Stress Levels Rising

by JDH on May 9, 2020

To answer my question from last week: Tesla: Is this the end? the answer, apparently, was no, at least not this week, as Tesla went from $700 on Monday to $819 on Friday.  Yup, a 17% gain on the week when factories are shut down and no-one is buying cars.  Amazing.  The crash will be epic.

Of greater interest is my perception that stress levels are rising.

When we were first told to stay home, we said “okay, makes sense, it’s like a mini-vacation”.  No worries.  Many Canadians lost their jobs, but 7.76 million unique applicants applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and so far the federal government has paid out over $29 billion in claims. Those $2,000 per month payments relieved some of the initial stress of not being able to pay rent.  For anyone taking home less than $2,000 per month, the CERB is a benefit.

Businesses that remained open, but experienced a 30% or more drop in revenue, can get a wage subsidy for 75% of wages, up to a certain maximum, so for low margin businesses the wage subsidy will be a big benefit.

So all is good, right?


Obviously there is the health crises.  Here in Ontario we have had over 1,500 deaths, and almost 20,000 total cases of COVID-19.  But, in good news, for the last few weeks the number of patients in the ICU has remained relatively consistent at just over 200, and the number of those patients on ventilators hasn’t exceeded 200 in almost four weeks.  This is not say the virus isn’t serious, but the statistics would indicate that it is not overwhelming our health care system.

And there lies the conundrum.  Out of 14 million residents of Ontario, we have tested 400,000 for the virus, with 20,000 positive results.  We have had 40,000 cases of the flu so far this flu season, slightly more than last year, a lot less than the 55,000 we had two years ago.  Canada has 3,500 flu deaths every year, so there will be more coronavirus deaths this year than normal flu deaths, but it does not appear that the numbers will be orders of magnitude larger, although we don’t yet know.

The point is that the public is getting tired of being stuck at home.  We see that hospital workers, and grocery store workers, and “essential” businesses are open.  Garden centers and hardware stores are now open, albeit many with limited access.  As soon as the weather turns warm (which apparently won’t be this week), people will not be able to resist the urge to go for a walk.  On the sidewalk.  Where there are other people.  And some will worry about physical distancing, but most will realize that mental health is just as important as physical health.

Four weeks at home is a long vacation.

Eight weeks feels more like a prison sentence.

The powers that be will not be able to keep the parks closed much longer.  We will pry open the temporary fences and go for a walk.

The public realizes why the lock down was necessary, but as we read stories of increasing domestic violence, and increasing cases of abuse, the public will realize that there is both a benefit and a cost to the lock down, and they will break out.

Since that is inevitable, it’s time for the government to acknowledge that, and put in place acceptable restrictions to allow us to go back outside.  Perhaps retail stores will require you to wear a mask when you are in the store.  Fine, at least we can go to the store.

Offices will reopen, and will likely bring employees back gradually, 25% in the office at any one time, working split shifts to spread people out, but they will return.  Many will continue to work from home a few days a week, and that’s fine, but the lock down must end.

The lock down is at risk of causing more problems than it solves.  There are the obvious financial ramifications.  Many restaurants, hair salons and gyms will never reopen.  The virus killed them.  But the psychological stress is even greater, and that’s why we need to get back to work.

Stress levels are rising.

The stock market doesn’t care, because the higher the stress, the higher the stimulus, but that too will end, so be careful.

And call your mother, even if you can’t go visit her.

And have cash.  With this level of stress it’s impossible to predict what happens next.

See you next week.