As I pointed out last week, these things don't happen in a vacuum and the vacuum at the center of the US economy really sucks. The stimulus package is being passed, Biden has stepped up the pace of vaccination so that we all should have our shots by Memorial Day and, just this morning, the Governor of Texas announced the state will be "100% open as of March 10th" and sure, he's an idiot and not listening to Health Experts but neither is MIssissippi Governor, Tate Reeves, who will open up his state on the 9th.
"Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed. It is time!," Reeves tweeted Tuesday. In the last year, Texans have "mastered the daily habits to avoid getting Covid," Abbott said. As of Monday, 6.57% of Texans have been fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University. "Now is not the time to reverse the gains we've worked so hard to achieve," Harris County Judge Lina Hidago said in a written objection: "At best, today's decision is wishful thinking. At worst, it is a cynical attempt to distract Texans from the failures of state oversight of our power grid."
Even Jason Brewer, of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, thinks this is a bad idea – saying:
"Relaxing common-sense safety protocols like wearing masks is a mistake. Going backwards on safety measures will unfairly put retail employees back in the role of enforcing guidelines still recommended by the CDC and other public health advocates. It could also jeopardize the safety of pharmacies and grocers that are gearing up as vaccination centers."
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Abbott's announcement "really undermines all of the sacrifices that have been made by medical professionals, doctors, nurses, EMS workers, firefighters, police officers, municipal workers, people in the community." Austin Mayor Steve Adler told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night that everyone in the city was "just dumbfounded" over Abbott's announcement. For America, this is a harsh reminder that we may have gotten rid of Donald Trump, but there's a long way to go before we are safe from his minions that are still in office.
If Texas is willing to be the cautionary tale for the rest of the country, that's fine. In every disaster movie, there's always the one official who declares the crisis to be over and then dies horribly as an ironic consequence of his own hubris so why not Governor Abbott if he's volunteering?
Unfortunately, what happens in Texas doesn't stay in Texas and if their carelessness begins to spread a vaccine-resistant strain of the virus through a large portion of the population – they could put the whole country back to square one – when we're only 3 months away from vaccinating the population against the strains that already exist.
Of course, that may be the intention of Governor Abbott, who passed "emergency voting laws" to supress Democratic votes in his state and refused to acknowledge Joe Biden's election victory so why not work to undermine the Biden Administration by using his people as expendable pawns in his political battle? It was Abbott himself who, last May, when Texas re-opened too soon and led to a super-spreader event for the whole nation – said (to his people, which was leaked):
“How do we know reopening businesses won't result in faster spread of COVID-19?" Abbott asks on the audio. "Listen, the fact of the matter is, pretty much every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a reopening … it actually will lead to an increase in spread. It's almost ipso facto … The goal never has been to get COVID-19 transmission down to zero.”
So don't excuse Greg Abbott for ignorance – he knows EXACTLY what he's doing. The day before he moved to open Texas 25% last May, 50 Texans had died of Coronavirus and there were 1,033 new infections. Yesterday, 271 Texans died from Coronavirus and 6,613 new cases were reported and the Governor is going to open things up 100% in 7 days. There have been 2.67M cases in Texas and 44,353 deaths overall – let's have some fun and see what happens, right?
This is not rational behavior people. And this Governor is not just endangering his own people but ALL the people who share a country with him!
Speaking of danger, that bounce in the 10-year note ended rather quickly this morning and we're on the way back to re-testing last week's lows as there are more signs of inflation spiking (what a surprise when you print $9Tn, right?) and that's keeping pressure on the market indexes, which have also only weakly bounced off last week's lows.
So please, be very careful out there and continue to wear your masks and maintain social distancing – there's ligth at the end of the tunnel but you aren't going to get there if your not willing to keep driving…
Powell is speaking tomorrow at the Wall Street Jou8rnal Jobs Summit. He was just put on to calm down the markets (again) so we can expect something supportive and today we will see the Fed's Beige Book but that's only an anectdotal snap-shot of the opinions of business leaders in each Fed District – it doesn't reveal much other than the attitudes of businessmen.
Friday we get the FACT of the Non-Farm Payroll Report and that has been anemic, with just 49,000 jobs created in January for a 3-month average of 29,000.