class and was named a Baker Scholar.

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