President Trump started a ruckus Sunday night when he said that the government would reevaluate the 15-day period for social distancing to contain the spread of the coronavirus – which has kept businesses and schools shut and resulted in millions of people losing their jobs.
Asserting that “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” he said, “at the end of the 15 day period [meaning next Monday] we will make a decision as to which way we want to go.”
Yet, the coronavirus remains as virulent and out of control as ever and the conflicting dynamics are still as stark as they are real. And lest anyone think that they are reconcilable in a long run of economic stimuli, we refer our readers to an editorial the other day in the Wall Street Journal, “Rethinking the Corona Shutdown.”
Here are some excerpts:
If this government-ordered shutdown continues for much more than another week or two, the human cost of job losses and bankruptcies will exceed what most Americans imagine. The vast social-distancing project of the last 10 days or so has been necessary and has done much good. Warnings about large gatherings of more than 10 people and limiting access to nursing homes will save lives. The public has received a crucial education in hygiene and disease prevention…. [and] disease experts are buying crucial time for government and private industry to marshal resources against the virus.
Yet the costs of this national shutdown are growing by the hour…. [A] tsunami of economic destruction… [will] cause tens of millions to lose their jobs as commerce and production simply cease…. Another month like this week and the layoffs will be measured in millions of people.…
[N]o society can safeguard public health for long at the cost of its overall economic health. Even America’s resources to fight a viral plague aren’t limitless – and they will become more limited by the day as individuals lose jobs, businesses close, and American prosperity gives way to poverty.
Reopening the economy too early carries its own risks, yet we don’t have the luxury of time to delay serious consideration of the conflict between the economic and health issues. They are not, as the Wall Street Journal has shown, mutually exclusive. And economic health also translates into physical health. Many low-income earners with kids at home will suffer much stress if they cannot provide for their family, and extreme stress translates into all sorts of health problems, including early death.
It is not pleasant to contemplate a time when we determine at what level of illness is acceptable. But that time may soon be upon us.