It’s The Market, Stupid

It is challenging to write about a dynamic situation and nothing seems to be more dynamic than COVID. That said, today I want to expound on an aspect that we seem to be ignoring.

Based on the latest credible statistics available as of this writing we are experiencing over 1 million new infections a day for the last few days and it is reasonable to project that we will be in seven digits for at least the next few, possibly longer. As my regular readers know I have been following the 14 day rolling average for over a year now and the last several days we are increasing at a rate in excess of 200% with over 600,000 new cases per day.

The current dominant strain of the virus is the Omicron variant. It appears to be much less lethal, for those who are fully vaccinated at least, but it is much more contagious. Therefore, we have more cases. With the much larger “sample size” we may well end up with more total cases requiring hospitalization and hospital capacity is finite. You connect those dots.

Friday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two somewhat related vaccine requirement cases. As of this writing no decisions have been announced and I’ll refrain from comment for the moment other than to say that I think a larger force may be at work – the market.

No matter where you stand on the related issues nobody wants to see any partial or “complete” shutdowns. Americans love their freedom, hate to be told what and what not to do along with having any other options being taken from them. Aside from the minority operating in the blissful ignorance of right wing rhetoric we also have a desire to continue living and will take appropriate actions.

Schools are a particular hot button issue at the moment. Regardless of what school boards and teachers’ unions decide if there is a significant enough shortage of staff due to infection schools will simply not be able to maintain in person learning. Sadly, I am convinced the reason schools are such a major issue has little or nothing to do with concern for the educational welfare of the children; but too many Americans don’t want to lose the baby sitter service they have come to rely on. If the children stay home in most cases an adult cannot go to work and the avalanche of repercussion continue.

Let’s look at the small business for a bit. (I, among many, have truly felt sorry for the mom and pop – or just a bit larger – who is trying to keep their doors open and people employed in this pandemic.) If much of your staff is out sick you simply cannot handle your customers. The government may not shut you down but the circumstances will.

Take that to the other side of the coin. If things get bad enough and your cutomers are afraid to come into your place of business, unless you have a great online operation and the staff to service it you are out of business. Note: some businesses simply cannot service their customers via the internet and a delivery service.

The big unknown is what the next variant will be like. We escaped my fear of a “doomsday variant” – one that defies our vaccines – in Omicron. What does the future hold? What if the next one is exponentially more infectious than Omicron regardless of lethality? That alone could be enough to unleash the market forces I am alluding to. And don’t take a victory lap just yet – we are far from the end of Omicron.

Here is the reality. The United States is perhaps the only nation on the planet with the resources to have effectively beat COVID already and we blew it. Misinformation and the anti-vaxers movement it spawned have allowed enough potential host to exist for the virus to thrive. Regardless of what the government or the Court does the market will take its own course. If we succumb to the virus it is our own fault.

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