Chris Meekins, Raymond James Healthcare Analyst joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss the impact of the election on the health care sector.
ZACK GUZMAN: Daily case count continues to surge to new levels, flirting with 100,000 new daily cases here in the US. Hospitalizations ticking higher as well as deaths, and a dire warning here coming from coronavirus task force Dr. Deborah Birx warning White House officials that the pandemic is entering a new and, quote, "deadly phase" that demands a more aggressive approach to tackling the surge we're seeing play out here in the winter months.
And for more on that, I want to bring on our next guest. Chris Meekins is Raymond James Healthcare Analyst. And, Chris, I mean, we were just talking about obviously there are implications here for the election when it comes to President Trump's re-election odds. But just when you see this play out when we think about where we're at here in November on Election Day considering we had seen President Trump talking about getting a vaccine so heavily here leading up to this point, what's your take on how long the progress has taken to get here in battling this pandemic?
CHRIS MEEKINS: Yeah, I think it's really disappointing because it was predictable about where we are with the virus. I think we knew that things were going to get worse again. I think we had an idea that cold weather, people were going to move indoors. And you had a false sense of security this summer whenever folks were able to gather outdoors in small crowds and not really get infected and not have big issues. So now people are like, well, it's cold, and I was safe talking to my friends and hanging out with family this summer. Let's just move it inside. And we're seeing a big uptick in cases in the Midwest and, really, nationwide. More than 90% of the states had a seven-day moving average of case counts and fatalities above their 14 day, which tells you that it really is widespread across the country.
With regard to the vaccine, I think there was hope that we would get it even in record time, but the reality is we're still moving lightning-fast speed. I won't use the warp speed Star Trek reference, but we're moving really at an unprecedented level.
But the important part here is making sure we get it right. Getting a vaccine early that people don't have confidence in is not going to result in the virus spread decreasing. So we really have to have a virus vaccine that works and have a better idea of how many people are going to get it and how comfortable they're going to be going forward.
AKIKO FUJITA: Chris, you know, when you look at where the case counts have gone, the infections going up, there is a question of what more can be done at this point. And we got that internal report or details of an internal report that came out from Deborah Birx who talked about just the potential for increasing mortality, and she specifically said this is not about lockdowns. It hasn't been about lockdowns. It's about an aggressive, balanced approach that is not being implemented. As you look to see how individual states are responding, what does that balanced approach look like?
CHRIS MEEKINS: Yeah I think when we had the lockdown in March and April, one of the reasons behind that-- the main reason behind it was we didn't know where the virus was. We didn't have an effective testing regimen where we were doing more than a million tests a day so we could have an idea of where the hot spots were. So as a result, the thought was lock everything down so you can get to a position where you can do better testing and you can get an idea of where the virus spreads.
So when we talk about lockdowns, I don't think we need to go back to a position where we have a nationwide lockdown. I do think that when we see cases pop in specific communities, you need individual citizens to be responsible, which means we need our public leaders and policy experts to be communicating that when you see cases go up, that's not the time to have the big gathering. That's not the time to do the big tailgate parties. That's not the time to gather for birthday parties indoors or for other activities at the local American Legions. You know, you need to restrict access for a certain period of time until we can get it under control.
And we know basic public-health measures work. We know wearing a mask-- we know, wearing gloves can prevent the spread of this. I had a family member that was in the hospital, and one of the nurses tested positive. And one of the things we learned was despite that because the nurse had a mask on all the time and gloves on, my family member didn't get the virus.
So we know these things can work. It's just a matter of our public leaders communicating that and an end to the politicization of the virus. You're not a bad Republican if you wear a mask. You're not failing to promote freedom and economic opportunity if you do that. It's the responsible thing we do as citizens of a society for each other.
ZACK GUZMAN: And, Chris, to your point on vaccines, I mean, obviously it would make sense as to why the president was trying to display a message of turning the corner or saying that the vaccine was also quickly upon us here, as he was on the debate stage. But when we look at the timeline now since we haven't gotten that phase-three trial data from Pfizer or any of the other names when it comes to getting that FDA approval here, what does the timeline look to you now, and what have been some of those reasons as to why we haven't gotten it yet?
CHRIS MEEKINS: Yeah, I think the politicization of the virus and concerns about whether or not the administration would push for an early emergency-use authorization and the public would lose confidence in where that is is part of the reason we've seen some of these delays in the process or maybe not moving as quickly as a result.
I think on the Pfizer front, and my colleague Steve Seedhouse-- he's a biotech analyst who's been in the weeds on this. I encourage folks to talk to him-- is really we would expect the interim guidance really any time in the next several weeks. I think if we don't get the interim guidance, at that point that could be a sign that they don't have a clear statistical analysis about whether or not it's working or not, so they're waiting for the second gating criteria going forward.
So I suspect we'll have phase-three analysis from a couple of the different vaccines before the end of the year, but we do have some additional time. And obviously the president, one of the things we've said that he needed to really come back or was going to be relying on was getting a vaccine before the election, and obviously that has not happened.
And as we've seen a surge in COVID cases across the country earlier this year, what we saw in places like Florida and Texas and Arizona was as the cases increased, the president's approval numbers and the president in his head-to-head match-up with Biden went down. So what does that mean when you see more than 10% of hospital beds in Wisconsin now occupied by COVID patients? You see a surge of cases in Iowa and really across the country. What will that impact be? I think we'll know in the next 24 hours.
AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, so let's talk about those next 24 hours, the potential results that we can get. I mean, what would be the most significant shift that you're seeing from a health-care standpoint if, in fact, we do see a Biden win?
CHRIS MEEKINS: I think Biden winning itself doesn't necessarily change the landscape. I think if you look back historically, health care tends to outperform the S&P under Democrat presidents more so than under Republicans. It tends to outperform about 10% under Democrats compared to 7% under Republicans.
But for me, where I'm paying my attention-- and your earlier guest highlighted this-- was these key Senate races. Democrats sweeping could be good for health care if they only get to 50 or 51 votes because it means that they're likely not going to have the votes to do something big like a public option or tackle drug pricing, but they could have the votes to just spend more money on health care, which is good.
However, if they get to 53, 54, 55 senators, which would be a result of a really big blue wave, at that moment the health-care sector probably needs to be scared because we're at least going to have a discussion about really going after drug pricing and potentially a government-run insurance option in a public exchange competing against the private sector. So you really have this thread of between 50 and 53 senators that could make all the difference for whether health care outperforms or not.
ZACK GUZMAN: Wow. Just coming down to a couple seats. It just goes to show how razor thin the margins are in tonight's races. But Chris Meekins, appreciate you coming on here, Raymond James healthcare analyst. Thanks again.
CHRIS MEEKINS: Thanks a bunch.