An Omicron Update

An Omicron Update

“The omicron coronavirus variant is slowing the economic recovery, making worker shortages for already- shorthanded employers more severe and leading consumers to pull back from spending on restaurants, hotels and airlines that have been battered by two years of pandemic upheaval,” reports David Lynch in The Washington Post. “Since it was first detected in southern Africa late last year, the highly contagious coronavirus variant has sparked restrictions on business activity in several countries. In the United States, major airlines this week canceled thousands of flights, while public transit systems in New York and Washington curtailed service because of staffing shortages. Professional sports schedules were upended and corporations such as American Express, Goldman Sachs and The Washington Post have shelved their January return-to-office plans.”

DUSTIN’S VIEW: At the end of the year, restaurants scrambled to provide enough rapid coronavirus tests to their employees during their highest revenue and profit-driving months. Nearly 20,000 flights have been cancelled in the U.S. due to a rolling wave of employee illness since Christmas Eve. The impact on businesses right now seems to be regional and industry-specific, with gyms, restaurants and theaters in cities with more mandates and restrictions taking the biggest hit. The markets have responded with a shrug.

“Omicron so far has made little impression upon financial markets, which are focused on the Federal Reserve’s planned credit tightening and the ebbing of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Since late November, when the South African government reported the new variant to the World Health Organization, the Dow Jones industrial average has risen at an annualized 15 percent rate. The yield on the benchmark 10-year treasury security, which would be expected to rise if investors anticipated a recession, has moved little.”

“The mood in the market is that it’s not going to be that big a deal economically,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. macro strategist for TD Securities. “The hope is it’ll be over in a month.”

Last summer, the delta variant of the coronavirus took a big swipe at the U.S. economy, but the economy roared back, growing at an annual rate of more than 7 percent in the last three months of the year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

I’m no economist, but I think all of this will stoke the flames of inflation, as more consumers postpone or cancel spending on travel, dining out and other services and instead buy more goods. My advice, therefore, doesn’t change much since the beginning of this pandemic: keep at least 8 months cash on hand, preferably in an asset class that can keep up with inflation without tying it up for too long (good luck on that), protect margin at all costs, deliver tremendous value to your customers and find new ways to delight them during this “soft lockdown.”

PRACTICALLY SPEAKING: since the first of the year, we’ve scheduled 42% more teledentistry consultation requests than in the prior 30 days and 68% more same-day starts, compared to the same period last year, by serving parents who want to return to the clinic as little as possible. Make it easy for patients to get started and for them to stay connected to you. Hand out your office text line. Tell parents to text or email you a photo of what’s going on if they have any questions. Make sure the entire team can communicate remotely and handle requests as needed. Don’t overcomplicate the process. The latest technology is really powerful, simple-to-use and inexpensive. If you need help with any of the technical aspects to providing these integrated services, reach out to my friends at Market Hardware and make sure your online new patient process from Google search to paid contract is simple, straightforward and easy-to-navigate for your patients and treatment coordinators.

TIP: Add an extra column of capacity to your clinical schedule and bonus the entire team when you same-day-start new patients, so that everyone is excited, not just the patient and parent.

Right now, our lives are already being complicated by rapid change and uncertainty. We need not add to the complexity by making it more difficult for patients to start treatment in our clinics.

Stay safe and connected! — DUSTIN

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.