Georgia’s governor announcing plans to reopen his state

Unemployment Continues to Rise
The jobless claims continue to mount. The Labor Department reported this morning that another 4.4 million Americans filed for state unemployment benefits. That brings the five-week total to 26.4 million jobs lost as a result of the novel coronavirus.

Additional Emergency Funding
The House of Representatives is expected to pass today companion legislation to the Senate bill which provides an additional $484 billion of emergency financial assistance. The package, which President Trump is expected to sign immediately, will add $310 billion the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). It will also provide $60 billion for small and midsize and community lenders and $60 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance (EIDL) program. There is $75 billion for hospitals and health care providers (which is in addition to a previous allotment of $100 billion), $25 billion for coronavirus testing and contact tracing and $11 billion for states and localities to administer tests and conduct contract tracing, $1 billion for people without health insurance and $1 billion for federal CDC surveillance measures, including contact tracing.

This is surely not the last package to be passed by Congress to address the fallout from Covid-19. We can expect funds for the US Postal Service, housing assistance and possibly additional funds for state and local governments. The government has, so far, committed $2.7 trillion, all of which is adding the nation’s already massive national debt.

Oil Market
The oil market continues to swing wildly. We saw oil futures for April delivery go negative a few days ago. West Texas Intermediate oil is down 43% this year and trades at $11.57 a barrel. Brent crude, which is more widely traded, is down 24% to $19.33 a barrel.

The oil industry is vital to the US economy and our national security. We must maintain energy independence. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has stated that the Administration will not allow the US oil industry to be irreparably damaged by this crisis. The federal government is considering a variety of measures to intervene, including purchasing oil which is still in the ground from producers, providing emergency loans (with oil as collateral), taking ownership stakes in oil companies and adding further to the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We may also see the Railroad Commission of Texas, which regulates the oil and gas industry in Texas, step in to mandate production limits in the state.

The Markets
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended Wednesday up 560 points, or 2.43%. The S&P 500 Index rose 63 points, or 2.23%.

Testing Capacity
There continues to be conflicting messages coming from the federal government and the nation’s governors about testing capacity across the country. The Trump administration maintains that states have adequate testing capability and that they need to develop their own programs to test, isolate those who are infected, and contract trace to control the spread of the virus – he calls this “federalism”. Many governors continue to claim they lack the resources, both human and medical, they need to protect their citizens. It’s difficult to know the actual reality. But we can say that there is nowhere near enough testing happening anywhere in the country.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a regular participant in the administration’s daily coronavirus press briefings, stated yesterday that the data indicates that mitigation efforts in the US have worked. We are now at a point where we can begin following the administration’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again. We won’t recount all of the phase of these guidelines. But we will point out the criteria that should be met before moving into the three phases:

  • A downward trajectory of influenza-like illness reported within a 14-day period, AND a downward trajectory of covid-19-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period.
  • A downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period, OR a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of total tests within a 14-day period.
  • A health care system that allows for the treatment of all patients without crisis care, AND robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.

We’re not there yet
Very few states have reached the gate, much less met the criteria for the following three phases. Nonetheless, a few states have begun to relax mitigation efforts. There are numerous examples, both recently and in the past, of countries, states and cities relaxing mitigation efforts too soon, and they all ended badly. Let us hope that wisdom prevails and that our nation’s leaders make the protection of citizens their highest priority.

We wish you health, peace and happiness.

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