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What Should You Expect in Year 2 of the Pandemic?

5 min read • Jan 30, 2021 • Derek Miller

This February marks the 1-year anniversary of COVID-19 on American soil. What started as a blip on our radar quickly turned into something much more severe, ruining proms, graduation plans, weddings, concerts, and childbirths and leaving many people—and business owners—completely devastated.

Fortunately, we’re closing the book on 2020 and looking ahead with hope—in the form of a vaccine. As Americans across the country begin the COVID-19 vaccination process, many questions still remain.

How much longer will the pandemic last? What will happen to businesses? What about schools? What’s next?

While no one has all of the answers, there are some well-researched estimates as to what year 2 of the pandemic will look like. Here are a few bright spots to consider.  

What Does Dr. Fauci Say?

When looking for news about the coronavirus and the spread of the pandemic, many turn to Dr. Anthony Fauci for advice. He’s provided honest and concise answers throughout this crisis, helping people understand what they can do to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

As of December 2020, the future of the pandemic depends on the vaccine rollout. If states and communities are able to distribute the vaccine in a timely manner, then there’s hope for the pandemic to subside by the year’s end.

“Let’s say we get 75%, 80% of the population vaccinated,” Dr. Fauci said when asked about the pandemic’s end. “If we do that, if we do it efficiently enough over the second quarter of 2021, by the time we get to the end of the summer, i.e., the third quarter, we may actually have enough herd immunity [to] approach very much some degree of normality that is close to where we were before.”

As students return to school next fall and families start planning for the next holiday season, the pandemic could be reaching its end. However, the longer our communities take with vaccinations, the slower the herd immunity buildup will be. 

Expect Changes With the New Administration

Before leaving office, President Trump called on Congress to increase the stimulus checks for Americans from $600 to $2,000. The motion passed in the House but was killed in the Senate. As Joe Biden takes over the Oval Office, he’s continuing to push for another round of aid in the form of $2,000 checks. 

The Washington Post reports that these stimulus checks would be part of a multi-trillion-dollar relief package that would also extend unemployment insurance and send funds to local and state governments. This package will also fund vaccine distribution. 

The relief package hasn’t been approved, but you can expect this package or similar aid to work quickly through both the House and Senate. After the Georgia senate runoffs, the Democrats have control of both the House and the Senate—meaning that congressional leaders are more likely to agree with the new president. 

More Businesses Will Close

Regardless of your political beliefs, it’s indisputable that businesses across the country need more assistance if they hope to stay open throughout the second year of the pandemic. 

Many businesses have operated at limited capacity in 2020 and cannot continue at these levels through 2021. Restaurants, bars, music venues, theaters, gyms, amusement parks, hotels, spas, salons, and other businesses have watched their profits tank over the past year. Sports arenas nationwide have operated without any fans—meaning operating costs are still high, but fan revenue isn’t coming in. 

Even when states lift restrictions, many consumers will continue to stay home. For example, people continue to avoid gyms because they’re seen as easy places to spread the virus. This has led multiple fitness centers (including 24-Hour Fitness and Gold’s Gym) to file for bankruptcy.  

While this may seem bleak, there is good news. When asked how small business owners feel as they enter 2021, many are optimistic. According to a survey by Capital One Business, 53% of business owners feel that their financial situations are the same or better than they were before COVID-19, and 67% of owners believe that their stores will return to pre-pandemic operations in the coming year. 

Many consumers rallied around small businesses in 2020, going out of their way to help their favorite companies and tip their staff generously. This will have an impact on which stores weather the pandemic storm. 

Consumer Confidence Is on the Rise

The Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) measures how confident Americans are in the economy based on their spending and saving habits. When surveying consumers for the CCI, the researchers at the Siena College Research Institute typically ask about consumer feelings related to gas prices, food costs, and other expenses like clothing and home goods. When confidence levels are low, people are worried about the state of the economy, are less likely to spend money, and will take fewer risks like starting a business or leaving a job. When consumer confidence is high, people are more willing to spend money or take calculated financial risks. 

At the start of the pandemic, consumer confidence tanked. In March, the index reached a record low of 64.8 points. For comparison, the consumer confidence index in November 2019 was 93.3. 

Consumer confidence continues to grow steadily as Americans work their way out of the pandemic, though. In December 2020, consumer confidence levels reached 77.2 points, and experts say that more people are optimistic about the financial future of America than pessimistic. 

Consumer confidence doesn’t completely determine the state of the economy, but it does reflect how the average wage earner feels about their income and potential future buying power. When people spend more, small businesses and large companies alike stand to benefit. 

No One Can Clearly Predict the Future

There are reasons to be optimistic as Americans enter the second year of a pandemic. A few months ago, there wasn’t an approved vaccine being issued across the country. At that time, additional stimulus checks weren’t being considered. If Americans can continue practicing social distancing, taking precautions, and embracing the vaccine, then there’s certainly light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel.

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Derek Miller

Derek Miller is the CMO of Smack Apparel, the content guru at Great.com, the co-founder of Lofty Llama, and a marketing consultant for small businesses. He specializes in entrepreneurship, small business, and digital marketing, and his work has been featured in sites like Entrepreneur, GoDaddy, Score.org, and StartupCamp.