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Reopen America As Soon As Safely Possible

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

More than 22 million Americans have lost their jobs due to the national shutdown to combat the spread of coronavirus. Thousands of small businesses are desperately trying to stay afloat. Several major corporations, including Neiman Marcus, are facing, or have entered into, bankruptcy. Food pantries are overburdened. State unemployment offices are overwhelmed.

The crude, draconian “shutdown strategy” to “stop the spread” is misguided and unsustainable.

The economy of the United States, which was firing on all cylinders just a few months ago, is teetering on the brink. Although the federal government is trying to stop the bleeding, there is only so much that can be done before the economic destruction—and the vast array of social problems that are more than likely to ensue—becomes irreversible.

In short, we need to safely reopen America. We need to allow people to return to work so they have a purpose. We need to give people the ability to pay their rent, buy groceries, and to ensure that their needs are met. Because as we have witnessed for the past month or so, the federal government is simply incapable of providing a lifeline to the American economy for much longer, if it even could in the first place.

To date, the federal government has printed and pumped trillions of dollars into the economy via the Payment Protection Program, CARES Act, and the Economic Impact Payments that most Americans will receive at some point. Yet, this is a drop in the bucket.

The government is caught in a vicious game of whack-a-mole, trying to throw money at all the problems that have been created since the shutdown. This is not working, and is likely to lead to all sorts of unintended consequences, including massive inflation and huge budget deficits.

The best viable solution to the economic paralysis we are stuck in is to safely reopen the country. To date, ample data demonstrate that coronavirus most adversely impacts elderly Americans and those with certain underlying conditions. On the other hand, Americans under the age of 40 and those without these underlying conditions have shown to be much less negatively affected by coronavirus.

When you couple this with the fact that giant swaths of America do not have outbreaks anywhere near as bad as the New York metropolitan area or Detroit, a pertinent question arises: Should we abandon the one-size-fits-all shutdown ASAP in favor of much more targeted and tactical measures to halt the spread of coronavirus? It seems like a worthy goal.

For weeks, governors have acted with extreme caution in trying to protect residents from coronavirus. However, their stay-at-home orders are beginning to do more damage (both short and long term) than good. Domestic violence is on the rise. Drug and alcohol addiction is too. Millions of students are in a state of limbo. The social fabric of our country is in danger of being torn to shreds.

Yet, there is reason for hope and optimism. The United States is unique: It has 50 states, which serve as laboratories of democracy.

The fact that the United States is a federal republic very well could prove to be the saving grace for the nation. Already, brave governors, such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, have announced plans to reopen in a very safe and methodical manner. Given the rise in protests across state capitals in recent days, it is probable that more governors will follow Abbott’s lead.

To guide the states, as it should, the federal government has released guidance for states to follow under a three part plan to reopen the country.

It is imperative that states, counties, and cities ensure that proper and prudent decisions are made regarding how and when to reopen different sectors. Wearing masks and social distancing will probably be integral during the reopening process.

In general, Americans understand the seriousness of the situation at hand and will act accordingly. The vast majority of Americans want to keep themselves and their families healthy.

Yet, we must remember that to maintain the most basic standards of health and safety, one must be able to provide the necessities for survival: food, shelter, clothing, etc.

The best way to ensure that these needs are met, and millions do not descend into poverty, is to reopen the country as soon as is safely possible.

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