As I isolate myself in our home, I ponder the economic health of our country in the coming months and beyond. Seeing people mobilizing to fight the invisible coronavirus is certainly inspiring. We all know that managing individual behavior will go a long way toward slowing and eventually stopping the spread of this terrifying pandemic.
However, why is it enough to cancel large events, not gather in large groups, work from home and keep six feet apart? I’m afraid businesses are closed, including restaurants, bars, malls and gyms. movie theaters, travel companies and more as we face unprecedented economic hardship.
Right now, a couple of thousand people have died in the US, which is sad and painful especially for their families and loved ones. However, if we continue on this path of stopping business trade, hundreds of thousands of people will die from the dire economic consequences.
When the unemployment rate rises by one percent, there could be almost 40,000 deaths according to Bluestone et all. Causes and effects of economic displacement, which is often summarized in economics textbooks and mentioned in the popular movie The Big Short. A further breakdown of the numbers is as follows: 20,000 heart attacks, 920 suicides and 650 murders.
A three percent rise in unemployment could lead to more than 100,000 deaths, which far exceeds the number of coronavirus deaths directly linked to the pandemic. I think this scenario shows that we need to maintain social distancing practices, but I think we need to keep our retail businesses open. Certain individuals, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, may take the necessary precautions if they wish to self-isolate.
The remaining 80-90% of the population must learn to accept and live with the risk of this pandemic in order to maintain our quality of life. We can change our individual behavior, practice good hygiene, show compassion for those who get sick, mobilize financial and human resources to fight the pandemic and not stop our business, personal and consumer lives.
Compassion should also be extended to the small business owner, who only has the capital to operate for a short time without modest sales. Their entire financial allocation can be invested in the business, including their ability to support their employees and family. In addition, they may be at an age where there is insufficient time to recover from a business or personal bankruptcy. Shouldn’t we accept a reasonable risk to allow this entrepreneur to sustain his business?
Another overlooked aspect of this pandemic is the uneven geographic distribution of the virus. Four states, including New York, New Jersey, Washington and California, account for 64% of cases. Breaking it down further, most people with the disease in these states live in New York City, Seattle, and the CA Bay Area.
Even if the virus has reached all 50 states, why should West Virginia with eight cases and South Dakota with 50 cases and one death suffer negative economic consequences when the number of cases is so small. West Virginia is already in a tough spot due to the loss of its state’s manufacturing and coal industries.
In today’s world, there is danger all around us from crime, car accidents, natural disasters and more. We do not stop living because of the tragic circumstances that inevitably find their way into our lives. Instead, we face tragedy head on and know in our guts that we must always find a way to persevere. The last risk is not to take one and today we are in a very dangerous situation.