As the COVID pandemic continues to claim the lives of parents, grandparents, sons & daughters, we are finally seeing evidence that the sacrifices that we have been making are bearing fruit. The rate of serious illness, as measured by the number of COVID cases that require hospitalization, appears to be stabilizing and even dropping in our worst-hit area, New York city.
Worldwide we are approaching 2 million confirmed COVID cases and 120,000 deaths. In the U.S. there are approximately 550,000 confirmed cases with 22,000 deaths (almost 10,000 of which are in New York, and 650 in California) . There are numerous clinical trials of promising new treatments that are ongoing, and advancing quickly. And while news reports of breakthroughs are, and will continue, to show up in headlines, it will likely take at least several months before we can prove the effectiveness of any of them.
The market (S&P 500) was up 12% last week, the best weekly performance since 1974. That puts the market up a total of 25% from its low on March 23rd 2020. Who would have figured? Whereas the market is down 14% for the year, my guess is that there will continue to be a lot more earthshaking, and thoroughly unpredictable, ups and downs to come.
The government is finally in the process of implementing various programs to help us mitigate the adverse economic consequences that we are suffering. In addition to expanded unemployment eligibility and benefits, and direct payments to individuals ($1,200 per person; $500 per child (phased out for higher earners)) there are programs to help small businesses including:
- Paycheck Protection Program – Federally guaranteed (forgivable) loans – Apply via banks.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance – up to $10,000 immediate grant – apply directly to SBA at https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/
News and information that is streamed at us consistently reminds us of the economic consequences of our global lockdown. However, the consequences to our mental well-being resulting from this social sacrifice are not as well addressed. Many of us are already feeling those unintended consequences from extended social-distancing policies, and many more will.
We are social animals that require social interaction for our mental (and physical) well-being. With an estimated 2.6 billion people on lockdown worldwide there are expectations for an epidemic of mental burn-out and stress-related absenteeism in the latter part of 2020. It is important for you to take notice, and take action, to offset the potentially toxic effects of extended social isolation . Some important steps include
- Avoid obsessing over endless Coronavirus coverage and things that you cannot control.
- Create a daily structure – include wake-up time and bed time, work/study, and daily physical exercise.
- Use technology (phone, video) frequently and aggressively to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues.
- Reach out and help others in any way you can.
- Keep your personal and professional support group in mind when you need perspective or help.
"Just keep in mind: the more we value things outside our control, the less control we have." Epictetus
Daniel Ruben, MD, MPH, MBA
The market indexes discussed are unmanaged and generally considered representative of their respective markets. Individuals cannot directly invest in unmanaged indexes. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The return and principal value of investments will fluctuate as market conditions change. When sold, investments may be worth more or less than their original cost.
WSJ, April 13, 2020, Page 1 “Earnings Pose Test for Market.”