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Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 4/27/20

Oil prices plummeted on Monday to zero and below. The industry was in free-fall and panic. Amongst the causes of this, was the drop in gas usage and pushed further down by the flooding of the market with Saudi Arabian and Russian oil production, the level of supply is so high that there is essentially no future’s market for oil. That stabilized somewhat as the week wore on. What is really interesting is the two countries involved, Saudi Arabia and Russia are purportedly friends of Mr. Trump. Looks to me like their friends who want to destabilize our economy and potentially the world economy for who knows what nefarious reason.

Antibody testing has begun in the States of California and New York with statistically significant numbers of people being tested. The results have been something of a surprise as the scientist conducting those tests believe that the sampling led to the conclusion that a greater number of people have the antibodies than anticipated. This leads to the further conclusion that if that is accurate and clearly more testing will need to be done, percentage of severe illness and mortality may actually be significantly lower than what was anticipated. These results are important at many levels, but first to establish what the actual infection rate is and then to gauge that against the morality rate ; to reevaluate the modeling; and establish a real database. Much more to come and hopefully this will lead us to a place where re-opening can be properly managed.

Ireland has announced that it will triple its contribution to the World Health Organization. This comes after the United States announced it was withdrawing all funding.

We are going to need to think creatively and differently to “open” the country. This means we will need to learn to work in different ways, it may mean that we will need to breakdown the work day in ways we had not previously thought of, we may need to work in greater numbers of shifts even if those shifts are shorter, we may have to take a look at having work schedules go on seven days a week with alternating days off for any large group that works in a warehouse, factory or insurance office so that we can have appropriate social distancing. This is going to require flexibility on the part of management, small business owners and employees. Governments will also have to think differently about how they deal with the workplace and regulate it. This may be a great opportunity to become more efficient and to use our resources more wisely.

Sixty-seventy percent of the public is against haphazard re-opening without appropriate testing. We are beginning to see even in some of the states that have authorized re-opening, that not all businesses are reopening and the public is not flocking back to those businesses that have opened, particularly retail because they do not feel that it is safe. Protestors spurred several Republican Governors to reopen their states, however, we will see over the next few days and weeks whether the public returns to businesses that they may believe are unsafe. This, of course, imposes an enormous burden on those small businesses like hair salons, nail salons and other similar operators. How do you convince the public that what you are doing is in fact safe and will not result in the transmission of COVID-19.

There have been reports that grocery stores may be closed and made into pick up locations as opposed to allowing you to walk-through and pick your items out. It will be interesting to see how creative people will become in terms of the shopping process. Can we anticipate that we will see drones flying through stores so that people can take a look at what is actually on the shelves and direct a picker to take it off, or some other technology. This will be again a fascinating and interesting process as we watch American ingenuity take hold.

It has also been disclosed that US scientist working for the WHO were transmitting information in December, January and February to the Administration about the nature of COVID-19. The evidence indicates that the Administration did not take action and ignored this information from our scientist. This further places the position taken by POTUS in the category of material disbelief.

France and Germany, two countries that experienced their first cases of COVID-19 at roughly the same time have travelled completely different paths. The German government immediately instituted social distancing and stay-at-home orders, while France was much slower to do that. As a result, France has geometrically more cases and deaths than Germany does. Maybe more importantly, Germany is re-opening utilizing appropriate levels of testing, continued social distancing, the use of masks, gloves, etc. Deal with it and you are in control, don’t and COVID-19 is in control.

Our fellow Americans who are protesting and seeking to re-open America seem to forget that if they are infected, they will infect others who are not interested in taking that risk. This is again, a scenario in which a group of people have decided that their rights allow them to potentially injure others and they see no harm in that. I wonder what their response will be when members of their family contract COVID-19 (as occurred to an Ohio man recently) and then they seek treatment from an overwhelmed health care system because of lack of preparedness, As a Fox News commentator indicated maybe they should sign a waiver saying that they will refuse treatment and exonerate any health care provider from treating them and in fact, they will refuse treatment to take the burden off the health care provider. I wonder how many would sign.

The US/Canadian border will be closed for an additional 30 days or until May 18, 2020. Trade does continue to flow at virtually it’s historic rates of about $718 billion dollars a year which for those of us who live in the North Country is of great importance because the movement of trucks brings goods to our warehouses which are then subsequently shipped to distribution facilities and customers around the country. I have not heard of any cases tied to trade

Saving the best for last, have you started your treatment regimen to ward off COVID-19 with a daily dose of chewable Lysol or bleach tablets and scanning yourself with ultraviolet light. This was suggested by POTUS who later claimed it was sarcasm. Really, or is he that out of touch.

Bill Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford Owens in Plattsburgh, NY and a Senior Advisor to Dentons to Washington, DC.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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