The headline says it all: “48 States to Reopen Some Businesses Amid Trump Pressure.” This is bad news, folks. Let’s look at Germany as an example. Germany has been diligent in COVID-19 testing and decided to ease quarantine restrictions over the past few weeks. The results? Not great.
While the results are “preliminary,” we have to keep in mind that no matter how comprehensive a country’s testing is, there is always a data lag. This article from The Atlantic explains what that means, but in essence, people become infected (1) before they know they’ve been infected and/or (2) before they show any symptoms, if at all. This means that the virus has a chance to spread in a person who thinks they’re normal and consequently acts normally (i.e., with fewer precautions).
Back to the bad news here. With a whopping 48 states easing restrictions, we will inevitably see an uptick in COVID-19 cases. It’s simple biology. What isn’t simple are the repercussions.
At a time when Americans are decidedly antsy about returning “back to normal,” we’ve jumped the proverbial gun by easing quarantine restrictions. Because we’ll see more cases as a result of the easing, we’re going to have to prolong our quarantine. I live in a fairly liberal part of the country and many people completely and openly defy social distancing and quarantine orders. It’s worse in Trump country, where his acolytes so often follow his example of refusing to wear a mask. Again, this all means that cases will continue to rise and quarantine will have to be prolonged even further.
Worse yet, this means that the US’s economic situation will worsen. Already, the number of unemployed workers is approaching 40 million. With a prolonged quarantine, unemployment will almost certainly rise. Congress will have to seriously think about yet more economic stimuluses, ever inflating the national debt.
In short, it is emphatically not worth reopening at the scale and rate that we are if it means a ultimately prolonging the quarantine. I’ve heard the argument from liberals and conservatives alike that “the cure can’t be worse than the disease.” But you know what? Maybe it should be in some ways. If we pay our quarantine dues now, we won’t have to later. Americans can get back to work sooner if we just keep a stiff upper lip. Unfortunately, however, it looks like we’re marking a serious mistake before we consider that option again.