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It’s Not Enough to Thank Our Front Line Soldiers

“We can’t stay locked down for such a considerable period of time that you might do irreparable damage and have unintended consequences, including consequences for health,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview on Friday.

Well well well…welcome to the party.   Don’t worry, you aren’t alone.

While the California University system is planning for a fall semester online, most colleges are suddenly concluding that some type of in-person class makes sense.  In NC, most schools are starting early (around Aug 10), cancelling fall break, and ending at Thanksgiving.  This is intended to avoid overlapping with the typical flu season.  No word on how the spring semester will look, but I am confident they will manufacture a solution that will be sold to us as “safe” even if it contradicts their reason for ending at Thanksgiving.

The NFL is still planning on moving forward with fans in stands because it could lose as much as $5.5B by playing the season sans fans.  After all, “NFL” doesn’t stand for No Frofit League.  Ohio State said it could play with 20k-55k fans per game…but that will be revised higher before the fall.  Every other seat is what makes me safe?  Never mind the gaggle to get in or leave a stadium, or the restrooms, or the concession lines.  The SEC and ACC are allowing their free labor student athletes on campus June 8th because suddenly, magically, conveniently, it is safe and in no way should this decision be interpreted as strictly rooted in profit.

Of course there will be an increase in cases and deaths as we move to re-open, how could that be surprising to anyone?  Without a vaccine, we were going to see cases rise whether it happened in March, May, the fall, or even 2021.  It is inevitable.  More and more people are coming to that conclusion and then factoring in the economics of it all and deciding, “You know what…”

Some will say the last two months have been a waste…not me…but some…

I wonder what Dr. Fauci’s sudden change of heart can be attributed to?  Pressure from the White House?  More data?  A genuine belief we are ahead of the virus now?

Or maybe it’s because all the people he knows in the healthcare industry are chirping in his ear about the catastrophe amongst our most essential workers right now.


Last Week This Morning

  • 10 Year Treasury down to 0.66%
    • German bund at -0.47%
  • 2 Year Treasury anchored around 0.17%
  • LIBOR at 0.17% and will likely remain around here barring financial stress
  • SOFR is 0.02%
  • Somehow we are finding time to escalate tensions with China
  • JCPenny and Hertz declared bankruptcy
  • JPM forecasts double digit unemployment through at least Q1 2021
  • Unemployment rate is likely approaching 25% and is just waiting for the data to catch up


Memorial Day

While Memorial Day is a really a day to remember our fallen soldiers, I think this year it makes sense to spend a moment thinking about those fulfilling the role of soldier in the current battle against covid – healthcare professionals.

But not just in the typical, “Thank you to all our frontline heroes!” fashion.  More like the, “Wait, these are the people we need the most right now and they are being laid off in unprecedented levels” kind of way.

We have a few nurses in a pretty small circle of family and friends, and two of them have been furloughed.  We had a social distancing visit this week with one of them.  While she was frustrated with the loss of her job, what was really frustrating to her was the impact that a healthcare shutdown was having on the overall health of the community.  So-called elective procedures cancelled.  Vaccines missed.  Symptoms ignored.

She also relayed a story about a co-worker.  That nurse had stepped down from her current position, relocated to NYC on a 7-week contract to serve on the front line, and was let go just three weeks in.  She did not receive payment on the remaining 4 weeks. So now she is jobless.  I wonder if Cuomo’s consistent overestimation of ICU requirements had anything to do with that story playing out the way it did?

In the latest employment report, 1.4mm health care workers lost their jobs. Of those, 135k were in hospitals.  Job losses in healthcare trail only the hospitality/leisure industry.

“The American Hospital Association recently predicted that U.S. hospitals and health systems would end up taking a $200 billion hit over a four-month period through June. Most of that money — $160 billion — is from lost revenue from more lucrative elective procedures.”1

“With the exceptions of New York and San Francisco, almost every other U.S. hospital has experienced unforeseen declines in patient volume. From March 1 to April 15, health systems in the U S. saw an average drop in emergency visits and in-hospital stays of about 30% to 50%.”2

Excluding covid-related deaths, a CDC report concluded that NYC experienced 5,300 deaths more deaths than usual over a two month period.  Sick people weren’t seeking help.3

At Providence St. Joseph’s hospital in Seattle, the volume of heart attack patients fell by about 50% in March compared with the same month last year.  Either people are having heart attacks and not going to the hospital, or being shuttered at home with their kids is less stressful than I am finding it to be.4

Dr. Joseph Chan, medical director of the Emergency Department at Beverly Hospital in Montebello, “The message went out, it was heard and people overreacted,” Chan said. “There was a fear of what was going to come and it never came.  We had patients come in four days after having a stroke.”5

‘I like to be criticized for being too overactive,’ Fauci said in an interview on March 15th.

Mission accomplished.

Maybe mounting job losses in an industry a little closer to home will convince Dr. Fauci to stop referring to a full shutdown as “inconvenient”.  We need our hospitals staffed as cases start to rise again (which they will, it’s inevitable).

It’s easy to “like” a social media post about our frontline heroes.

But maybe what they really need is for us to just start scheduling appointments again.

Supply will follow demand.


This Week

Markets are closed today.

Data obviously takes on far less significance right now – basically take however bad you think it is and multiply by infinity.  But we do get a lot of important information this week, headlined by GDP estimates, Consumer Spending, and Consumer Confidence.