COVID-19 is not the first pandemic crisis the United States has faced; however, we did not necessarily have a plan in place or even know what the plan should look like. A rush to instate lockdown restrictions was a serious proposition and may prove to be a cure that is worse than the disease. The effects of the lockdowns on our economy and our society could prove to have long term consequences worse than the virus. Furthermore, many societies have taken less strict and more focused efforts in preventing the spread of this disease.
We may end up losing more American lives as the result of the economic upheaval than we do from the virus itself. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in March the unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent, up from 3.5 percent in February and stated that this is the largest over-the-month increase in rate since January 1975 (News Release). Economists forecast seeing a 40 percent decline in GDP in the second quarter and the unemployment rate to reach 20% by the end of April (Domm). Yale University conducted a study and concluded that there is a direct correlation between unemployment and mortality. “Economic growth is the single most important factor relating to length of life”, said M. Harvey Brenner, a visiting professor at the Yale School of Medicine. When a person’s livelihood is threatened and their self-esteem plummets, they are more likely to suffer from mental health issues, cardiovascular disease and other illnesses that increase mortality (Yale News). Loss of employment leads to loss of insurance coverage which can deter a person from seeking medical care and loss of wages can prevent them from eating a healthy diet, causing them settle for low cost food options that can potentially increase the risk of disease. Deaths of despair are almost certainly going to skyrocket as result of this economic fallout. The amount of directly correlated deaths as the result of these lockdowns may never be accurately reflected in statistics.
During times of great economic crisis civil unrest has been prevalent. The International Labour Organisation, a United Nations agency that maintains a social unrest index in an attempt to predict civil disorder, notes “…Economic growth and the unemployment rate are the two most important determinants of social unrest.” An extended lockdown may fuel civil unrest and cause Americans to become filled with frustration, anger and resentment (Tuccille). The NYPD has reported a 75% increase in burglaries since COVID-19 took a strong hold on their city causing many high-end retailers to board up their storefronts to ward off looters (Protests, Maza). As a result of the 1929 Wall Street Crash, Germany sunk into an economic depression, unemployment skyrocketed, businesses closed, and poverty increased. The German people were disheartened by the economic and political failure of the Weimar Republic and this directly led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the subsequent crises of the 20th century (The Nazi Rise to Power). While this example may seem extreme, it is a perfect historical illustration of the destruction that has occurred as the result of serious economic problems.
Other countries have fought the virus without strict lockdowns and instead are relying on widespread testing and contact tracing as a means of slowing the number of new cases. In South Korea and Taiwan, the governments haven’t had to instate lockdowns and are instead testing widely, isolating cases and quarantining suspected cases (Beaubien). “Testing is central because that leads to early detection. It minimizes further spread.” said South Korea’s foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha. South Korea has been able to keep most factories, shopping malls and restaurants open. Contact tracing is currently being used in certain areas as a means of finding out who the infected person has come into contact with using cellphones apps and Bluetooth technology. This highly targeted approach allows society to continue functioning while maintaining control over the spread of the virus.
The COVID-19 lockdown restrictions should be eased for the sake of our economy, our society, and the welfare of the American people. More targeted and innovative solutions must be formulated so that our society can continue to function while fighting the virus. We are living in truly historical times. It is my hope that future generations do not look back to find that the lockdowns caused by the pandemic led to the great societal and geopolitical crises of the 21st century.
“News Release.” Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, 3 Apr. 2020, www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf.
“The Nazi Rise to Power.” The Role of Economic Instability in the Nazi Rise to Power – The Holocaust Explained: Designed for Schools, The Wiener Holocaust Library, www.theholocaustexplained.org/the-nazi-rise-to-power/the-nazi-rise-to-power/the-role-of-economic-instability/.
Maza, Cristina. “The Protests in Michigan and Texas Are Just the Beginning. Experts Warn More Rallies, Looting, and Food Lines Are Coming in the US.” Insider, 20 Apr. 2020, www.insider.com/coronavirus-protests-looting-expect-social-unrest-in-us-2020-4.
Domm, Patti. “JPMorgan Now Sees Economy Contracting by 40% in Second Quarter, and Unemployment Reaching 20%.” CNBC, 10 Apr. 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/04/09/jpmorgan-now-sees-economy-contracting-by-40percent-and-unemployment-reaching-20percent.html.
“Rising Unemployment Causes Higher Death Rates, New Study by Yale Researcher Shows.” Yale News, 23 May 2002, news.yale.edu/2002/05/23/rising-unemployment-causes-higher-death-rates-new-study-yale-researcher-shows.
Beaubien, Jason. “How South Korea Reined in The Outbreak Without Shutting Everything Down.” NPR, NPR, 26 Mar. 2020, www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/03/26/821688981/how-south-korea-reigned-in-the-outbreak-without-shutting-everything-down.
Tuccille, J.D. “Pandemic-Related Unemployment and Shutdowns Are a Recipe for Social Unrest.” Reason.com, Reason, 27 Mar. 2020, reason.com/2020/03/27/pandemic-related-unemployment-and-shutdowns-are-a-recipe-for-social-unrest/.
COVID-19 Pandemic Essay
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