“Ethel, I’m Coming Home…”
For those of us of a certain age, these immortal words from the 1970s hit sitcom Sanford and Son always bring a smile to our faces. When life seemed too hard to bear for another second, Fred Sanford, our second-favorite curmudgeon (behind Archie Bunker of course) would grab his chest, look up to the sky, and utter those words to his wife who had passed on before him.
I don’t know about you, but that’s how it has felt to me as the end of the pandemic comes into view. I feel as if I am a man in prison who is nearing the end of his sentence, but while getting out of jail is tantalizingly close, he’s still IN jail, looking through the bars at the world outside his cell.
Ingrid and I got our second vaccines about six weeks ago. I cried when that needle went into my arm. The firefighter who injected me thought he was hurting me but mine were tears of joy that I would be one of the survivors of the Great Pandemic of 2020-21. For the past year, that was in doubt because, like many of you, we do have friends and family members that didn’t survive COVID.
We had countless challenges from our kids who, being younger and more carefree, wanted to come home from other states, and when they got here (after being tested) they would often want to go out with their friends. The stage was then set each time: it was the eye rollers versus the geezers wanting to survive, and the winner of each skirmish was never clear until the battle was over. I gave in more times than I care to admit. They were relentless with their requests.
Kid: “Can this person come over?”
Me: “No! Do you want to kill us?”
Kid: (Eye roll)
Kid: “Can we go see these people? They’re all safe!”
Me: “How do you know they are safe? I already told you–No.”
Kid: (eye roll)
Rinse and repeat ad nauseum.
Beaten down by battle fatigue, every so often I would give in and then afterwards have to pray that no symptoms would befall us for the next week. This has gone on for 13 months!
You probably have similar stories. My oldest son, Mark, has been living with us since August because he closed his Chicago-based medical organization down last Spring. Everybody there is working remotely. Everybody there, and everywhere else as far as I can see, is short on patience, long on gripes, and is just in a very foul mood. Everyone longs for the day when we can be with people we love and never, EVER have to wear a mask again.
Trying to give hope to our kids (and ourselves) at Christmastime, we booked a family Mediterranean cruise for late August. “Surely everybody will be vaccinated by then,” we thought. But it was not to be. Europe is in yet another lockdown. The cruise was canceled, along with our hopes for a return to international travel this year. The family vacay will probably have to be in our back yard…again.
Economic and Market Outlook
I’m sharing this personal story to point out that we’re all in the same boat. We’re stressed out, short-tempered and looking for an exit strategy.
At the same time, average personal savings skyrocketed to 13.7% during the pandemic. Many Americans are flush with money and itching to spend some of it. Couple that with potentially $6 trillion in new stimulus this year (including $1 trillion in traditional infrastructure spending), plenty of potential workers still looking for a job, the entire leisure and travel industries still hoping to get back in business, and we’ve got the ingredients for an economic recovery with legs to last for a while.
The one missing ingredient is herd immunity in the United States. How close are we to getting there? Closer than you may imagine, if the chart below is accurate. Herd immunity is usually achieved when somewhere between 60-80% of the population is immune to a disease. As of March 31st, about 55% of Americans have either had COVID or have been immunized. That means we are still 5-25% away from herd immunity. It would take 16.5 million more Americans getting vaccinated to reach 60% immunity, and 82.5 million more vaccinations to reach the 80% immunity level.
It may seem far away, but at our current pace of 3 million vaccinations a day, we could get there sometime in May. The end may finally be near. Our own team is well on their way to being fully vaccinated and we look forward to welcoming you back to our office when the time is right for you!