The human race is on pause. Our planet is changing. I wonder what cultural and moral transformations might emerge as a result of this pandemic. From my vantage point, we are becoming more aware of our own humanity, kinder, and more empathetic to those who are less fortunate. Is that how you see it, too? I am, by nature, optimistic and try to learn from history’s lessons.
I am confident that we will defeat this virus and come back stronger than ever — and faster than many economists predict. My optimism is fueled by the intensity in which American innovators, businesses, and philanthropists have pulled together to meet this difficult challenge.
Today we are living history in real-time as COVID-19 and social distancing have thrust us into a recession.
Social distancing goes against our nature. We are social creatures yearning for connection. While technology allows us to meet online during this pandemic, I am sure that many of you — like me — are suffering “cabin fever.”
But there is good news on the horizon. The peak in new coronavirus cases across the country is expected to occur between now and mid-May. Thankfully, social distancing is working, and we are flattening the curve. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the senior White House adviser on the virus, has revised the projected American deaths down to 60,000 from as high as 240,000.
Dr. Fauci says the lower death estimate is based on social distancing staying in effect through May. It’s not yet time to pull back the orders because if we do, we could invite a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall.
Life-Saving Drugs, Therapies on the Way
Drugs and therapies are in the works so that we can defeat COVID-19 once and for all. Sometime in May, we should receive the first results on remdesivir clinical trials. Abbott Labs is making 50,000 test kits a day. The Food and Drug Administration cleared a test by a Silicon Valley firm, Cephid, that produces test results in 45 minutes. And, Rutgers University researchers have received FDA clearance for the first saliva test to help diagnose COVID-19.
While our commercial and public health laboratories don’t have the capacity to test every American right now, the system will eventually catch up with demand in the months ahead.
Government, too, has stepped up and we’re seeing what can be done when our elected leaders toss aside their talking points to focus on bipartisan efforts to support American families and businesses.
Total Stimulus for COVID-19 Recovery Will Be Substantial
Trillions of dollars in stimulus funds are on the way, and I believe the total of these packages will become substantially higher. Add in nearly 0% bank rates, which translate to 2.5%-3% loan rates for businesses and home mortgages, and the result is huge savings for Americans that will jump-start our economy!
If the infrastructure proposal goes through, we will also rebuild the ailing U.S. transportation, energy-connection, and water-storage networks. Along with expanding internet access, a well-funded infrastructure stimulus bill would increase productivity for decades to come.
Yes, the stock market entered a new cycle this month — a signal this deep recession will be over in six months. But don’t expect the market to go straight up. We will have setbacks as the economy navigates the bumpy road ahead. My forecast is for a very bad economy through September followed by an emerging recovery in October leading to new economic highs in 2021.
The economic growth forecast for the second quarter of this year is minus-22% with a third-quarter rebound of 7%. Total it up, and the estimated GDP growth for 2020 is minus-5% to minus-7%. For many Americans, this will mean keeping a close eye on spending and giving up items that aren’t necessities.
Our leaders also must consider additional help specifically for people who have lost their incomes during the shutdown. I know that some lenders such as mortgage companies and auto financiers are assisting the affected families by allowing delayed payments. Those efforts combined with a federal bailout for families would go a long way toward getting millions of Americans back on track financially.
Country Could Re-Open Over the Next Few Months
Thankfully, many forecasts about this virus have been wrong. The original America death estimate was over one million and, as recently as two weeks ago, it was more than 200,000. Although one death is too many, today’s projection of 60,000 deaths is a welcome sign. I see the country slowly opening over the next few months, with the lifting of restrictions varying state-to-state based on the volume of new cases vs. the recovery rate.
Estimates, of course, are based on many factors — including how fast we can safely return to work in phases.
To get the economy healthy again, here are three things we should be doing before we reopen.
The No. 1 focus should be on nationwide testing. This would help get those who don’t have COVID-19 back to work immediately, as well as identify, treat, or isolate those with the virus. Think of front-line workers in medical care and public safety. If they test positive, they should not be at work. We need enough test kits to test people at work or students at school on a daily basis.
Just as vital is securing the personal protective equipment needed for everyone to be safe from this virus. While I applaud all of you making facemasks at home to support those on the front lines and for personal use, we know that professionally made PPE creates the safest protection.
We also must continue to protect those most vulnerable to this virus until there is a vaccine.
And, finally, we need FDA approvals for safe therapies ASAP and a vaccine available by early next year. Until these things happen, the economy won’t kick into full gear.
My hope is that all nations come together to work on a vaccine — as some have done — and increase their PPE production. If we don’t team up, we risk second and third waves of the coronavirus coming from underdeveloped countries lacking the medical and financial resources to combat the pandemic.
How Will the Pandemic Change Us?
We will learn a lot from this crisis. Businesses that adhere to new hygiene protocols will bounce back fast. The hospitality industry, in general, will need to reinvent itself to rebound. Certainly, we all must recalibrate how we do business. From restaurant dining rooms to sales office doors to the traditional handshake.
I’m certain many of our pre-COVID-19 practices will be examined. But what about America’s wealth and opulence as a world leader — relative to our own under-served population and those of developing nations? Will we look more kindly on the homeless and those who don’t have access to healthcare? Will we better support people with mental illness? Will we be there to inspire dreams in those who have lost hope?
Despite the challenges, families may indeed be able to joyfully celebrate the 2020 Christmas season and holidays thereafter. We are a spirited country with the need and desire to explore and, as I said before, connect with friends, family, and business partners. When this over, and the cure is here, we are going to make up for lost time!
These are the questions I ask myself. Going forward, we must strive to better use our bounty of resources to ensure every American is secure and to become, once again, President Reagan’s “shining city upon a hill” for the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, take care of yourselves and your families. Reach out and connect safely with one another. Isolate socially, but not emotionally. We need each other now more than ever.
About the Author
Darius Assemi is the publisher of GV Wire and president/CEO of Granville Homes.