In recent days there has been a flood in good news on the covid front. Consider that a recent report from Bank of America, which notes that “COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to plunge” we read the following encouraging data points:
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the US has declined dramatically to 81,439, or 51,035 (down 39%) from the peak which occurred on January 5th – a rapid turn in the crisis. The decrease is broad-based (50 states + DC, except for AK, which saw a minimal 2-person increase over the past week).
The weekly percentage change in US COVID-19 hospitalized is consistent with the largest declines seen during the coronavirus crisis. Moreover the 7-day test positivity rate has declined to 7.2% from the 13.6% peak on January 8th. Since hospitalizations are lagged relative to time of infection,US coronavirus outbreaks peaked back in the second half of December.
Finally, the vaccine rollout in the US accelerated to more than 2 million doses per day over the weekend and a cumulative 41.2mn doses had been administered through February7th.
The recent widespread improvements prompted Goldman to get this close to declaring the all clear: in a Monday note from chief economist Jan Hatzius, he writes that “the global virus situation has improved significantly, with both new confirmed cases and the positivity rate down meaningfully since December. It is still too early for a significant impact from vaccinations, so we would attribute the improvement to other factors such as new restrictions, greater caution in individual behavior, and perhaps partial herd immunity in some places.”
More notably, Hatzius notes that “the renewed improvement in the UK is particularly noteworthy because of the concerns about new variants, in this caseB117, which surfaced first there…. the UK’s response to its B117-heavy infection surge in December was similar to France’s response to its surge in October. The fact that both countries saw their infections decline in similar ways after the ELI increase suggests that B117 has not been a game changer, at least so far.”
So much for worries that mutant strains would render both the response strategy and vaccines moot.
And yet despite this impressive improvement in the pandemic, some are hinting that covid may be here to stay for a long, long time. Take the CEO of Johnson & Johnson, Alex Gorsky, who told CNBC that people may need to get vaccinated annually for Covid-19, Gorsky told CNBC the virus can mutate as it spreads causing it to have different responses to therapeutics and vaccines.