Coronavirus: End of March going out like a lion, too?

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Coronavirus Covid-19 Global Cases outside of Mainland China, by Johns Hopkins CSSE (as of March 22, 2020)

Well, things have changed very rapidly.

  • The numbers jumped in the U.S. from 60 to over 33,000 — aย  550x increase in just 3 weeks.
  • The stock market is still tanking — supposed to be down another 900 points on the DOW in the morning (already down to (DOW: 19,173; VIX: 66).
  • Unemployment claims are spiking all across this region and the entire nation.
  • The National Guard has been called in Maryland and is awaiting activation in D.C. National Guard also to be deployed to New York, Washington State and California.
  • “Stay at home” orders are now statewide in Delaware, New York, California, Ohio and Louisiana. Rumors are that D.C. is next, and Maryland would possibly follow.
  • Pretty much all school systems and non-essential work places are being shut down in the vast majority of states.
  • Panic buying seems to have tapered off some, though you still cannot get hand sanitizer or toilet paper at a lot of stores.
Coronavirus Covid-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE (as of Feb 28, 2020)

It’s very quiet here. Lots of parking spaces in the middle of the city. The streets were empty on Friday and Saturday night, when they would normally be full of drunken party goers.

There have been a few groups of cars and motorcycles marauding through the streets at high speed, with loud engines revving. I still think the ATVs and dirt bikes are soon to follow. People are not going to have money soon, and they don’t have much to do. Certain elements of society will just start acting up just because they can. And if one group of ding-dongs start mayhem, others would surely join in. I hope not, but there is starting to be news reports doing interviews of military and Guard, and what they are “ready” for, but they claim not to be preparing for “martial law.” We will see where it all goes soon enough.

There’s some level of disbelief still — paranoia from street level to “leaders” in government, who believe that the scary claims being made are overblown and intended to grab more power and take away Constitutional rights. I heard a guy at CVS say that “yeah, they didn’t make this like they didn’t do 9/11.” And another I saw on Twitter saying that this is all fake, but he didn’t know for sure. And Dr. Ron Paul, former U.S. Senator, I saw made a video claiming that coronavirus was potentially dangerous, but that the hype was a “hoax” — that this coronavirus was less dangerous than the flu. That was Wednesday. It’s Sunday, and his equally weird son, Sen. Rand Paul just announced that he has tested positive for the virus.

I was reading about kids partying in Florida for Spring Break, and a lot of people are pointing to how stupid they are. A week earlier, reports say, a gay circuit Winter Party was held, and there are claims that a number of those guys are “mildly” ill with the virus — including at least 2 who live in this city. We have our first death here — a Franciscan monk? Several first responders have come back as positive. And in DC the number is still relatively low at 102, but a week ago, it was only 2. In Maryland, they’ve had a spike of positives to 244, and in Virginia, they went from 0 to 221 within 2 weeks.

In any other cold and flu season context, these would be considered nearly unimportant figures. But the fear is that it takes a week to two weeks for the infection to become significant inside a person’s body. And that the rate of hospitalization and death are much higher than with flu, for comparison’s sake.

I still contend that the market will go down further. Perhaps 18,000 now. A friend joked about 14,000 on the DOW Jones. No way to know, but I know I lost $25,000 easy — and I had pulled what I thought was a decent chunk of cash out in December. I did go in the past couple of weeks and try to hit the lows, but 1) I missed them by half an hour, and 2) there’s lower lows on the way.

The #1 fear is that the healthcare system will be overrun with patients needing ventilation and intensive care. And that Italy is the penultimate example of what delaying and not taking this disease seriously can look like. Italy has been shut down for about 2 weeks, and also France. Spain, I think, has joined them. The UK seems to be taking a “do this bit now, but wait to see if it gets worse” kind of approach. A lot of countries have shut their borders. At first Trump was criticized for banning most inbound travelers, but other nations have decided it’s not such a bad idea. As much as I have disliked the current President, his support for handling this crisis has grown to more than 50%. He had to stop claiming the virus would magically disappear, and that “it will be like down near zero in a week.” He is still acting like a jerk, though, calling this ‘a foreign virus” and “the Chinese virus.” He is also claiming that a vaccine is on the way and that a particular malaria medication is substantially effective at combating the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci says there’s no studies or data to prove anything yet. Another respectable doctor on the team is Dr. Debra Brix — she seems to have a logical mind and level head. But there are others on the team who clearly have an agenda that is all promotional for Trump and has very little to do with medical science or relief efforts. The President and Vice President have both had close calls with infection, so maybe that’s what prompted something of a turnaround in his attitude and approach. It won’t last long, I would guess.

The Congress and Administration are proposing widespread payments to most Americans — perhaps a one-time check of $1,200. And then suspending some portion of mortgage payments, and other financial relief, plus the interest rate has been cut to about 0.25% for the Fed to loan to banks; in the hope that they will lend small businesses cash at near-zero rates.

Honestly, I hope it works, but I have my doubts. Everytime Trump opens his mouth at the podium, the market tanks down further. I don’t see how the Average American will have enough cash to go through the end of April. There may be enough for people to receive $444 Unemployment benefit payments per week. And coronavirus testing may be free. But insurance companies are still wanting to be paid for memberships. And people won’t have the cash — no cash for anyone in the service and hospitality, tourism and entertainment industries. It is a total financial disaster for millions of Americans who already don’t have any savings.

There is reason for hope. China is at a near-zero new case rate. Other countries may have peaked in cases, and these “stay at home” and lock-down and curfew measures happening at the state and municipality levels — they may be slowing things down.

It doesn’t look like it today. But in another week, maybe we will see improvement. The Mayor of DC has already declared a business shut down through April 27. That’s more than a month away. I haven’t retracted my “vision” of mayhem after March 31, yet, but would certainly love to.

There is talk of a therapeutic drug cocktail, Plaquenil + Z-pack, an anti-malaria drug and an antibiotic. I’m not sure why one would need an antibiotic if bacterial pneumonia were not involved. Kind of confusing there, but the hydroxychoroquine is said to be a treatment for some autoimmune conditions, too, like arthritis and lupus. Trump “feels very good” about the drug, but the study that is propelling the positive beliefs is small and other reports are mostly anecdotal. Many patients do not require any drug therapies, and most patients seem to get better without hospitalization — about 80% — vs. 15% who do require medical assistance. The death rate is not clear, but seems to range from a little less than 1% to as much 3.5%. Really, no one has been able to pin this down, mostly because so few people have been tested properly, that the people who have been tested tend to be ill patients that are exhibiting fever and distress; whereas it is believed that many more people have no symptoms at all. The primary problem appears to be for the very elderly, for senior citizens, and for people with “pre-existing conditions.” Some belief is that medications (ACE inhibitors, ARBs) for these conditions may be making it easier for the n-cov-19 virus to attach to cells via increased numbers of ACE receptors. Again, we will see. It would be wonderful if we could just get some movement on producing n95 facemasks and test kits instead of these promises that they are coming.

Good luck to us all.

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