When Will the U.S. Reopen for Business?
As another 6.6 million file for unemployment, America really needs a plan.
The burning question on the minds of millions of Americans — particularly for the now 16 million who have filed jobless claims in the last three weeks — is “when will the U.S. reopen for business?” The China Virus pandemic has killed nearly 15,000 Americans to date, but we still need an economic exit strategy that will simultaneously prevent a later resurgence of the virus and keep our $22 trillion economy afloat.
Late in March, President Donald Trump famously expressed a desire to be “opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” Though he was mercilessly hammered by the Leftmedia for being so “naive,” Trump was merely voicing the hope of most Americans. His aspiration obviously did not become reality. In fact, many states have stay-at-home orders extending well beyond Easter (Virginia’s goes until June 10), meaning any kind of return to normalcy is still weeks away.
But there are also signs Trump wasn’t all that far off. “Some of these models are looking like Easter is going to be a very important date anyway because of the curve,” he said yesterday. “It’s hitting the top and it’s starting to come down.”
In any case, opening up the economy must take place in stages. “It isn’t like a light switch on and off,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. “It’s a gradual pulling back on certain of the restrictions and to try and get society a bit back to normal.” He argued that we must first determine that we’re “going in the right direction” with the number of infections. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow says he hopes for “four to eight weeks.”
Trump has floated a second coronavirus task force to focus on restarting the nation’s economy. What the administration must do is lay out a tentative plan, even acknowledging that the plan will be modified as dictated by events and that states and local communities will have a far greater say in enacting any plan than the president will. That’s the beauty of our federalist system.
Along those lines, economists Lewis Uhler and Peter Ferrara offer this plan: “Trump should work with governors from states that want to work. Start with West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. Voters in Virginia, Maryland and Illinois will wonder why they can’t work. Trump can work with willing governors, even county by county, informed by increased testing, freeing those testing free of illness to return to work. The economy can then be reopened southward and westward, to the extent state and local officials, under renewed political pressures, agree to participate.”
Indeed, any plan to send people back to work would need to involve extensive testing, which Dr. Fauci says is “in the hands of the private sector.” And returning to work would probably have to begin with young and healthy people, leaving older Americans and those with underlying health conditions to remain home for longer. Reopening would also have to begin company by company and community by community, rather than state by state.
Investment-banking giant Morgan Stanley put together a well-researched plan on reopening over the next 70 days or so. It lays out several important benchmarks for a return to normalcy: “Peak in new cases and deaths, fully staffed and equipped hospitals, and widely available high-capacity testing and surveillance.”
“Once those milestones are met,” Morgan Stanley’s report continues, the next round of objectives kicks in: “Determine who is immune, allow those who are low-risk to return to work, allow children back to school, increase surveillance for and containment of new cases, accelerate development and distribution of therapeutic treatments, and prioritize vaccine research and development.”
That is all very similar to the step-by-step approach Austria is taking in becoming the first European country to work toward what Chancellor Sebastian Kurz referred to as an Easter “resurrection.” Funny, but the Leftmedia didn’t seem to mind that allusion when it wasn’t Trump making it.
Update 4/9, for additional context:
At Wednesday’s press briefing, a reporter asked: “Last week, your top experts were saying that we should expect 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in this country. You’ve been talking about how it looks like maybe things are plateauing. Are these numbers now being revised downward? I know you don’t want people to stop social distancing and that sort of thing, but what can you tell us about the numbers? Are they being revised down?”
Dr. Deborah Birx responded: “We believe that our healthcare delivery system in the United States is quite extraordinary. I know many of you are watching the Act Now model and the IHME model from — and they have consistently decreased the number, the mortality from over almost 90,000 or 86,000, down to 81,000 and now down to 61,000. That is modeled on what America is doing. That’s what’s happening.”
For the record, according to the CDC, that is about the mortality rate of the 2017-18 flu season. And notably, data from New York City health department indicates that the majority (65.6%) of those who have died there, had (serious underlying health conditions](https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/imm/covid-19-daily-data-summary-deaths-04062020-1.pdf). Moreover, a third of the deaths (32.6%) are listed as “underlying conditions pending” with only 1.9% being listed as “no underlying conditions.”