Last week, I asked, “What if things go right?”
Today, we are going to find out “How wrong can things get?” At least in New York State, where September 27th is the date vaccine mandates go into effect for healthcare workers and others.
The US has a pre-existing condition – namely, a shortage of skilled nurses and other health care professionals. That will present a challenge to the industry. Will nurses and others who refuse to get jabbed quit (or technically refuse to comply with job requirements, thereby not getting unemployment benefits)?
I discussed this with an eldercare attorney (My 85-year old mom updated her NYS power of attorney/health care proxy). It’s not just hospitals but assisted living facilities, nursing homes, rehab centers, just about any medical facility. There is a shortage of people is reducing the quality of care everywhere, and that is under normal circumstances.
Along the Gulf Coast, hospitals have been filled past capacity due to a refusal to follow basic medical advice – get vaccinated, and where infection rates rise, wear a mask and social distance. There is nothing radical about any of this, except for how it has been politicized by opportunistic politicos aided by social media misinformation pushed along by Russian Agitprop.
I did some digging around, and the consensus I heard among medical professionals was that doctors run in the high 90s% for vaccinations, nurses high 50%s to low 60%, and other crucial healthcare workers even lower. I have not confirmed these numbers (they could be wrong), but does it ever light up my confirmation bias: More education, more vaccinations. If these numbers prove to be accurate, it creates an interesting test case as to what factors drive health care misinformation, how we can track that, and what we can do to repair it.
Strange data point: Catching Covid in the line of duty is now the leading cause of death for police – cops are twice as likely to die of Covid than be shot and killed. But their unions are fighting vaccine mandates. Note most departments mandate bulletproof vests regardless of how hot or uncomfortable wearing them might be. “Death before… a Jab?” seems like an odd hill to die on.
France badly lagged other economically developed countries soon after the vaccines became available, but they turned it around. I was unaware that the French have long been vaccine hesitancy. As the NYT reported, a mix of “mandates and inducements encouraged millions to get the shot as the Delta variant spread.”
Meanwhile, as you can see from the chart up top, the USA had leaped out to a fast start in vaccinations, but then fell behind. The combination of misinformation and partisan politicization has proven deadly. Now, the U.S. has fallen to the lowest vaccination rate among the world’s wealthiest democracies. A glimmer of hope was found in people’s self-preservation instinct, when hospitalizations and deaths spiked, vaccination rates improved (even in Florida and Texas).
Why is a self-professed data-loving market junky who dabbles in behavioral finance paying attention to this? Because the next few quarters of economic activity will be impacted by all of this – maybe even the next few years. Retail sales, travel, wages, etc. lead to more (or less) revenues and profits which affect sentiment, risk appetite, and market valuations. A more normal set of circumstances leads the Fed to get off of its emergency footing, normalizes rates, and shrink its balance sheet.
The sooner we can get everybody fully vaxxed, the sooner the economy returns to normal.
Update 2 September 28, 2021
Turns out there is a lot of political posturing, but push came to shove, and all of those bluffs were called
Update September 28, 2021
Looks like most health care workers decided to keep their jobs: Thousands of New York Health Workers Got Vaccinated Before Deadline, with 92% of hospital employees now receiving at least one dose Statewide. A survey credits fear of the Delta variant as the main factor driving Americans to get shots in recent months.
What If Things Go Right? (September 23, 2021)
DELTA is Coming For Your Economic Recovery (August 13, 2021)
Beware Russian Agitprop (August 17, 2021)