April Shutdowns

Shutdowns through early April prevented about 60 million US coronavirus infections, study says –

NEW YORK (CNN) — If large-scale shutdown policies — such as ordering people to stay home and closing schools — were not implemented after the coronavirus pandemic reached the United States, there would be roughly 60 million more coronavirus infections across the nation, a new modeling study suggests.

The study, published Monday in the scientific journal Nature, involved a modeling technique typically used for estimating economic growth to measure the effect of shutdown policies across six countries: China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France and the United States.

Those estimates suggest that, without certain policies in place from the beginning of the pandemic in January through early April, there would be roughly:

  • 285 million more total infections in China
  • 38 million more total infections in South Korea
  • 49 million more total infections in Italy
  • 54 million more total infections in Iran
  • 45 million more total infections in France
  • 60 million more total infections in the United States

Overall, the study suggests that emergency COVID-19 policies prevented more than 500 million total coronavirus infections across all six countries.

The study period ended on April 6, but keeping shutdown orders in place after that time has likely led to even more coronavirus infections being avoided — even though maintaining such measures has been difficult, the study’s lead author, Solomon Hsiang, a professor and director of the Global Policy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a press release on Monday.

“The last several months have been extraordinarily difficult, but through our individual sacrifices, people everywhere have each contributed to one of humanity’s greatest collective achievements,” Hsiang said in the press release.

“I don’t think any human endeavor has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time. There have been huge personal costs to staying home and canceling events, but the data show that each day made a profound difference,” Hsiang said. “By using science and cooperating, we changed the course of history.”

The study, conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley, included data across the six countries on daily infection rates, changes in coronavirus case definitions and the timing of 1,717 policy deployments — including travel restrictions, social distancing measures and stay-at-home lockdowns — from the earliest available dates this year through April 6.

The researchers analyzed that data to estimate how the daily growth rate of infections could have changed over time within a specific location if there were different combinations of large-scale policies enacted. The data showed that, excluding Iran, the growth rate of infections was around 38% per day on average before policies slowed the spread.

The researchers found that, across all six countries total, shutdown interventions prevented or delayed roughly 530 million total infections — which, based on testing procedures and how cases were defined, translates to about 62 million confirmed cases.

I don’t think any human endeavor has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time. There have been huge personal costs to staying home and canceling events, but the data show that each day made a profound difference. By using science and cooperating, we changed the course of history.

–Solomon Hsiang, study’s lead author

The researchers did not estimate how many deaths might have been prevented.

“Our analysis focuses on confirmed infections, but other outcomes, such as hospitalizations or deaths, are also of policy interest. Future work on these outcomes may require additional modeling approaches because they are relatively more context- and state-dependent,” the researchers wrote in the study.

The study had some limitations, including that available data on infections and measures across the countries were limited and the study can only suggest estimations about what could have happened.

“Our empirical results indicate that large-scale anti-contagion policies are slowing the COVID-19 pandemic,” the researchers wrote in the study. “Because infection rates in the countries we study would have initially followed rapid exponential growth had no policies been applied, our results suggest that these policies have provided large health benefits.”

Even though that study did not include an analysis on COVID-19 deaths, a separate study that also published on Monday examined deaths across Europe.

Across 11 countries in Europe, the lockdown orders and school closures that were put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic may have averted about 3.1 million deaths through early May, according to estimates from another modeling study.

The study, also published in the journal Nature, suggests that across those European countries, between 12 and 15 million people have been infected with the coronavirus through May 4, representing between 3.2% and 4% of the population.

The study, from Imperial College London, involved back-calculating coronavirus infections from observed deaths, and that death data was used to model changes in the course of COVID-19 from the start of the pandemic to May 4, when lockdowns started to be lifted.

The countries included in the data were: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The study had some limitations, including that deaths attributable to COVID-19 early on in the pandemic could have been missed in the data, and there is variation in the reporting of deaths by country.

“Using a model based on data from the number of deaths in 11 European countries, it is clear to us that non-pharmaceutical interventions — such as lockdown and school closures — have saved about 3.1 million lives in these countries,” Seth Flaxman, a senior lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at Imperial College London who worked on the study, said in a press release on Monday.

Flaxman added, “Our model suggests that the measures put in place in these countries in March 2020 were successful in controlling the epidemic by driving down the reproduction number and significantly reducing the number of people who would have been infected by the virus.”

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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After April

After the best April for the Dow and S&P 500 in 82 years, is ‘sell in May’ in the coronavirus era a smart strategy? – MarketWatch

In One Chart

It’s shaping up to be the best monthly return for the Dow and S&P 500 since 1987

MarketWatch photo illustration/iStockphoto

Sell in May and go away! It is one of the most well-known maxims in the investing world, but it may not necessarily hold true this time around as investors face one of the most significant public-health crises in history.

The Wall Street adage refers specifically to the six-months on, six-months off seasonal pattern that sees the market, on average, underperform from May through the end of October.

Markets have enjoyed a solid run up April thus far, following a withering bout of selling prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected well over three million people—1 million in the U.S. alone—and claimed the lives of nearly 230,000 globally, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average

was looking at a gain of 11.1% so far in April, while the S&P 500 index

was headed for a 12.7% return month to date, while the Nasdaq Composite Index

was on pace for a 15.5% gain in April, with those returns representing the first monthly advance for the equity benchmarks this year.

The monthly rally for the Dow and S&P 500 would mark their best since 1987 and the best April since 1938, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The Nasdaq Composite’s rise would be its best since 2000 and its best April on record, while the small-capitalization Russell 2000 index

is on track for its sharpest monthly rise since 2011 and its best April since 2009.

On top of that, the major benchmarks are roughly 30% off bear-market lows put in on March 23.

Apparently, stock-market investors are betting that the viral outbreak that has devastated the jobs market, pushing the total number of Americans to around 30 million and likely driving the unemployment rate to the worst levels since the Great Depression, is likely to eventually subside.

So what does that mean for investing at the beginning of May.

While this strategy has been true over the long term, as MarketWatch’s Mark Hulbert points out here, it hasn’t been true in recent history, with seven of the past eight years (see attached table), producing positive gains in the six-month sell period, as shown below in data compiled by LPL Financial.

Over the longer term, the strategy is a time-tested one, writes Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial, who says that the coming six-month period has “indeed been the worst six months of the year, up only 1.5% on average,” (see attached table):

That said, Detrick says the April bounce for stocks means “a well-deserved pullback during these troublesome months is quite possible.”

That thinking gibes with some other strategists, reports MarketWatch’s William Watts, who notes that Barry Bannister, chief institutional equity strategist at Stifel, who had one of the most bullish calls at 2,950 on the S&P 500, believes that stocks may struggle for further gains after the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies laid the groundwork for the current rally.

The S&P 500 presently stands at 2,905, down 1.2% from Wednesday’s close as stocks face headwinds Thursday afternoon.

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