Before serving two terms as Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel uttered a great piece of crisis management advice: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

I thought about his remarkable insight this week, as COVID-19 devastation spread and some truly sickly senior living company numbers came to light.

As this goes to press, many real estate investment trust stocks have lost half their value in a span of little more than two weeks. Many pure-play senior living firms are in a similar slide. And it looks like there may be more bad news on the way.

There’s little doubt that the virus and bad sector financials are connected. But is the coronavirus maybe getting more credit than it deserves?

Kind of depends who is asked. To a man, or woman, the CEOs running top companies in this sector are citing COVID-19 for all it’s worth. And to be fair, many have a point.

After all, it’s no secret that residents in senior living communities face an extremely high risk for illness or death from this spreading virus. That’s not the kind of harsh reality that typically excites investors.

And I probably do not need to point out that the first deaths attributed to the coronavirus took place in a long-term care community. So to be sure, the pandemic is no innocent bystander.

But it’s also safe to say there are more than a few operators who are not letting Rahm’s advice go unheeded. Is the coronavirus being blamed for problems caused by other factors? I don’t think there’s much doubt.

For if bad senior living stock prices and frightful earnings calls are 100% the fault of a spreading virus, this surely has to be one of the greatest stock-buying opportunities of all time. But before you call your broker, keep in mind that that’s a very big “if.”

My guess is that we’ll find out soon enough where the truth ends and the shading begins. For as my late mother used to say, it all eventually comes out in the wash, or the dryer.

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