Today marks the ten-year anniversary of the COVID-19 virus which a decade ago swept the world. Originating in Wuhan, China, the virus spread quickly starting in December 1, 2019. After jailing Dr. Li Wenliang (who eventually died) for spreading “dangerous misinformation,” the Chinese government enacted an unprecedented lockdown that quarantined 11 million in Wuhan and 57 million in 15 other cities in the Hubei province starting on January 23, 2020. Chinese state-owned news media lauded President Xi for acting so swiftly and decisively to ensure the safety of the public health. “It only took seven weeks,” remarked one Chinese health official. “That is definitely a record.”
Meanwhile, in January 2020, Americans preoccupied themselves blithely following the Trump impeachment hearings that were destined to go absolutely nowhere. When asked in January how she intended to convince the Republican-controlled Senate to impeach President Trump, Majority Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, simply shrugged.
“Ultimately,” Pelosi remarked, “the American people generations from now will care about this Kabuki theater. For posterity’s sake, we needed to have it recorded in the history books that at least we tried.”
Despite isolated incidents of Americans dying, particularly in nursing homes, American citizens finally woke up and took notice of COVID-19 on Monday, February 24, after the Dow dropped 1,032 points.
After four weeks of market turmoil, the Dow finally hit its bottom intraday on Monday, March 23, at 18,213, 38% down from its all-time high of 29,568 that it struck on February 12.
Normally, after such a steep decline, markets stage at least one relief rally, which did indeed occur. Beginning on Tuesday, March 24, markets surged on a three-day rally recovering 23% of lost ground all the way to 3:30p on Friday; the Dow managed to reach 22,327 before people came to their senses and realized that no one wanted to hold a ticking time bomb over a potentially volatile weekend.
Buoyed by Powell’s willingness to do “whatever it takes” and work “hand-in-hand” with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to operate the Treasury like “his personal piggy bank,” markets continued their historic run back up to all-time highs. Veteran trader, Andrew Borowitz, called it, “The Easter Miracle– Trump came out and declared that our economy would reopen by Easter, April 12. And everyone on Wall Street believed him. It really actually happened.”
A critical point, Borowitz notes, was the highly anticipated jobs report released on Thursday morning, March 26: Despite no vaccine being in sight, on Thursday markets shrugged off a historic 3.3 million unemployment number (the whisper number being something closer to “5 million” as CA alone had reported 1 million) and continued its meteoric climb back to all-time highs.
Even as a record number of bodies piled up in New York and Los Angeles with the virus continuing its exponential spread, the market resumed its surge back to the top based solely on Trump’s hope and optimism and Powell’s ability to print unlimited money. Noted hedge fund manager, Bill Ackman, commented on CNBC at the time, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 30 years of doing this, it’s that you don’t fight the Fed. When you create the world, you make the rules.”
Ten years later, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, in an interview with Bloomberg’s Matt Levine, reflected, “Thank God unemployment claims websites kept crashing and timing out. We really dodged a bullet with that one.”