Thought September 09, 2020 / 09:47 am UTC

The U.S. Winter COVID Challenge

By Mike Gallagher

Bottom Line: The COVID-19 Sun Belt wave appears to have peaked and has slipped down the U.S. political agenda. However, the U.S. winter wave could be more challenging, with the scale and timing likely to prove to be a key issue in the November presidential election.

Figure 1: IHME projection of Daily Deaths from COVID19

Source: IHME (September 8) 

With daily new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. now down by 65%, and having proved less deadly than the March/April wave, the political spotlight is moving to a wider set of election issues. 

However, it is highly unlikely that the U.S. will see a dramatic drop in new daily cases such as the 95% falls in Italy and Spain in May and June, due both to COVID-19 fatigue among the population as well as the Trump administration's desire not to spread alarm about coronavirus into the election. Mask wearing, and social distancing, will likely remain lower than if the Trump administration were proactively still trying to fight COVID. 

While treatments and medical knowledge suggest that the fatality rate could be lower, the approach of fall and winter mean lower temperatures, more indoor interaction and the risk of increased viral load. IHME latest projections provide a warning of what could happen this winter (Figure 1), with central forecasts that the daily  cases of new infections could top 300,000, with the daily death rate exceeding March/April's peak.

If this projection is correct, then it will have an impact on the U.S. presidential election, given that the recent narrowing of opinion polls has partially been on a peaking of the summer Sun Belt wave. The timing will also bw critical, as any delay in this wave into December/January would help Trump.

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Analyst Certification
I, Mike Gallagher, the lead analyst certify that the views expressed herein are mine and are clear, fair and not misleading at the time of publication. They have not been influenced by any relationship, either a personal relationship of mine or a relationship of the firm, to any entity described or referred to herein nor to any client of Continuum Economics nor has any inducement been received in relation to those views. I further certify that in the preparation and publication of this report I have at all times followed all relevant Continuum Economics compliance protocols including those reasonably seeking to prevent the receipt or misuse of material non-public information.