May 1, 2020
Born in the late 1800s in the Utah Territory, Hugh B. Brown became a respected Mormon attorney, educator, author and church leader during the 20th century. He enjoyed a long and many-faceted life, ultimately rising to serve on the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, one of the governing bodies in the church hierarchy. Another Brown quote: “If any of you have a desire to be mediocre, you will probably find that you have already achieved your ambition.” Brown was certainly not mediocre.
Beams of sunshine! Scientists worldwide are racing to develop more than 160 new drug and vaccine candidates to combat COVID-19. The past couple of days have been filled with good news regarding one drug and one vaccine.
Treatment for sick people: For the past two weeks, Gilead’s remdesivir has been on a roller coaster of positive and negative news. However, yesterday Dr. Anthony Fauci, now a household name, said that early results of a closely watched clinical trial offered “quite good news”. The good news is that patients treated with remdesivir were discharged from hospitals 4 days sooner (11 vs 15) than those taking the placebo. Less hospital time increases bed capacity, helping to reduce the risk that our health care system will be overwhelmed. This increases the likelihood that our businesses will be allowed to reopen sooner. Based on the results, the FDA may grant emergency-use authorization shortly.
A vaccine for healthy people: The Brits take the lead! Seemingly out of nowhere, scientists at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute will be testing their vaccine on 6,000 patients by the end of May. They had a head start on a vaccine, having proved in previous trials that similar inoculations were harmless to humans. If the trial proves safe and effective, the scientists are optimistic that with emergency approval from regulators, the first few million doses could be available by September. What a blessing that would be for our front line health care workers as well as weary, worried and confined elderly folks. Then the rest of us can get in line.
The bad and the good: The United States just hit 1 million reported cases this week. That’s bad. Now the good: Several recent antibody testing studies are indicating that upwards of 30 times as many people have been infected without knowing it…that’s 30 million people. Presumably immune without a vaccine, if the antibody tests are accurate, which is still questionable. But it is reasonable to conclude that many healthy people have already had the virus and perhaps simply considered it a bad cold. This also means that there may be an enormous pool of blood serum donors to support plasma therapy. Transfusions of antibodies has been showing promising results in numerous small trials. Bottom line: We sorely need a reliable antibody test to confirm blood donors, and to determine if the pandemic has slowed enough to begin restarting the economy.
Federal guidelines expire today: States’ rights prevail! The Trump Administration is allowing the state Governors to decide when and how best to cautiously reopen their economies. We can only hope that sound judgement will prevail. The average age of folks dying from COVID is well past retirement age. The shutdown has financially impacted working-age folks who are not only least susceptible to the disease, but who are most in need of earning an income. For these folks, and the small businesses that employ nearly half of all Americans, perhaps the “cure” was worse than the problem itself. This is not a riskless world, and we cannot afford a punishing definition of safety. An idle day by an able worker is national wealth lost forever. (My quote)
Market rebound: Since bottoming on March 23, the S&P 500 Index is up 30%, in spite of unprecedented weekly jobless claims. The combination of huge Federal Reserve interventions and progress on the drug and vaccine fronts has the markets looking past the near term darkness to the sunshine of significant recovery. Unfortunately, there will be many, many small business casualties, as well as a few big ones. The definition of “normal” will look different two years from now.
Zooming! Zoom has been our technology of choice for all of our client appointments for the past 6 weeks. Prior to your next use, make sure to install the upgrade to version 5.0+. It has significant enhanced security as well as other features. This must be done by May 31 in order to keep Zooming.
Thank you! Many of you have asked how we are managing during the pandemic and the shutdown of businesses. On both counts, we are enjoying 100% health, thank you. Yesterday, we held our fifth virtual staff meeting via Zoom. We all agree that we miss the personal contact that working from the office provides. We are anxious for restrictions to be lifted so that we can begin a gradual return to a “work-from-work” environment!
Richard J. Volpe, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, AEP®
Founder and President