Memorial Day is Monday, May 25

The Markets
Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the broader S&P 500 Index traded within a relatively narrow range on Wednesday and Thursday this week. As we write this just after the market open, both indices are again showing little volatility.

The Economy
The government released another discouraging unemployment report yesterday, showing that 2.4 million Americans filed for jobless claims last week. This brings the nine-week total to nearly 40 million.

Despite the shocking numbers, the Trump administration, several top Republicans and corporate lobbyists renewed their opposition yesterday to extending enhanced unemployment benefits that were made available in March. If the enhanced benefits aren’t extended, the unemployed will face significant reductions to their weekly benefit checks in a few weeks. Some White House officials and Republicans say the extra payments are creating a disincentive for people to return to the workforce, potentially holding back the economic recovery.

As businesses begin to reopen, signs that the new normal will look much different than the old normal – at least for a while – are everywhere. As part of its guidelines for reopening, McDonald’s is advising stores place attendants at soft drink stations during peak hours. Mega bank JP Morgan Chase said it might designate workers to push elevator buttons in its offices to prevent unnecessary contact with potentially contaminated surfaces. The company expects offices to remain half full for the “foreseeable future”.

Even as politicians argue about the extension of benefits, economists at the Hoover Institution and the University of Chicago are suggesting that as much as 40% of the jobs lost to the pandemic may never return.

The Public Health
As we have been writing over the past several weeks, drug companies around the globe have been racing to find a viable vaccine for the novel coronavirus, compressing into months timelines that usually cover years.

AstraZeneca has secured orders for at least 400 million doses of an unproven vaccine, with three-quarters of the production headed for the US after “Operation Warp Speed” invested in the drug’s development.

The company, which is producing the treatment with Oxford University in the UK, said it had received more than $1 billion from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (“BARDA”), a unit of the US health department, and would begin delivering the vaccine in September.

The current leader in the vaccine race is Moderna, which released positive results this week showing that its small vaccine trial with healthy volunteers successful and appeared to produce the “neutralizing antibodies” that are needed to fight the disease.

And a study of 96,000 patients shows that those treated with hydroxychloriquine or the closely related drug chloroquine were also more likely to suffer irregular heart rhythms that can lead to sudden cardiac death.

Covid-19 Numbers
Globally, there have been over 5.1 million confirmed cases and over 333,000 deaths. In the US, nearly 1.5 million have been infected and nearly 95,000 have died.

Remembrance and Appreciation
This Monday is Memorial Day, a holiday that honors the men and women who died while serving in the US military. Even as we all struggle in varying ways with the change the pandemic has brought to our lives, it’s important to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Finally, a few weeks ago we wrote about how a plant-based whole foods diet could have a positive impact on the planet as well as on your health. As proof that a vegan diet doesn’t just mean eating kale, broccoli, rice and beans, we share with you an article on vegan “comfort foods”. Yes, you can make tasty vegan cookies, brownies, and even cinnamon rolls!

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