I Hope They Are Correct, But…

The word “leaked” from the White House that on May 11th the administration plans to announce the COVID emergency is over. As today’s title says, “I hope they are correct, but…”

When trying to predict the future -and if you are telling me what you plan on doing in mid-May in late January you better be predicting the future – it is best to look at leading not lagging indicators. (The Fed could learn from that, but that is another story; perhaps several of them.) My regular readers know I have been following the 14-day rolling average of COVID cases for some time now. I feel it is the best, readily accessible, data set for predicting the near-term future.

The last day’s numbers available as of this writing were for January 30th. For the past ten days we have been in the mid-40,000s and are dropping at a rate of about 25%. Certainly, encouraging numbers. For about a week before that we were in the 50,000s and essentially flat. Early January was mainly in the 60,000s and showing a small decrease in the percentage. All this really means is that we have gotten back to about where we were in mid-November before the holiday surge.

I have arbitrarily picked 30,000 (that’s still 600 daily new cases per state) as the level at which I would start doing a few physical things my wife and primary care provider have been (correctly) after me to do. The bottom line is that we can’t seem to get there and 45,000 is a long way from 30,000. (50% higher.)

I pride myself on being a pretty good numbers guy and I don’t see a clear and unavoidable path to 30,000 or less by May 11th. It is certainly a possibility, but far from a forgone conclusion. Even if we do reach that level by then, is that cause to sound what people will perceive as an all clear? I certainly hope, and assume, that President Biden has more skilled numbers people than me. In the event that my skepticism proves to be a reality, I hope he has or at least will claim something that prevents sounding the all clear on May 11th or better yet that I am completely incorrect and overreacting.

I hope they are correct but, at the moment, color me skeptical at best.

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