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Results of the March Coronavirus Power Poll

Some Clarity, Some Haze

Healthcare  |  April 2, 2020 6:00am  |  By Joel Lee

As April opens the coronavirus pandemic grows. Forecasting the path and progress of the disease across the US has become the stuff of daily news. The leaders of the nation’s healthcare industry each have profound insight and experience. Collectively, from across all sectors of the industry, they may be the single most valuable group for crowdsourced intelligence to help the country see where the pandemic is headed and how it will unfold.

The first question asked when will the peak of the virus occur and when the number of new daily infections would decline. Just under 40% (39.3%) forecast the peak would occur by May 15. The majority, 60.7%, felt the peak would fall after May 16.

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The rate of spread is critical but so is the projected mortality rate. Early on, a number of observers felt the death rate, when all the data were in, would mirror the seasonal flu. Only 4% of our panel felt that way. Just over 45% (46.4%) believed the rate would be somewhere between 0.2% and 1.5% (the Nature Medicine estimate of the death rate in Wuhan). The third option was in a range between 1.5% to 3.5% (the WHO forecast). Just over 40% (42.9%) chose that third option. Finally, 7% felt the death rate would exceed 3.5%.

The ultimate death rate for the disease is difficult to guess. Because of the slow roll-out of testing across the country, it is difficult to know how many people are infected. Without a clear way of calculating the denominator, the rate will be hard to forecast.

Last week, Congress approved, and the President signed an unprecedented package of stimulative measures designed to stabilize an economy that has been placed into an induced coma. The health-related costs have been substantial and so have the economic costs.

We asked the panel to speculate about just how deep the economic hit would be and when would the economy hit its low point.  To calibrate, we asked the panel to guess the lowest closing average for the Dow Jones Index in 2020. At the time we posed the question, the DJIA had fallen below 19,000 and 28.6% guessed that it would remain above 18,000 for the rest of the year. About 18% thought it would dip no further than 17,000. Just under 30% thought the number might drop as low as 16,000 and fully 25% guessed the Dow Jones average would drop below 16,000, a number that represents a near halving of the nation’s economy – a 46% drop from its February highs.

Finally, the panel guessed when the Dow Jones low point would be hit in 2020. There were a handful of leaders (7%) who thought we have already seen the low point of the trough. The large majority – 64% - thought the low point would be in Q2 2020. Another 25% thought the low point would be in the Q3 and 4% thought the DJIA would bottom in Q4.

The big take-aways:

  • The rate of infection is most likely to begin its downturn between mid-May and mid-July
  • The ultimate death rate for the disease is more difficult to guess. Because of the slow roll-out of testing across the country, it is difficult to know how many people are infected. The central forecast from the panel falls in a broad range from 0.2% to 3.5%
  • How deep the trough? The panel was collectively inconclusive. Almost equal groups finding the DJIA bottoming above 18,000, above 17,000, above 16,000 and above 15,000.
  • When would we hit the low-point? The central tendency says Q2 2020.