Should We Shut Down Again?

Robert Brooks Contributor
Should We Shut Down Again?
Read Time: approx. 3:59

This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on November 18, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up.

Top Story: “In a matter of days, America’s long effort to revive its virus-battered economy has been put on pause — or thrown into reverse — as new infections soar at the fastest pace since the pandemic’s earliest days,” David R Baker, Angelica LaVito, and Elise Young report for Bloomberg news. “California on Monday reinstituted bans on many indoor businesses, and its governor warned he may impose a curfew. Michigan has ordered a three-week partial shutdown, while states including Oregon, Washington, and New Jersey tightened curbs. Even the governor of Iowa, long resistant to virus rules, issued a limited mask mandate Monday.” Here’s what both sides are saying about reimposing restrictions on businesses across the country:

On The LeftIn an opinion piece for Vox, German Lopez says: “With the milder measures failing us, it’s clear what needs to happen: To avert possibly hundreds of thousands of deaths in the months before a vaccine becomes widely available, the US needs to close down once again. That means temporarily shuttering in-person, indoor services at nonessential businesses, particularly bars and restaurants; restricting larger gatherings, including in private homes; and encouraging, or outright mandating, people to stay home as much as possible — only going out for food, work, exercise, health care, and other basics needs — and limit their social interactions to their own households.” Lopez caveats this stance, saying: we should keep “outdoor spaces like parks open,” and these new lockdown measures “shouldn’t mean simply abandoning individuals and businesses.” Lopez writes: ” In the spring, Congress passed economic aid for workers and businesses to ease the suffering that a lockdown involved. Experts widely agree that, if closing down is necessary again, Congress should make similar moves — from boosting unemployment insurance to offering financial aid, even a bailout, to the businesses most affected. This wouldn’t just ease people’s economic suffering but also make closing down more bearable and, as a result, more sustainable.” Pointing to studies from Health Affairs, The Lancet, and the CDC, Lopez says prior lockdowns “worked” in regards to stemming the spread of the virus. However, he also notes that “people have reported more mental health problems, and drug overdose deaths have increased.” He says there are also “massive economic problems… But many of these problems could be mitigated with more action by Congress. Just like the CARES Act made the spring lockdown more bearable for many, more economic aid could in the coming months, too.” In conclusion, Lopez says: “As painful as closing down again might be, it may only have to last a few months at most — to carry as many Americans as possible through the finish line, and end this pandemic with more lives saved.”

On The RightThe Wall Street Journal Editorial Board asks: “Did you enjoy the days at home from mid-March to May? The 22 million lost jobs, the shuttered storefronts, the neighborhood shops out of business, the kids unable to attend school, and the near economic depression? Well, congratulations, a reprise may be coming your way if Joe Biden heeds his Covid-19 advisory team.” The Editorial Board cites quotes from Ezekiel Emanuel, Michael Osterholm, and Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari, who have Biden’s ear about how to handle the virus. All of them have called for reimposing lockdown measures with Mr. Osterholm saying a “six-week” lockdown may be necessary. The WSJ Ed Board continues, asking: “Did they learn anything from the spring and events since? Lockdowns don’t crush the virus. They merely delay its spread until the lockdowns end. Targeted restrictions on people and businesses may be needed in an emergency in some locations to prevent hospitals from being overrun—though even then the government can surge medical resources, as is now happening in El Paso.” From an economic standpoint, the WSJ Ed Board says, “The costs of severe lockdowns are horrendous. The U.S. is still recovering from the spring catastrophe when the jobless rate surged in two months to 14.7%, the highest since the Great Depression. Tens of thousands of businesses closed and many will never reopen.” They write that “The human cost is even worse. A quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds have reported suicidal thoughts and increased substance abuse. Half of them reported symptoms consistent with a depressive disorder. Some 13% of Americans said they started or increased substance use to cope with the pandemic.” In conclusion, the WSJ says: “Mr. Biden will inherit a recovering economy and a pipeline of better Covid therapies and likely vaccines. His job will be to extend this progress, not to send the country back into the despond of April. If he does return to lockdowns, he’ll own the economic and public-health consequences.”

Flag This: “About half of Americans in Gallup’s latest polling on the COVID-19 pandemic, 49%, say they would be very likely to stay home for a month if public health officials recommended it due to a serious outbreak of the virus in their community. This contrasts with solid majorities in the spring who said they were likely to comply with such shelter-in-place advice, including a high of 67% in late March/early April. Another 18% of Americans say they would be somewhat likely to follow public health officials’ advice to stay home for a month, bringing the total inclined to comply to the majority level. But a full third say they would be very or somewhat unlikely to comply, about double the rate seen in the spring.”