As states reopen, the economy shouldn’t take priority over safety

*Articles reflect the views of the author and/or those quoted and do not necessarily represent the view of CCBC or The CCBC Connection.

Sean Knox

We’re currently living in a time of great uncertainty. It’s an experience that most of us never expected, and one that I’m sure all of us are ready to move on from as soon as possible.

Like most countries around the world, coronavirus has swept across the United States, leading to widespread social restrictions and imposed stay-at-home orders as states endeavor to slow the spread of the highly contagious illness.  At the time of writing, there are over 800,000 confirmed cases of the virus here in the United States, more than 40,000 people have died, and millions have been laid off as businesses have been forced to limit their services or close entirely.

Even for those of us who haven’t been hit hardest by the virus, reacting and adapting to necessary social distancing protocols has likely been challenging. Reduced social interaction can leave people feeling anxious and restless, eager to return to the comforting familiarity of normal social rhythms. Families are under additional stress with children who are unable to go to school, and many people currently working from home may be struggling to adapt their job requirements to a distance-based system.

While many of us understand the need for these restrictions, some are beginning to chafe and push back against virus suppression efforts. In recent weeks, we’ve heard some politicians and pundits calling for states to reopen and let the public go back to work. Protests have taken place across the country from Maryland to Washington State, with the President himself encouraging demonstrations despite opposition from disease experts and frontline healthcare workers.

Those opposing statewide restrictions often reference the heavily impacted economy: they claim that people need to get back to work, that the economy, and even the country itself, can only be saved by relaxing social distancing protocols. Some argue that federal or even statewide restrictions amount to an opposition of their rights, of their freedom as Americans. To hear some protestors tell it, it’s as if favoring the health and safety of our citizens over the strength of our economy is somehow unpatriotic.

The idea that coronavirus should be politicized or turned into some sort of partisan debate is ludicrous. Tens of thousands of Americans have died, and more will die in the days and weeks and months to come. That’s horrific, and yet you can still hear some politicians arguing that further deaths may effectively amount to “the cost of doing business.” Discussing the possibility of losing even more lives to this disease for the sake of improving economic numbers is abhorrent.

No one is denying the importance of the economy, but it cannot take precedence over public safety. This is not a time for politicians to squabble over whether or not the government should spend money on stimulus packages. This is not a time to rail against quarantine efforts simply because we’re tired of compromising our lifestyles for more than a couple of months.

Rushing this process will not give us the results we so desperately want. We can’t wish the virus away simply because we’re tired of it and trying to whip people into a frenzy to get “back to work” won’t stop further outbreaks if we aren’t fully prepared to reopen. We need to look to pandemics of the past to understand the danger of opening up too soon. We need reliable widespread testing, and we need to understand both where this virus is most prevalent right now and where and how it would be likely to spread.

Along with continuing to take the threat of the virus seriously, we have to recognize that people and businesses are suffering on a massive scale, but also acknowledge that the solution isn’t to immediately send people back to work. The government has to accept that further stimulus bills will almost certainly be necessary, including provisions to both keep businesses afloat and to ensure that people can continue to feed their families and pay rent. We need to accept that a successful bid to reopen the country and resuscitate the economy will require both continued government spending and actual marked progress against COVID-19.

I understand that we’re all waiting for a time when our country can declare that we have the virus under control. Infectious disease experts and the scientists guiding the national response to the virus have reassured us that we will get there, but that it will take time. Many states are still struggling with testing and equipment shortages, and there is a consensus that every state will need to establish reliable, widespread testing protocols and detailed reopening plans before they can begin to gradually reduce restrictions.

For a prime example of this, look no further than Maryland. Our state currently has more than 16,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and just experienced a single-day surge of almost 1,000 new cases. We don’t have a handle on coronavirus, and hospitals are still bracing for an increase in cases. While we will have a valuable increase in testing courtesy of 500,000 test kits purchased from South Korea, we still need so much more. Before we can attempt to reopen the state, we need a dependable testing process in place to ensure that we can test as many people as possible, we need to see a consistent and steady decline in the number of new cases, and we still need a strategy that will prevent a resurgence of the virus.

To put it mildly: we’re not there yet. I know we all want to be, but we’re not. Relaxing restrictions before the country is ready will not only lead to more avoidable deaths but will likely extend the quarantine we are all so eager to escape. This will also cause continued damage to the economy along the way.

