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The 'Fix' Can't be Worse than the Cure

Unsplash | Andy Feliciotti
By Robert Safir

A week into the shutting down of casinos in Vegas and in office building around the world, the effort to slow down the speed of coronavirus has turned cities into virtual ghost towns.

Governors have issued mandatory shutdowns, unemployment has soared, and the stock market continues to be a roller coaster. As deserted cities continue to prop up everywhere, the virus continues its quest to infect as many as possible.

If there was ever a time to be glad you're not the president, this is the one. There will have to be very difficult decisions moving forward - trying to balance the demise of the country's economy vs. the demise of its population.

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Proceed with Caution

Easter basket
Gettyimages | Rike_

The president, who tweeted Sunday that "WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF," declared on Tuesday that he "would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter." This year Easter lands on April 12.

The president’s proclamation incited a lot of push-back. The Democrats, predictably enough, objected to the very notion of “opening the economy back up.”

"It's incredible that this has to be said: Letting thousands of people needlessly suffer and die is wrong," Hillary Clinton tweeted. "It's also not a recipe for rescuing the economy." Presidential candidate Joe Biden suggested that Trump listen to the medical experts and to follow their recommendations.

The backlash on reopening the economy was not limited solely to Democrats. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., urged caution. "There will be no normally functioning economy if our hospitals are overwhelmed and thousands of Americans of all ages, including our doctors and nurses, lay dying because we have failed to do what’s necessary to stop the virus," Cheney remarked.

In the Left Corner

Dow Jones
Gettyimages | samxmeg

Health experts have warned that Americans must continue to use the tools of limiting social interaction and implementing self-isolation. If they don’t, the number of sick will overwhelm the system, just like it has in Italy. In the US, the worst outbreaks are in certain parts of the country, like New York, and indeed, infection is spreading rapidly. Today, the White House coronavirus response coordinator said that anyone who has left New York recently should self-quarantine for 14 days.

Meanwhile, and ironically, the Dow Jones posted a single-day record, surging more than 2,000 points as negotiations continue in Congress over a stimulus deal. That’s an important distinction, however, as the rise of the Dow was not related to the concept of “reopening America.”

In the Right Corner

Gettyimages | Nico De Pasquale Photography

The position held by Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, was that “public health includes economic health.” Conservatives on a conference call with Mike Pence emphasized Trump’s eagerness to lift the COVID-19-related restrictions on work and travel – in a matter of weeks, not months. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo would be alarmed – to say the least – to consider relaxing restrictions. His state has the most cases of coronavirus and they’re growing at the highest rate.

The rate of new coronavirus cases in New York is "doubling about every three days" and is speeding up even more, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. "That is a dramatic increase in the rate of infection."

Economic Health at Risk

Trump at World Economic Forum
Gettyimages | FABRICE COFFRINI

President Trump indicated that he wants the country’s economy “re-opened” and “just raring to go” by Easter. In response to the question: how long people should stay home and businesses remain closed, the president said “I give it two weeks.” This is in sharp contrast to medical experts who were previously talking about a much longer period – two, three, possibly even four months.

Trump stated he doesn’t want “to turn the country off” and then see the result as an economic downfall from the coronavirus. He predicted that the U.S. could see "suicides by the thousands" if the pandemic devastates the economy.

Life in the Rose Garden

Woman with medical mask
Unsplash | Ani Kolleshi

Speaking from the Rose Garden alongside others on his coronavirus taskforce, Trump said he "would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter." The holiday this year lands on April 12.

Trump argues "We lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu. We don't turn the country off. Likewise, he said “We lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We don't call up the automobile companies and say stop making cars. We have to get back to work.”

This is surely a false equivalency. The flu is contained, not out of control. We have flu vaccines and medicines to reduce its onset and its symptoms. It is not at all like the coronavirus.

Similarly, although we do lose lives to automobile accidents, the phenomenon is not at all like a virus. It is not an infection that spreads exponentially out of control. Actually, improvements in automobile safety are bringing down the numbers slowly but surely.

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