Opinion: to open, or not to open?

What's the best decision in opening PA amidst COVID-19?

Davis Corman

Reopening the economy during a Pandemic

By DAVIS CORMAN

In the heart of a pandemic, many individuals across the world have had to face new realities: some include simple things such as avoiding significant crowds, while others, especially in America, have included strict lockdowns, which have ultimately led to financial stress. So as the Coronavirus continues to affect many Americas, one question looms overall: When should we reopen the economy? In a straightforward answer: Now!

 Across America, residents are nearing three months of stay-at-home orders. For many, this has meant three months without any source of income. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 20 million workers are unemployed as of April. Many individuals have had to live off unemployment benefits and a one-time $1,250 stimulus check for the past three months, all of which is to provide for themself, and for some, even their whole family. It is unethical. Now some might say, keep rolling out the stimulus checks for now until the infection and death rates go down. Although this seems logical, there are many holes within this idea.

Stimulus checks only help the workers of a company and not the company as a whole. For example, let’s say a local store has had to shut down for the past three months due to the stay-at-home orders. Stimulus checks are sent out to all, which is satisfactory for the employers, but for the owners, this could not have been farther from the truth. They have to provide for their family, while also maintaining the local business, all with a monthly $1,250 stimulus check. It’s impossible. They end up completely shutting down, now leaving all of their employees unemployed. Once the stay-at-home, orders are lifted and the $1,250 checks stop coming in, many are now left without any source of income. Now imagine this, but with thousands of small businesses across America. This is the reality that many Americans are going to face if the economy continues to stay closed. I do want to mention that there is a small business fund meant to provide help to small businesses, but these are so often underfunded and provide minimal help to those who really need it.

Some people might argue that having a bunch of people lose their jobs is a lot better than losing their lives, which I agree with. Losing a couple of extra dollars is worth the saving of one’s life, however, it is so much more than losing a few extra dollars. People’s livelihoods are on the line. According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, during the Great Depression, over 2 million people became homeless, and many around the country went hungry, not knowing where their next meal was. During the Great Recession, according to  NPR, suicide rates in Europe rose by nearly 6.5%. And in America, the amount jumped by 10,000 individuals. All of these point out how in times of economic hardship, which is where we are headed if the economy continues to remain shut down, that it isn’t just a few dollars one is losing. Many of us are privileged enough that we have a steady income, or are being paid during the quarantine. If you are one of these people, put yourself in the shoes of one who isn’t staying afloat financially. Someone who is already working paycheck to paycheck, all while trying to provide for their family. One, who if they miss out on just a month of works pay, will be forced to go hungry or lose their home. How would your feelings change then?

Opening the economy would not be a worry-free event.. If 100,000 more individuals were to die as a result of opening the economy, you might be willing to risk the effects of financial hardship, as would I. If it meant that keeping the economy closed for another few months would mean saving 100,000 lives, you bet I would want it to stay closed. But that is just not the case. Including individuals of all ages, the odds of one getting the virus and dying are 0.03%. What that statistic means is for every 10,000 in America, three will become infected and die. You are ten times more likely to die in a car crash than you are from the Coronavirus, but we all don’t stop driving cars. Now you might point out how that may be the statistic now, but if we were to reopen the economy, it could drastically increase. I understand that, but look at the death rates of each age group. According to the Worldometer website, individuals over the age of 65 are responsible for 75% of the total deaths. For those infected with COVID-19 who are under the age of 50, the death rate is less than 1%. So what this means is we need to take care of our elderly. According to the New York Times, nearly ⅓ of COVID-19 deaths occurred in nursing homes. If we take care of our elderly, meaning increase hygiene requirements in nursing homes and wearing masks around our grandparents, the rate will go down. Don’t just take my word for it; listen to this Stanford doctor. In an interview with the New York Post, Dr. Scott Atlas said, “We know children and young adults in good health have almost no risk of any serious illness from COVID-19 … With sensible precautions and sanitization standards, most workplaces and businesses should reopen. This would save lives, prevent overcrowding of hospitals.”

I urge everyone listening to do one thing. When thinking about reopening the economy, please put yourself in the shoes of those you may not be in. Understand the risk of each decision and understand the possible outcomes of all. Don’t become blinded by what others say, but do the research yourself. Once you have done so, then make your decision.