March 23, 2020
The invisible viral scourge continues to make its presence felt more and more. It is difficult for most of us to fully comprehend the gravity of the harm that an unseen bug can impose on our health, and in turn how the state of our own health can meaningfully threaten those around us. Saturday was a beautiful day and the crowds were out at the beaches, parks and trails. Though invisible, the threat is real. This is no time to mingle in crowds.
Human beings are social animals and “social distancing” is a contradiction to our instincts and culture. I think that we should exert special efforts to actually embrace social engagement while maintaining physical distancing. Imagine the world before facetime. We have so many ways to engage. In this time of physical isolation, it is vital to reach out rather than withdraw. Pick up the phone and call, or video chat with those who are just a block away or across the ocean. Have a birthday party on social media and a wedding live-streamed to your closest and most (geographically) distant friends. In the next few weeks make a special effort to be socially engaged while maintain physical separation.
The economic cost of not working, not shopping, not producing and not earning is substantial. It is to our mutual benefit that as many individuals, families, and business stay solvent until our economic life resumes. The good news is that this time, our political leadership that has the power to make the resources available understands this. The bad news is that they can’t get beyond seeing themselves as democrats or republicans, playing the crisis for political gain at our expense. I hope that they get their act together quickly. Do what you can to put pressure on them.
So long as bad news and fear dominate erratic investor behavior will translate into a roller coaster market ride. While past performance is not a guarantee of the future, the vast majority of those who have historically jumped off the roller coaster at times of nausea have been hurt. However, this assumes that you have a well-built train that will not fall off its tracks. In market terms that means a well-diversified portfolio heartily designed to get you where you ultimately need to go.
I am here not only to see that you have a well-designed train, but also to help you with the nausea. While exercising responsible physical separation, I am on the phone and video conferencing with clients and their loved ones every day; and will continue to be present and available throughout this time when people need me most.
Stay safe and remember that reaching out to others, however virtually, can have a very real positive effect on you.
Questions that I have been asked to address:
Is a vaccine going to save us? In my view a vaccine will take some time before it may be useful to us. This immediate crisis will hopefully be measured in weeks and it is unlikely that a vaccine will be ready in such short order.
I have heard that there are medicines that can treat or prevent COVID-19, how true is that? There has been a lot of talk about various medication regimens that may be useful in the treatment and prevention of this disease. The truth is that we do not have anything available at present that we know will be helpful.
There has been discussion that a regimen of Chloroquine and Azithromycin may be effective. While there is some scant published data that have hinted that there may be some promise [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41421-020-0156-0] we have yet to see how this treatment performs in a clinical setting. I believe that trials will begin as soon as tomorrow. The very good news about all of this, is that regulatory institutions have removed the usual barriers at this time of crisis where time is of the essence and taking some extra risk may be the prudent course, and given the go ahead to physicians and researchers to fast-track several potential treatments.
If you have any questions that you wish for me to address in these communications please share them with me.
“It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.”
Berkshire-Hathaway 1992 Letter to Shareholders
Daniel Ruben, MD, MPH, MBA