Minnesota Fed Chair: National Lockdown Only Way to Stop COVID-19
Five million cases and 162,000 deaths are the grim milestones the United States surpassed on Sunday as the novel coronavirus pandemic ravages unchecked through most of the country. Simple actions at the individual level, such as wearing masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines, which would have an enormous impact on slowing the spread, are unfortunately being refused – frequently and often violently – by a huge swath of the American population.
The economic emergency triggered by the outbreak, with tens of millions of Americans unemployed and now lacking unemployment insurance, is no doubt being worsened by the aforementioned, widespread arrogance.
Two top economists now believe that a national lockdown may be the only remaining recourse in controlling the virus.
On Friday, Minnesota Federal Reserve Chairman Neel Kashkari and Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, wrote in a New York Times editorial that “if we aren’t willing to take this action, millions more cases with many more deaths are likely before a vaccine might be available.”
The economy is not the only concern in the coming weeks and months, of course. Millions of American schoolchildren and college students are missing out on crucial primary, secondary, and higher education. And then there is the biggest elephant in the room – November’s already messy presidential election.
Kashkari and Osterholm believe a lockdown of four to six weeks has the potential to solve these problems.
“If we do this aggressively,” they argue. “The testing and tracing capacity we’ve built will support reopening the economy as other countries have done, allow children to go back to school and citizens to vote in person in November. All of this will lead to a stronger, faster economic recovery, moving people from unemployment to work.”
The benefits, they say, outweigh the negatives, which are abundant.
“We know that stringent lockdown can have serious health consequences for patients who can’t get access to routine care. But over the past six months, medical professionals have learned how to protect patients and staff from spreading the coronavirus; therefore we should be able to maintain access to regular medical care during any new lockdown,” they wrote. “There is no trade-off between health and the economy. Both require aggressively getting control of the virus. History will judge us harshly if we miss this life- and economy-saving opportunity to get it right this time.”