Scientists are racing to develop a vaccine for the Coronavirus
On Friday, the stock market was up significantly on positive investor sentiment that things may soon return to normal. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose nearly 705 points, or 3%, and the S&P 500 Index climbed 75 points, or 2.7%. Both indices are now up about 30% from their March lows.
However, as we write this on Monday morning, the markets are poised to open sharply down, largely due to some negative developments over the weekend.
Over the Weekend
On Sunday, a number of state governors rejected the Administration’s claim that that the nation’s supply of Coronavirus tests is adequate, and said that a shortage of tests is one of the most significant barriers to lifting restrictions in their states.
Over the weekend, the President defended coordinated protests against stay-at-home restrictions in several states, saying that some (Democratic) governors had “gone too far” in their efforts to defeat the virus, even though those effects are based on his own Administration’s guidelines and recommendations.
On a positive note, several European nations were preparing to reopen some businesses on Monday. South Korea relaxed its social-distancing rules as politicians and public health authorities there appear to have the outbreak under control.
And, the White House and Congress are nearing agreement on a $450 billion relief package the bulk of which is intended to replenish the oversubscribed PPP and EIDL programs and expand testing.
The Glaring Need for More Testing
Researchers at Harvard University have suggested that the country cannot safely reopen until it conducts more than three times the number of coronavirus tests it is currently administering over the next month.
Nationally, an average of 146,000 people per day have been tested for the virus so far this month, according to the COVID Tracking Project. On Friday, the Project reported 3.6 million total tests across the country.
According to the Harvard researchers, to reopen the country next month, we need to perform 152 tests per 100,000 residents daily (or roughly 500,000 to 700,000 tests per day). That level of testing is necessary to identify the majority of people who are infected, and isolate them from people who are healthy. But 34 states were conducting fewer than 50 tests per 100,000 people during the week ended April 15.
The FDA has permitted nearly 100 companies – many located in China – to produce and market antibody tests intended to indicate whether a person may have developed immunity to the virus, without first vetting the tests. Health officials in the US and overseas have found some of these tests to be deeply flawed, and the FDA has warned that some of the companies are making false claims about the efficacy of their products.
What the Future May Hold
The New York Times recently interviewed more than 20 experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology and history about what our future is may look like.
Their consensus is that the country is months away from being able to return to what we would consider to be a semblance of our old way of life.
There is still tremendous uncertainty. Under the best-case scenario, scientists will develop a vaccine or – more likely – treatments for the coronavirus’s effects. It’s also possible that the virus will mutate to become less severe. These outcomes are possible, but they’re not the most likely ones.
Social distancing is still vital. About 300 million Americans have probably not been exposed to the virus, and epidemiologists say that until a vaccine or other protective measures emerge, it’s not safe for that many people to suddenly come out of confinement.
It’s unclear how well the US will cope with the next phase. As more people with immunity get back to work, more of the economy will recover. But if too many people became infected at once, new lockdowns would be needed. To avoid that, widespread testing will be imperative.
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