We fully expected that April would be tough for the economy, and, so far, the month has lived down to that expectation. In just the past two weeks, there have been over 16 million unemployment claims. The DOW was down nearly 3% for this past week.
Truthfully, it’s hard to find a bright – or even remotely positive – headline. Here’s a sampling from Barron’s from a recent day:
“The Dow Dropped 584 Points This Week. Why That’s Good News,”
“The March Jobs Report Is Even Worse Than It Looks,”
“The Bottom Isn’t Yet Here for Stocks.”
Wow. With all of the negative economic and COVID-19 news that greets us each morning, it’s a wonder people get out of bed.
But we’re Americans, so we do just that and more.
As with every other challenging or uncertain time that has briefly darkened our country’s history, we know this too shall pass.
Things will get better. Much better. Deep down, we have the shared belief that we will prevail. So, we’ll keep on fighting to get our country back up and running.
Of course, we know that there are parts of the economy that are in shutdown mode. Delta Airlines reported a 90% plummet in revenue. There are more than one million restaurants, with nearly 15 million total employees struggling to keep their businesses and jobs afloat. These business owners know, like we all know, that COVID-19 won’t keep us on the ropes forever.
Let’s look at some data from the non-partisan Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation website. According to the Institute’s projections, we’re not yet at the peak of COVID-19. Based on data they have collected, the Institute predicts that the national peak is a couple days ahead, around April 15th.
Now the good news. After that, the virus is projected to start receding in America. Receding. By the end of this month, we should see tremendous progress. One way we’ve responded to the virus is through ramped-up testing. On March 21st, roughly two weeks ago, we had tested fewer than 200,000 people. Today, we’re running close to 200,000 per day. We’ve tested 3.2 million people.
To me, it’s clear that testing will lead to more certainty about COVID-19, and with the greater certainty will come recovery.
I’ve been talking for months now about how we can pull ourselves up and out of this crisis. I still believe the primary driver towards recovery will be the certainty made possible by continued, large-scale testing will provide.
Now, this by no means is to say that the virus isn’t horrific; there’s a reason why we aren’t being inundated with happy news headlines these days. What I mean is that you and I and every other American will not let this country crumble.
We don’t shutter up and give up. We don’t cower in corners and hide. Not for long.
We adapt, and then we fight back. We do this, no matter the enemy. No matter the circumstances. No matter the ferocity of combat. It’s the American way.
I sense that Americans have woken up, and despite us being in our homes for most of the day, I feel our resolve and unity growing. It’s that same communal resolve we experienced after the tragedy of 9/11.
Every day, we gather more ammunition for the fight against this invisible enemy. We’re testing. We’re starting to understand the virus. There is a poignant video from Dr. David Price in New York about how not to catch the virus. His video is the most liberating perspective I’ve seen throughout this crisis. He teaches us the things to do and not do to keep ourselves and our families safe.
With knowledge and certainty comes power, plus more room to breathe. We’re getting more and more certainty with each new day.
In Europe, the toll of COVID-19 is receding. Italy, Spain and Germany all look to be on the downward side of the bell curve. In light of data from these countries, a peak in America in about 10 to 14 days would make sense, followed by our own downhill slide on the curve.
Our federal government is with us in the battle back to normalcy. The CARES Act has taken traction. In most states, unemployment benefits are typically around $300 to $400 a week. CARES adds an additional $600 per week to claims. That brings the total benefit up to an amount that folks can live on.
There’s also the Paycheck Protection Program or PPP. Of the 30 million small businesses in America, 24 million are solo entrepreneurs, sole proprietors or 1099 contract workers. Think about real estate agents, contract medical workers, artists and consultants. Millions of these folks will qualify for the PPP. In fact, I’ve spoken to people who have already had their loans funded!
Meanwhile, the private sector is standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest of us. They’re in the war too, going full-tilt against COVID-19.
Here’s a list, from Forbes, of what some private companies are doing to help us win this battle:
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals: This biotech outfit is conducting clinical trials of its rheumatoid arthritis drug Sarilumab on patients in New York. Regeneron’s drugs are what are known as “monoclonal antibodies,” which means they’re proteins produced by the immune system that can neutralize pathogens. Regeneron’s antibodies are made in mice genetically modified to have human-like immune systems, which means that, when they are given to a patient, his or her immune system will not attack the antibody. Look for this new information on this promising research as early as this summer.
