Three Implications as the Virus Surges
Author: Greg Valliere
June 22, 2020
A MEMORABLE SIGN: Earlier this month, we saw an astonishing picture of a sign outside of a macho Texas bar: “No face masks allowed.” And now Texas, Florida, Arizona and most of the Sun Belt are suffering through a surge of new covid-19 cases that cannot be explained away by the increase of testing.
EXPERTS RANGING FROM Scott Gottlieb to Anthony Fauci are horrified that cases and hospitalizations are rising rapidly — especially among young people — in states that seemingly ignored pleas for social distancing and wearing masks.
THE DISEASE WILL NOT “just fade away,” as President Trump predicts; there were six infections this weekend in his staff, and White House officials are preparing for another wave this fall. Yet Trump proclaimed on Saturday night that he doesn’t favor more testing (the White House lamely said he was joking).
THE FIRST WAVE CLEARLY IS NOT OVER, and there are three major implications, in our opinion:
1. Trump’s re-election prospects continue to fade; his polling numbers show that by nearly 2-to-1 the public disapproves of his handling of the virus and race relations. Yet he will stir the pot again tomorrow, speaking at a campaign rally in
Arizona, which has been staggered by the pandemic.
If there’s one word to describe the Trump campaign, it’s frustration — especially
by Joe Biden’s reluctance to engage. Biden’s rich history of gaffes has prompted his advisers to keep him under wraps — and without a foil, Trump has been flailing against China, the press, protesters, etc. Biden will announce his running mate in a few weeks, but until then he probably will stay in the basement.
We still think it’s too early to write off Trump. His campaign may hit its stride by fall, but he needs to rebound from a deficit of nearly 10 points in the RealClearPolitics average of all polls (Hillary Clinton never led by that much). And Trump trails by a remarkable 15 points on the RealClearPolitics average of betting odds.
2. More Support for Stimulus. As the virus surges, Congress will have to respond — and listen to experts like Fed Chairman Jerome Powell. More stimulus seems inevitable but there’s no chance that a bill can pass by the upcoming two-week July 4 recess, and then there will only be another three weeks before the August break.
Congress can’t even agree on modest police reform, so the stimulus package will require some leadership from the White House because increasing numbers of conservatives are alarmed by the pricetag ($1.5 trillion seems like a good bet for the next bill). A combination of Democrats, some Republicans and the White House will unite to pass a bill, but this will take time.
3. Sports, travel and dining seem to be the likely victims as this new surge of cases erupts. The public needs sports — but athletes are getting infected at an alarming rate. Our sense is that the pro baseball and basketball seasons are on life support, with this fall’s football season clouded by a rapid rise of infections among players.
Likewise, the outlook for entertainment and dining is now unclear; hapless Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis apparently may have to crack down on social distancing and wearing masks; the bigger question is whether people will flock to Florida restaurants this summer.
THE GOOD NEWS: The most encouraging sign, in our opinion, is that doctors and nurses in emergency rooms have come up with tool boxes that are dramatically reducing deaths. Progress continues on vaccines. And our hunch is that there will be a drop in new cases by August, as “herd immunity” becomes a factor. And if there’s a second wave this fall, there should be enough masks, ventilators, etc.
WE LISTEN TO THE SCIENTISTS, and they’re alarmed now. Social distancing and masks have to be part of the solution, yet young people feel invulnerable. They’re hearing from Trump and others that the virus is fading — when in fact it isn’t.
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