“Permanent economic damage,” the words used by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to describe what will happen if the United States does not open its economy soon. He predicts that U.S. unemployment numbers will rival those of the Great Depression, hovering around 25%. Mnuchin rationalizes that because the Great Depression was caused by economic issues, and today’s economy was instead chosen to be closed, “The reported numbers are probably going to get worse before they get better.”
On May 8, the Washington Post reported an unemployment rate of 14.7%, with 20.5 million people losing their jobs in April alone. What came with the Great Depression was poverty, starvation, death, things Americans do not want to see. During this time, the suicide rate rose by 30%. So, should we reopen the economy to prevent this?
As the country hit its 2-month mark in quarantine, greater pressure to lift restictions emerged, with some even equating the stay-at-home orders to slavery. However, Doctor Fauci, the nation’s leading expert of infectious diseases testified that, “consequences could be really serious” if states move too rapidly in reopening. Robert Redfield echoed Fauci’s remarks, calling social distancing measures “imperative” to public health.
Just one week after reopening, Lebanon ordered a lockdown of four days. As cases spiked after loosening quarantine orders, the need to “tighten preventative measures to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, especially that the number of infections, unfortunately, increased,” explained President Michel Aoun. Up until now, cases in Lebanon have been relatively low, at only 870 cases; however, as mosques, restaurants, and hair salons began to reopen, the country saw more cases and more deaths. So, should we keep the country and economy closed to prevent these things?
With the divisive nature of politics today, the quarantine has brought the public to complete opposite sides of the political spectrum, with some arguing increased government intervention, and others arguing for the government to stay out of economic affairs, the argument between staying closed or opening. Now, the United States is taxed with how they want to kill their citizens, through keeping the country closed, causing poverty, starvation, and death, or through opening the country, causing increased infections, more serious cases, and death. However, this is not a choice we should have to make.
We cannot control the virus, but we can control our response to it. So the question is, how can we effectively operate the economy without putting more lives at risk of infection?