|President Trump is facing a challenge to balance the nation’s economic well-being and people’s health. / Photo by: webandi via Pixabay|
It appears that US President Donald Trump has made his choice in the problem caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. That is, whether to save lives but at the cost of the country’s economic foundation. He recently made clear in a press briefing that he wants to lift the strict social distancing and self-isolating recommendations implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic because of its impact on the economy, reports CNN.
The plan to reopen the US economy
“We’re going to be opening relatively soon,” the President said, referring the timeline set for Easter or by mid-April. He said that although Easter is an important date for other reasons, he wanted to make it an important date for the reopening of the US as well for business as their country was “not built to be shut down.” The country started its 15 Days to Slow the Spread campaign on March 16 to encourage people in the US to work from home when possible and limit the gatherings of more than ten people.
Health experts warn that such a step, though, would pose dramatic risks because Americans who have already contracted the virus could potentially spread it even if they are not showing the symptoms. Advising Americans to return to their normal life means they could go to crowded gatherings or offices and that would raise the number of Covid-19 cases.
New York as the epicenter of COVID-19 in the US
The governor of New York Andrew Cuomo voiced frustration and alarm with the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic. Cuomo urged other states to look at what is happening in their city as an illustration of what could follow. New York now has 25,665 cases of coronavirus, accounting for more than half of all infections in the US. “No American is going to say ‘accelerate the economy at the cost of human life,’” Cuomo continued.
Member of the administrations’ coronavirus task force Dr. Deborah Birx has also warned that the “attack rate” of COVID-19 in New York was five times more than in other states. New York is known as the dominant financial and economic powerhouse of America.
President Trump’s comment about reopening the US came on the day when the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US reached more than 40,000 and a hundred people died in one day. He acknowledged that “this is going to be bad,” and he argued that if it "if it were up to the doctors, they may say let's keep it shut down.” CNN reported that the administration was already working on some options to present to the President to have a “careful opening” of the economy in such a way that will not compromise the health efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19. Some plans drafted will allow people who are less prone to critical complications to resume work.
There’s a possibility that the President will face warnings, though, about his plan to reverse the shutdown in the hope to alleviate the mass unemployment across the US. Some may say that it is a premature move since the disease is still increasing in the country. Even the most trusted and visible member of the President's coronavirus task force Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is a top infectious disease specialist, did not side with Trump when he announced his plan to reopen the country. The President insisted that he will listen to Dr. Fauci’s counsel and other people in the White House.
Before the US shutdown, the President reportedly spent weeks denying that Covid-19 was a serious problem predicting that it was not much worse than flu. Then, he changed course, vowing to fight the “invisible enemy” and said that normal life may not resume until July or August. Just recently, he went back to comparing the virus to the seasonal flu despite it having no vaccine, having a far higher death rate, and being more virulent. He also said to look at the number of automobile accidents, which are even far greater and yet it doesn’t mean that they are going to tell everyone to stop driving cars. This is why they have to do things to get their country open.
|New York is known as the dominant financial and economic powerhouse of America. / Photo by: Witizia via Pixabay|
Balancing the nation’s economic well-being and people’s health
President Trump is facing a challenge to balance the nation’s economic well-being and people’s health. The suggestion of Trump’s White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow was to make a prompt economic opening. He said the country would have to make “difficult tradeoffs” on coronavirus.
According to real-time world statistics provider Worldometer, the US has 54,968 coronavirus cases, 784 deaths and 379 recovered as of March 25. New York has the highest number (26,348) of coronavirus cases followed by New Jersey (3,675), California (2,617), Washington (2,469), Michigan (1,791), Illinois (1,535), Florida (1,467), Louisiana (1,388), Massachusetts (1,159), Georgia (1,097), and Texas (1,023).
Meanwhile, the economic prosperity of a country is measured via its gross domestic product per capita, which is the value of all services and goods produced by a country in a year divided by the country’s population. Scientific online publication Our World in Data shows US’ GDP per capita in the following years: 2000 ($45,887.00), 2002 ($46,267.00), 2004 ($48,493.00), 2006 ($50,490.00), 2008 ($50,276.00), 2010 ($49,267.00), 2012 ($50,394.00), 2014 ($51,664.00), and 2016 ($53,015.00).
The Hamilton Project’s director Jay Shambaugh further opined via daily USA Today that loosening the restrictions in the country too soon and resuming America’s life to normal could lead to a tighter crackdown in the future since the whole point is to control the virus. The Hamilton Project is an initiative that offers a strategic vision and produces policy proposals on how to create a growing economy that benefits more Americans.
Shambaugh, who is also a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, said that anything we do to erase the gains we are already trying to get doesn’t only have health consequences but that it requires further shut down.
President Trump is indeed facing a serious tradeoff. He is right by saying that most Americans are not facing a lethal risk from the virus but still many do and it doesn’t mean that younger citizens are entirely safe. Yes, they should move forward just as what other nations need but this is about people’s lives we are talking about. His decision to reopen the economy dramatically sooner than experts’ timeline could worsen the situation.