Local View / People drive the economy: Take care of them first
Simple virus, simple solutions. This virus needs hosts, humans, to survive, so the primary goal right now has to be removing the hosts. No hosts, the virus dies.
Some folks argue that we need to open the economy and let the chips fall where they may, even if the outcome proves as deadly and has as many debilitating long-term health implications as evidence suggests. This attitude fails to recognize that viruses are simple and need hosts — again, us humans — or that humans drive the economy.
The stock market does not drive our economy; it is merely a reflection of our collective human economic activity. This should be overwhelmingly obvious from the massive freefall of all markets when our mass quarantines first went into effect and the federal reserve had to pump $1.2 trillion into the market to artificially prop it up. Further evidence of this should have been glaringly apparent when oil prices actually went negative for a brief time. No human demand or consumption equals no economy. People not buying, not producing, and not providing demand are what stopped our economy.
Therefore, it seems pretty self explanatory that we need to take care of people first. We need to provide safety so they can regain consumer confidence and start driving the economy again. Allow me to repeat: We keep overlooking one important fact about the economy which should be glaringly evident, that it is driven by people being able and willing to buy goods and services, not the stock market. Dead, dying, sick, and even scared people do not spend money; therefore, demand is not sufficient to maintain profit margins.
And further outbreaks would not only kill more of us but would scare more people who then would be reticent to go out and participate in driving the economy.
The stock market will recover as it always has.
Simple virus, simple solutions. We need significantly more testing to better understand prevalence and Infection Fatality Rates and to provide for containment to take away the hosts. We ain’t there yet. Then, surveillance testing, tracing, and isolation are needed to prevent further outbreaks.
Then open up the economy.
Simple virus, simple solutions. We have 30 million-plus unemployed. We have hundreds of thousands of local restaurants closed. We have hundreds of thousands of empty hotel and motel rooms. We can argue if it is no worse than a flu if you wish, but 70,000 dead in less than three months is demonstrably deadly. The containment and eradication of this is really the only option since we do not have safe early effective treatments, nor a vaccine.
A nationwide World War II-like or Great Depression-like concerted effort to mobilize our public health infrastructure would serve two purposes. It would provide a mechanism for the containment and eradication of this virus, thereby protecting the human drivers of our economy. And it would provide for increased economic activity while containing and surveilling against further outbreaks. This massive outlay of resources and human effort would also allow for a safe and more rapid opening of other economic activities.
And it would have a multiplying effect: Greater perceived safety would lead to consumer confidence, leading to increased demand, leading to greater economic activity, leading to a more-rapid economic recovery.
Simple virus, simple solutions. The following not only would allow the economy to be opened up in general, it also would generate economic activity while a focus would remain on containing the virus and saving lives:
A nationwide or even global Defense Production Act order, or DPA order, for testing, testing supplies, personal protective equipment, and to secure supply chains for all;
CCC- or WPA-type programs to put the unemployed to work as testers and tracers;
A DPA order to enlist companies to provide hardware and software for the tracers;
A DPA order to enjoin empty office buildings for the hardware and software and tracers;
A DPA order for motels and hotels to house the testers and tracers and as quarantine housing;
And a DPA order for local restaurants to provide food for the folks in the motels and hotels.
All these things could be scaled to different regions and population densities.
Using World War II-era and Great Depression-era strategies would prevent the further loss of life, would add economic activity to areas presently under quarantine, and would allows us humans to return to driving our economy through our increasing demand for goods and services.
Simple virus, simple solutions.
Be well. Be safe.
Christopher J. LaFleur of Duluth is an advanced practice registered nurse, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, and an entrepreneur who owns a local indoor golf facility and bar and restaurant (caddyshackduluth.com), as well as a whitewater-rafting company (minnesotawhitewater.com).