Abbott Laboratories: Illinois healthcare firm Abbott Laboratories obtained emergency FDA authorization for its five-minute COVID-19 testing kit on March 27. The plan now is to start manufacturing 50,000 kits a day.
Cellex: This biopharma firm’s antibody-based testing for COVID-19 also received emergency approval from the FDA.
Eli Lilly: Lilly is partnering with Vancouver-based AbCellera, a biotech outfit, in order to develop antibody-based treatments for COVID-19.
Gilead: The biotech giant Gilead initiated clinical trials in March for its antiviral drug Remdesivir on patients in the US.
Moderna: This Massachusetts biotech company was the first to begin human trials of its vaccine (on March 16 in Seattle) and could deploy it to health workers for emergency use by the fall.
Johnson & Johnson: Janssen, the company’s pharma unit, will start manufacturing its vaccine this month. The vaccine was developed in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services. Human trials are set to begin by September and a public rollout hoped for early 2021. The company and the federal government are investing more than $1 billion in the vaccine effort.
Mylan: Pennsylvania-based pharmaceutical firm Mylan restarted production of hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to fight lupus, malaria and arthritis, at its West Virginia factory. The drug is being tested in human trials in New York as a treatment for COVID-19.
Airbnb: The peer-to-peer home rental company is currently providing housing for 100,000 COVID-19 responders in homes volunteered by Airbnb hosts around the world.
Airbus: The aircraft maker is part of a group of 15 companies, called the Ventilator Challenge UK Consortium, all partnering to build at least 10,000 ventilators for the British government.
Alphabet: Through its healthcare arm Verily, Google’s parent company has launched a website where users can locate testing sites in four California counties.
Anheuser-Busch InBev: The world’s largest beer company is making more than one million bottles of hand sanitizer from surplus alcohol at its worldwide breweries.
Aria Designs: This North Carolina furniture manufacturer received financing from CIT Group to procure millions of N95 surgical masks from its international suppliers.
Armani: This luxury fashion brand converted all production at its Italian factories to manufacture single-use medical overalls.
Bacardi: The spirits giant converted production at nine production facilities in Mexico, France, England, Italy, Scotland, Puerto Rico and the continental US to make hand sanitizer.
Colgate: The company is coordinating with the WHO to make 25 million soap bars at five factories on three continents, all to be donated to authorities lacking supplies.
Diageo: Maker of Johnnie Walker whisky and Smirnoff vodka, Diageo donated two million liters of ethyl alcohol, a byproduct of the distillation process, to hand sanitizer manufacturers.
ExxonMobil: Oil & gas multinational is partnering with the Atlanta-based Global Center for Medical Innovation to coordinate manufacturing of face shields and masks with refillable filter cartridges. These prototypes are awaiting FDA approval. The plan is to eventually produce up to 40,000 masks and cartridges per hour.
Ford: Auto titan Ford is working with 3M and GE’s healthcare unit to make ventilators, respirators and face shields at its manufacturing sites. Ford and GE Healthcare announced on March 30 that the companies would produce 50,000 ventilators by July 8 with plans to increase production to 30,000 a month.
General Motors: This auto giant announced on March 27 that it would begin building ventilators at its Kokomo, IN plant, as well as producing masks at a factory in Michigan. All production is in a partnership with medical device maker Ventec Life Systems. Just hours later, President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to compel GM to “accept, perform and prioritize federal contracts for ventilators.”
HP: The tech behemoth is using its 3D printing centers in four cities to make masks, face shields and ventilator parts.
Philips: The Dutch multinational is doubling production of pulmonary ventilators, with plans to quadruple production by the third quarter of 2020.
Rolls-Royce: The luxury carmaker is a member of the Ventilator Challenge UK Consortium.
Uber: The ride-hailing app pledged 10 million free rides and food deliveries for healthcare workers, senior citizens and others in need.
Zoom: The company’s billionaire founder, Eric Yuan, made the firm’s popular video conferencing software free to use for all affected K-12 schools in China, Japan, Italy and the US.
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