End of the pandemic in sight?

Joey Kean

Everyone wants to know when they can truly stop worrying about the coronavirus and get back to life. And there are many different opinions on when that will happen. Some say 2022, some say mid-summer, some say never. However, never is unrealistically bleak and not worth discussing.

But what about the other two alternatives? There’s not a large gap between them, but big enough, that it’s worth knowing which one is more realistic. In the end, it’s somewhere in between them, towards the end of September. Two metrics can be used to get to that prediction: vaccination rates and the behavior of the economy.

According to the CDC at the time of writing, about 106.2 million Americans have already been vaccinated which equals 32% of the population. The threshold for herd immunity is between 70-85% depending on the expert you talk to. As you probably know, herd immunity is the number at which the spreading of the virus is slowed down to the point where we don’t have to worry about it.

So how long will it take to get from 32% to around let’s say 77.5%? At the moment, the vaccine numbers according to the CDC graph have dropped a bit due to the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But since its recent reinstatement, it looks like it’s averaging out around 3 million shots a day.

If we stay at a consistent rate, in Wisconsin we should reach 77.5% around July 4th. However, the U.S is expected to be at 77.5% in mid-August and the states below the average rate will probably reach that number around late September or mid-October. So, Wisconsin may get there earlier than most but is going to have to wait for other states.

The CDC may also wait until more than 77.5% of people are vaccinated before they start dropping mandates, and this may take even longer than expected because the people that haven’t already been vaccinated will probably be slower at doing so.

There’s also going to be some lag between when the numbers get to a safe level, when the CDC releases guidelines, when states enact them and then when citizens feel safe following them. With all that and waiting for other states, it’ll probably be closer to September than July.

For life to be truly normal, the economy must also be functioning as it was before the pandemic. However, this is going to be harder to estimate because we don’t know what the effects of the stimulus plan will be or how new legislation will affect the economy. So instead of trying to guess the effects, I’ll use GDP per capita from the last 2 quarters and create a conservative estimate.

The data is from Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED). GDP per capita is a metric that breaks down a country’s economic output per person and can be used to estimate the standard of living. At the beginning of the recession, it was at $58,490. In the last quarter reported (December 31st) it was at $56,812, and the quarter before that it was at $56,290.

That’s an increase of 522 in the last quarter, if we carry that rate over and assume everything stays the same then we should reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of the third quarter or September 30th. Hopefully, this conservative estimate will end up being too long due to the stimulus checks and legislation.

In other words, this pandemic still has few months left on it, but the end of the tunnel is quickly approaching. We should reach herd immunity in July, and hopefully the economy will recover before September. There will of course be setbacks, delays and possible inflation. But the future looks bright and I think by the end of September we will emerge from the metaphorical tunnel.