America is reopening. From New England to the West Coast, “non-essential” businesses have been given the green light, and many are hoping to return to financial solvency before it’s too late.
With each passing day, President Donald Trump is urging America’s governors to lift their unconstitutional stay-at-home orders. His “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again” — a three-phased approach approved by public health experts — have provided them with the blueprint.
But, in truth, the U.S. economy should’ve reopened weeks ago. Even as Trump stresses the need for consumers to “to get on with their lives,” the martial law and house arrest edicts now being prolonged by overzealous Democratic governors have set back economic activity by months. And it will be many more months until the American economy fully recovers.
Here’s why our economic reopening is long overdue:
Coronavirus was never a major threat to most Americans
For months, we have known that the coronavirus poses only a minor threat to the non-elderly — 84 percent of the population. And it’s been confirmed again and again.
Back in early April, Stanford University researchers found that the COVID-19 infection rate is 80 times higher than originally thought, meaning the fatality rate is 80 times lower. They pegged the “infection fatality rate” between 0.12 and 0.2 percent, which is relatively comparable to the seasonal flu (0.1 percent).
Isolate the non-elderly, and the fatality rate drops well below 0.1 percent. A separate study in Los Angeles County corroborated the lower fatality rate, as did subsequent research from Denmark. But Stanford University’s landmark study was published more than one month ago.
Yet we shut down the economy because of a 0.2 percent fatality rate, at most? We put 36 million Americans out of work to combat a slightly more potent influenza?
Lest we forget: In February, the left-leaning Washington Post compared the COVID-19 threat to that of the flu. Yet, in the weeks to come, policymakers gave in to fear and paranoia, overreacting to a “pandemic” that never really threatened the overwhelming majority of Americans.
The economic cost outweighs the COVID-19 risk
Unemployment isn’t just a minor bump in the road. It can be deeply unsettling, with long-term consequences — even death. Some studies have suggested that every percentage-point increase in the unemployment rate is associated with 37,000 deaths due to greater heart attack rates and other factors.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. unemployment rate jumped from 3.5 percent in February to an official figure of 14.7 percent two months later. However, economists now project the real unemployment rate to be as high as 23 percent.
In other words, the economic shutdown has increased unemployment by 20 percent in a matter of months. That comes out to potentially 740,000 indirect deaths — about eight times the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the United States. It’s also three times higher than the Trump administration’s worst-case scenario death toll of 240,000.
The “cure” is worse than the disease.
Economic shutdown wasn’t the only option
Since the coronavirus escaped from Wuhan, pandemic alarmists have championed a near-total economic shutdown as the only real option. But it never was: Sweden tried a different approach, keeping the country open and issuing guidelines rather than government mandates.
The reward is outweighing the risk. According to the New York Times, the Scandinavian country has “avoided the devastating tolls of outbreaks in Italy, Spain, and Britain” while allowing students to keep going to school and professionals to keep working. Sweden’s public health outcomes are similar to those of the United States, but their government didn’t send millions of people to the unemployment rolls and the economy spiraling into a depression.
Plus, the Swedish government’s reliance on “recommendations,” as opposed to restrictive mandates, has managed to uphold civil liberties — liberties that should never, under any circumstance, be compromised. Whereas Democratic governors targeted gun rights and the freedom of religion, the Swedes trusted themselves to weigh the risks of the coronavirus and live life accordingly. They trusted the individual.
As Americans, we could’ve done better. We should’ve done better. Even as Trump seeks to undo the economic damage of the coronavirus shutdown, it should never have come to a new “Great Depression” in the first place.
Our economic reopening is a welcome sight, but Americans deserved it many weeks ago.
Allen West is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and former Florida congressman. He serves as senior advisor to the Committee to Defend the President and pens a daily column at TheOldSchoolPatriot.com.