What conditions are needed in order to reopen the U.S. economy?
And how the economy can survive in the meantime
Extensive testing is needed to provide key information about when and where it will be safe for people to return to work. Photo: Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
EXCERPT | THE NEW YORK TIMES | 6 APRIL 2020
"Interviews with more than a dozen economists, many of whom are veterans of past presidential administrations, reveal broad consensus on the building blocks the economy needs — but does not yet have — to begin the slow process of restoring normalcy in the American economy.
That includes widespread agreement that the United States desperately needs more testing for the virus in order to give policymakers the first key piece of evidence they need to determine how fast the virus is spreading and when it might be safe for people to return to work.
"Essentially, economists say, there won’t be a fully functioning economy again until people are confident that they can go about their business without a high risk of catching the virus.
“Our ability to reopen the economy ultimately depends on our ability to better understand the spread and risk of the virus,” said Betsey Stevenson, a University of Michigan economist who worked on the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama. “It’s also quite likely that we will need to figure out how to reopen the economy with the virus remaining a threat.” ...
“It’s important not to lift too early,” said Emil Verner, an MIT economist who is a co-author of a new study that found that cities that took more aggressive steps to curb the 1918 flu pandemic in the United States emerged with stronger economies than cities that did less. “Because if we lift too early, the pandemic can take hold again. And that itself is very bad for the economy.” ...
"Policymakers will also need to give better support and protection to Americans who are putting their own health at risk to keep the essential parts of the economy running, like doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks and package delivery drivers.
"Heather Boushey, the president of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a think tank focused on inequality, said those workers needed to have paid sick leave, adequate health coverage, access to coronavirus tests and affordable care for their children while they worked in order to stay healthy and to protect consumers from further spread of the virus.
“That is the economy at this point, those workers,” Ms. Boushey said. “And their health and safety is imperative to my safety.”
Policymakers will need patience: Restarting activity too quickly could risk a second spike in infections that could deal more damage than the first because it would shake people’s faith in their ability to engage in even limited amounts of shopping, dining or other commerce."z