by Robert Romano
16.4 million jobs have been recovered since April when labor markets bottomed amid the state-led Covid pandemic economic shutdowns, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But with Covid cases once again on the upswing as the cold and flu season kicks into higher gear — about 166,000 confirmed new cases daily, and then the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation reports 255,000 probable new cases daily when projected asymptomatic cases are factored in — states appear ready to go right back into shutdown mode.
In New York, for example, where 484,000 remain on unemployment after peaking at 1.87 million in May, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is already urging more restrictions as confirmed cases in the state have once again reached more than 5,000 on Nov.13 and Nov. 14, and probable cases are said to be about 8,600. The peak in March was projected to be nearly 120,000 probable cases.
In his Nov. 14 update to New Yorkers, Cuomo stated, “Will we shut down and will we have more restrictions? What has worked for New York from day one is it’s a pure consequence of science. There’s no political decision making, no ideological decision making. Look at the numbers, and if the numbers are increasing and if they’re not slowing, then you have to restrict activity.”
So, get ready, the lockdowns are coming again.
And former Vice President Joe Biden, currently leading in the counting of ballots amid ongoing legal challenges from President Donald Trump, should he prevail when states certify their election results, may be inheriting an economy once again falling into recession.
Biden once again warned of a “very dark winter” on Nov. 16, and urged economic support measures by Congress to once again compensate for another downturn: “We’re going in a very dark winter. Things are going to get much tougher before they get easier. And that requires sparing no effort to fight COVID…”
In his statement, Biden not so encouragingly said that the goal was to “we can open our businesses safely, resume our lives and put this pandemic behind us” in the same breath as calling for “national strategy with robust public health measures like mandatory masking…” and urging “Congress should come together and pass a COVID relief package…”
So, when Biden says his policy is to open businesses again, he really means to close them up again, and to put the economy back on life support by Congress and the Federal Reserve.
Consider, in the last round of shutdowns, more than 25 million jobs were lost in just two months, and the economy contracted by 31.4 percent in the second quarter, creating depression-like conditions in a very short window of time. The unemployment rate went from the lowest in 50 years at 3.5 percent, to the highest since the 1930s at 14.7 percent in April.
Thankfully, the economy rebounded by a record 33.1 percent in the third quarter and the unemployment rate is back down to 6.9 percent, but for how long?
One saving grace for the American people could be the vaccines currently in development. President Donald Trump announced Operation Warp Speed in May to mass-produce millions of doses of vaccines in advance — not knowing if the candidate regimens would even be effective.
That is the critical turn we are all waiting for. On Nov. 13, President Trump outlined his plan to deliver the vaccine now, after it was announced Pfizer had developed a vaccine that was 90 percent effective.
Trump stated, “In July, my administration reached an agreement with Pfizer to provide $1.95 billion to support the mass manufacturing and distribution of 100 million doses, with the option to purchase a total of 600 million doses shortly thereafter. Our investment will make it possible for the vaccine to be provided by Pfizer free of charge… We will work to secure an emergency use authorization, which should be coming down extremely soon. And my administration will then coordinate the distribution of the vaccine, and it will be approved, I think — again, it will be approved very, very quickly, we hope.”
The hurdles include the normal process for getting drugs approved, Trump noted, stating, “The average development timeline for the vaccine, including clinical tests and manufacturing, can take 8 to 12 years. Through Operation Warp Speed, we’re doing it in less than one year. If you had a different administration with different people, what we’ve done would have taken, in my opinion, three, four, five years, and it would have been in the FDA forever.”
In the meantime, New York Gov. Cuomo threw cold water on the idea of administering the vaccine in New York, stating on Nov. 9, “We can’t let this vaccination plan go forward the way that Trump and his administration is designing it.”
Later, Cuomo seemed more concerned about who would get credit for approving the vaccine in remarks on Nov. 17, accusing President Trump of rushing the process, stating, “nobody is going to trust him saying it’s a safe vaccine. But you’re going to see this play out, they’ll do what’s called an emergency authorization by the FDA… I think that could happen as soon as January where the FDA, because Trump will push them, will say we authorized the drug for emergency use, and you could see it starting in January before Biden gets into office and that’s why I’m pushing so hard to make sure that we have a process in place to check what the FDA says before people start getting the vaccine in New York.”
So, watch for the pivot to occur, if and when the vaccine ready and an emergency use authorization is put into place by the Trump administration.
Would Biden really rescind the emergency use of the vaccine once distribution has begun or cast doubt on the vaccine’s efficacy, creating public fear and destroying his nascent push for unity following the razor-thin election margins? Seems doubtful, but Gov. Cuomo and other Democratic governors seem determined to make the restrictions on the American people last as long as possible. And if Bidens wins, we’ll find out soon enough if that means the whole country, too.
– – –
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.