As the United States finishes up its second consecutive week where most of the country is shut down over the global coronavirus pandemic, Americans are beginning to get restless.
With businesses shut down, unemployment filings surging, and rent due at the end of the month, Americans from main street to the White House are understandably frustrated and want to see some light at the end of the tunnel. President Donald Trump said during a Fox News virtual town hall earlier this week that he wanted to re-open America by Easter.
“I will tell you that right now. [Easter is] such an important day for other reasons, but I will make it an important day for this. I would love to have the country opened up, and they are just raring to go, by Easter,” Trump said Monday. (RELATED: ‘We’re Ready For Anything’: Pence Re-Assures CPAC About Trump Administration’s Coronavirus Strategy)
While Easter may be an optimistic date to restart the economy, the president is hardly alone in his desire to set an end date to this shutdown. The Wall Street Journal published an editorial last week calling on government officials to rethink the coronavirus shut down. (RELATED: ‘Not Racist At All’: Trump Defends Calling Coronavirus The ‘Chinese Virus’)
“No society can safeguard public health for long at the cost of its overall economic health,” the editors wrote. “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.”
It’s clear that the American economy must open sooner rather than later to avoid potential ruin. The question the nation’s leaders are struggling with is how to do so in the safest possible way. Countries such as Singapore and South Korea were able to slow the spread of the virus through extensive testing and tracking. The U.S. has seen a significant uptick in testing over the past few weeks, and some states and cities have been able to implement drive-by testing. Ideally, getting a coronavirus test would be like getting a flu shot at one’s local CVS, but the U.S. has a long way to go before that can become a reality. Tracing people with the disease could be easier if the U.S. government were to use apps developed by other countries. (RELATED: Stock Market Suffers Worst Drop Since 2011 Amid Coronavirus Fears, Oil Dispute)
Singapore has been using an app called TraceTogether to track citizens who may have been exposed to the disease, according to Business Insider. As a result, the nation has had just 600 cases of the coronavirus, and has not had to shut down their economy. Business Insider points out that this app would violate several privacy laws in the U.S., but most Americans would likely be willing to sacrifice some of their privacy to save the economy. India also recently announced that they are building an app to track people who may have been exposed to the disease. At the risk of simplifying things, extreme tracking and testing could be what’s necessary to keep the American economy alive through this pandemic.
Besides surveillance and testing, the U.S. must also make sure that its hospitals have enough equipment to avoid being overrun. This means ensuring hospitals have enough ventilators, masks, and other necessities. President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act last week, which he could use to require companies to produce such equipment. Increasing production of these items in the U.S. will allow them to get to local hospitals and medical facilities faster.
In the long term, there will be a major push to bring back more manufacturing to America, especially as the world grapples with China’s role in the pandemic, and aims to hold the communist nation accountable. Members of Congress, including Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marco Rubio of Florida have already called for the U.S. to re-evaluate its economic dependence on China, and that issue will likely take center stage during the 2020 presidential election. (RELATED: The Evolution Of Marco Rubio: From Foreign Policy Hawk To Spokesman For A Worker-Friendly GOP)
It’s important to point out that nobody, except some people on the fringes, are downplaying the seriousness of this virus. However, some people are beginning to question the wisdom of plunging the economy into a depression as a response, especially as it appears that the U.S. government and leading health organizations have misled the public in their response to the pandemic. Both U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and the World Health Organization (WHO) told people not to buy face masks, claiming that masks would not prevent the spread of the coronavirus. These claims have been disputed by medical experts, who logically note that if anything, masks will at least prevent you from touching your face.
Across the country, state and local officials are enacting increasingly totalitarian measures to avoid the spread of the virus. Governors across the country have unilaterally shut down schools, businesses, and churches with almost zero push back from the media. Draconian measures are being taken with very little discussion about the long-term damage they may do.
There are no easy solutions to mitigate the damage the coronavirus pandemic has done, and will continue to do. However, lawmakers must strike a balance between keeping the economy shut down, and re-opening everything all at once. The time to do so is running out as many Americans see their careers and their livelihoods fall by the wayside.