Life Is Not Back To Normal

Plenty of people’s lives have already returned to normal (potentially even for a couple of months). However, even though the pandemic is on the mend, the overall economy is still not back to normal. The 7 day average of COVID-19 cases has fallen to just 23,162 which is the lowest reading since mid-June.

One example of life not being back to normal is the lack of a full return to offices. There is a lot of talk in the media about how workers don’t want to return, but employers need them back in the office. This is a hot topic because workers will return this summer and fall (workers will be brought back gradually). The 10 city average occupancy rate of offices was only 28.1% as of May 19th. That’s very slightly above the peak in October when no vaccines had been given out. That sounds crazy initially, but consider the fact that waiting another 2 months means the transmission risk will fall from low to minimal. If a company has had workers stay home for 14 months, another 2 months won’t hurt.

Dallas has the highest office occupancy rate. It is 42.3%. Keep in mind, the rate is usually in the 90s. Even this relatively open city has room to improve. The lowest two cities were San Francisco and New York which were just 15.6% and 17%. There will potentially be a massive shift in these cities in the next 1-3 months. June should be the start of the shift.

The chart above looks a lot like the office occupancy chart for NYC. MTA bus ridership has stayed about 40% below its normal level. It’s actually below where it was in August even though the pandemic is nearly over. Specifically, in New York state there were about 500-700 new cases per day in August. The current 7-day average is 882. It’s obviously safer now since we have the vaccine. We don’t know what threshold will need to be hit for life to return to normalcy. Surely, that threshold will be hit this summer unless something unexpected occurs.

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