The coronavirus brought the United States economy to an abrupt halt, and President Trump has urgently signaled his desire to reopen the economy and get the American workers back on their feet. Originally, Trump said he wanted to reopen by Easter, but this did not come to pass, as growing concerns for safety continued to shutter workers into their homes.
People who have not suffered directly from the virus itself are still suffering from its side effects. Millions are out of work, and millions more fear that unemployment may soon be their reality as well.
Some Governors appear to be more worried about criticizing Trump than they are getting people back to work. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s adviser emphasized their goal to make plans to reopen “Trump-proof.”
According to the media, Trump is guilty of the high crime of being too optimistic. As expressed by LA Time’s Don Moore, “Trump’s overconfidence has always been dangerous. With coronavirus, it’s deadly.” Their justification for such claims is typically centered around advice from ‘experts’- you know, the experts that continue revising predictions downward with immense magnitude, flip-flop on the ‘importance’ of wearing masks, and essentially let the Chinese government write their scripts for them.
I am, of course, talking about the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s (IHME) COVID-19 model. This model has made revisions from nearly 100,000 projected US deaths down to around 68,000, and thankfully, it appears that it will fall short of that number as well. These bold predictions were also drastically cut around hospital bed usage, supply shortage, and resource usage. The model was simply and horrifically over exaggerated.
In reality, COVID-19 numbers are seemingly beginning to flatline, suggesting that it is time for America to begin working towards reopening the country. Trump has already announced that he will be making “vital” announcements about plans to do so— likely this week.
“Our country wasn’t built to be shut down. America will again and soon be open for business. Very soon. A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting,” said Trump at a recent White House briefing.
But the question we should all be asking is this: Does the government have a game plan? After all, it was the government who shut down the economy, caused millions to lose their jobs, and sent the stock market plummeting to one of the biggest drops in history. Given the initially unknown dangers of the virus, the moves to shut down are arguably justifiable, but continuing to keep the economy in total shutdown with our current data now becomes questionable. Regardless, state and local governments must begin to develop plans to mitigate the disastrous results it has produced.
So, what is the safest, most efficient way to go about achieving this aim? It is certainly not plausible to wait around for an antidote, as many are suggesting would require another 18 months of lock-down. This would disintegrate the economy and quite literally cost countless lives.
Perhaps, one of the most important things we can do is allow data to continue coming in. The more data that comes in, the more we are seeing that this pandemic will not reach the recently predicted, shocking death toll.
The current statistics showing the death rates of coronavirus are likely off by so much because they are based on confirmed cases, when it is common knowledge that there are unknown numbers of asymptomatic cases, as well as people who simply have not been tested. When this is taken into account, the death rate is drastically lower than the 2-4% that the World Health Organization claimed. Rather, some predict it could actually be as low as .06%. Dr’s. Eran Bendavid and Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford have publicly criticized the statistics and worked to provide relieving context.
More notably, we ought to let Federalism do what it does best: localize the efforts. Let the states operate individually and work towards getting people back in the workforce according to the impact the virus has had in their areas. As Senator Ted Cruz rightly pointed out in a news appearance, “It needs to be dependent upon the particular facts and circumstances in the particular region[s].”
As is the case with all public policy, this decision ultimately comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. Have we now reached the point where a nationwide lock-down is more harmful than the virus that prompted it?
When push comes to shove, the key to reopening the economy must be safe, sensible, scientific, and simplified. The elderly must be heavily protected and isolated, and Americans must get back to work with a new-found appreciation and emphasis for sanitation and social distancing.
These common sense procedures must come with a timeline. This is precisely what President Trump has been calling for. Two things can be true at once: We can make efforts to reopen the economy and continue combating the coronavirus. We are already seeing the numbers begin to flatten, so we must proactively match this reality with the re-stabilization of our country’s economy.