Trend watch and what's new this week
Omicron has spiked U.S. virus trends nationally (slide 3) and regionally (slide 6). While omicron variant appears to be more transmissible than prior strains, the symptoms are reportedly milder. To wit, nearly every family we talk to in recent weeks has at least one person that has tested positive, and typically more. However, the virus is becoming more manageable (slide 7).
Event delays/postponements have cascaded through the U.S. over the past two weeks, including profession sports games being rescheduled. Outright cancellations have been rare, but have occurred; most notably, many Broadway productions.
More importantly, more than 2,200 K-12 schools announced closures starting today (1/3/22). Some extended winter break by few days, while others will temporarily reverted to remote-learning. Meanwhile, some will return to in-person when their breaks end.
Of course, kids being home due to school closures or remote-learning backs up into work life for working parents. Moreover, spiking infections is pushing back return-to-office (RTO) plans for many companies. Many have repeatedly postponed RTO plans, with several now saying they have delayed it indefinitely.
The combination of omicron, holiday seasonality, and winter storms have already greatly impacted the economic data to close out 2021.
These developments will likely result in softer data to start the new year as some of these issues spill into January. For instance, the winter storms have cancelled more than 13,000 U.S. flights in the past nine days, including over 3,600 yesterday (1/2/22) alone. That said, it’s important to understand such delays typically result in pushing back activity rather than cancelling it, which equates to outright losses.
We maintain our base case that the U.S. won’t experience lockdowns, which also didn’t occur during last summer’s delta variant surge. That’s based on the fact that nearly three quarters of Americans adults are fully vaccinated (over 200 million), and over one-third of adults have already received a booster. Additionally, there are better therapeutics compared to 2020, including two recently approved COVID-19 treatment pills. Both pills are effective against the omicron variant based on recent lab data.
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