This is not the time to give in to frustration and impatience. Right now we need to make the harder choice: we need to wait.

*Articles reflect the views of the author and/or those quoted and do not necessarily represent the view of CCBC or The CCBC Connection.


  1. Samantha 31 July, 2020 at 08:08 Reply

    I agree with this article. The country’s safety is of the utmost importance, and, in my opinion, its better to stay safe so there are people left to rebuild rather than wipe out humanity just to keep businesses and schools open.

  2. Kai J Haskins 31 July, 2020 at 14:24 Reply

    I agree, although many places and people are in a rush to go back to “normal” it won’t help us or the economy if it’s done too hastily, and many people just don’t seem to get that.

  3. Stephanie 2 August, 2020 at 10:40 Reply

    This is still so relevant months after it was written, as we’ve seen as multiple states across the country began lessening restrictions and beginning stages of reopening. Not only has it led to spikes in cases across the country but has put citizens in danger. I work as a bartender and when my job reopened I had to go back, if I didn’t I risked losing my job and unemployment pay. What’s happened since going back? Fear and anxiety everyday at work and getting to work since I rely on rides are services. My coworker and friend testing positive and having to to self quarantine because we carpooled together. Since March I’ve had three coworkers get sick (thankfully recovered). One coworker lost her mother and uncle within a week of each other. My aunt lost her nephew who was in his 20s and a close family friend has lost her brother and nephew in the same week. One friend just lost her father this week.
    Myself and my coworkers were literally risking our lives so people can go out and have fun. This is not a joke, people act like Covid isn’t the worst thing to happen, it’s something you get over. However, it is novel and even if death isn’t the outcome, the longterm effects are still being investigated.

    People need to think about others, just because you yourself might not be at risk doesn’t mean others aren’t. Since reopening my job has now shut down again who knows for how long because across the city we were seeing spikes in cases. WE ARE NOT THERE YET! Sorry for my mini rant but it’s so frustrating seeing people upset about going to get a haircut when people are literally DYING! During quarantine I bought the supplies and taught myself to do gel manicures. I taught myself to trim my hair. I taught myself to sew masks for myself and anyone who needed one. I’m not perfect but I’ve gotten better because I don’t feel safe going to a salon.

  4. Fatima 2 August, 2020 at 15:17 Reply

    This is a great article and everyone should read and share it. Opening too soon will only cause more damage. if we are not prepared there will be consequences and today we already see that. Most cases are from social gatherings. Some states after reopening had to close down again after couple of weeks because the numbers went up again. We need to be more cautious.

  5. Jamie Jontiff 2 August, 2020 at 16:49 Reply

    There comes a point where all Americans will have to go back to work, I realize it is now August and this was written in May. That being said, the coronavirus is here to stay and not going away until we have a vaccine. The death rate of the coronavirus in the United States is 157,000 and the amount of confirmed cases in the U.S is 4.73M. According to the CDC website simply just wearing a mask could prevent many cases. It has also been shown that the majority of individuals having serious symptoms and passing from the virus are 80 and above. The elderly make up a majority of those deaths. Many people are still living in fear, trying to still hide away from this virus. I am a firm believer that the economy needs to keep moving and places should stay open, these are very challenging times for everyone which is why the House and Senate came to the agreement of the CARES act and a stimulus check, and one more to come.

  6. Daniel Ademiluyi 2 August, 2020 at 22:25 Reply

    I agree with this article, the government should value human life over priority. The value of human life should be put over all else especially when we are in a world wide pandemic. I believe that the government is rushing the process of things going back to normal. In all actuality we should consider that things may never be the same again. This however shouldn’t be looked at as a bad thing, we can use this time to adapt and better ourselves for what’s to come. Who knows what’s in store for us, we should value the lives of our fellow neighbors and ban together to keep one another safe.

  7. Suha Hassan 2 August, 2020 at 23:12 Reply

    Although I can see where those government officials are coming from I can also agree that this is not the best course of action. I can understand the panic that they feel at the idea that the economy is collapsing because that will also for sure cause many people to suffer. But I think that it would be better if we keep everything closed for now because it is the only way to contain this virus. I think opening everything up holds a greater risk factor

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