Stuck With Social Distancing Through 2022, U.S Economy Is ‘Not Reopening Anytime Soon’

Stuck With Social Distancing Through 2022, U.S Economy Is ‘Not Reopening Anytime Soon’


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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Donald Trump and others who want a quick reopening of a US economy shuttered as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak will probably be very disappointed.

That’s according to a variety of public health professionals and others who foresee a longer road ahead to bring the country–and the world–back to normal.

Trump reportedly is ready to declare the US economy reopened for business May 1, after weeks of turmoil as the COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the country, killing more than 26,000 Americans and sickening more than 600,000.

Most of the United States–and the US economy–have been under extreme lockdown conditions for weeks now to protect the health of Americans and slow the spread of the virus.

“The short answer that you asked is, ‘No, we’re not reopening anytime soon,'” Dr Dave Campbell, medical analyst for NBC News said during an appearance on the MSNBC program Morning Joe. “And when we do, it will be this phased, rolling back of ‘not normalcy,’ but how about just acceptability for the new, local, federal, and state way that we have to govern ourselves and live our lives.”

The situation in Texas certainly won’t be ready to reopen any time close to May 1, according to Dr Peter Hotez, an American scientist, pediatrician, and advocate in the fields of global health, vaccinology, and neglected tropical disease control.

“I would emphasize the point about one size doesn’t fit all. An example of that is here in the state of Texas. We are still climbing so we won’t peak, according to many models, until May 1. So we are now getting our ICU beds filling up in the Texas Medical Center. So we are not in a position to even start thinking about that yet,” Dr Hotez said. “So when May 1 comes around, we’re going to be like New York was last week. So then that gets into a lot of complexity, because let’s say parts of New York open up.

“You know, we have an amazing business community here in the state of Texas so they are going to feel a lot of pressure to say, ‘Hey, if New York’s opened up, why aren’t we opening up?’ This will create a lot of complexity,” he added. “I don’t claim to have an answer now, but this will have to be a very carefully orchestrated dance around what it means to open up one part of the country but not the other. It sounds good, the science might support it, but there will be a lot of other considerations as well.”

‘Hard to imagine all of this magically going away’

Considerations for reopening the country have to be grounded in reality, and until that happens Americans should continue to practice their social distancing to stay safe, said Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), who was a nurse before her election to Congress.

“We’re closely monitoring the number of hospital beds, the number of ICU beds and the like, I’m hearing from mayors about the real challenges that are facing their municipal budgets. And it’s hard to imagine that this is all going to magically go away in a couple of weeks. Right. We know that that is not the nature of a pandemic,” the congresswoman said. “And I think that it’s really important that as we communicate with the American people, we do so grounded in the reality of what’s facing each of our communities and the decisions that each and every individual makes when they decide whether to put on their masks and go to the grocery store that day, whether they want to take a walk around the block or whether they should just stay at home. And what we want to continue to emphasize to people is that the best way to protect yourselves and your families right now today is to continue to stay at home, continue to wash your hands, continue to take these aggressive measures that we’ve been taking for the last several weeks in order to protect yourselves and your loved ones. If you’re feeling sick, call your health care provider.”

Ultimately, Americans will probably have to endure social distancing through 2022, according to Yonatan Grad, a researcher in immunology at the Harvard University TH Chan School of Public Health.

That’s how long it could take for a vaccine to become available, and then the so-called “herd immunity” to develop in the general population, such that most people will have developed an immunity to the COVID-19.

“Keep in mind that we’re flattening the curve to try to reduce the pressure on the health care infrastructure. What we want to do is institute these social distancing measures when it looks like when you project we would start to approach what the critical care infrastructure is, that — the maximum there, and then we could turn it off as we’re starting to see the curve go down,” he said. “Again, we had this kind of thermostat model where we would titrate to, again, trying to maintain our health care infrastructure. When we use that as our goal, we end up projecting these multiple rounds of social distancing that takes us out to 2022.”

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