President Donald Trump said Saturday that he was considering the idea of creating another White House task force to work in conjunction with the current Coronavirus-focused team. In remarks to reporters at the daily press briefing, Trump said he remained concerned that the current partial shutdown of American business activity would wind up being more dangerous to the country than COVID-19 itself.
“Thinking about it, getting a group of people and we have to open our country,” Trump said. “You know, I had an expression, the cure can’t be worse than the problem itself. Right? I started by saying that, and I continue to say it. The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself. We’ve got to get our country open.”
This is exactly the direction we need to be headed in right now. The fact is, we can’t stay cloistered inside forever, and we certainly can’t afford to wait a year until a vaccine has been developed. While it makes sense to extend social distancing guidelines for the next month or so to prevent our hospitals and health care facilities from getting overwhelmed, this is an unsustainable path.
We’ve already seen more than 10 million Americans file for unemployment; we can’t afford to just throw money at these people for the foreseeable future. Nor can we bail out industry after industry, business after business while the American free market sits idle. You want another Great Depression? This is how you get another Great Depression.
So how do we get to that point without condemning millions of Americans to die? Well, random, widespread, massive testing of asymptomatic people would be a good start. We need to know how many people in this country are actually infected with this disease. Not only would this information give us a light in the tunnel, it would help us get a better grip on the actual death rate of COVID-19. Right now, because you practically have to be on death’s doorstep to get a test in many states, there’s really no way to figure out the true fatality rates. Are we shutting down the country over a disease that’s 50x more deadly than the flu or just 3x? This is crucial data that we simply don’t have right now.
But we also need to think creatively. We need some ideas about how we can open the economy back up without putting people at unnecessary risk. Concerts and sporting events may not make a whole lot of sense right now, but what about clothing stores? We need to stop pretending like a one-size-fits-all strategy will suffice. Get the leaders of industry in a room (virtually, if necessary) with health experts, and let’s figure out a way through this that doesn’t mandate economic suicide.
And let’s do it before we pass the point of no return.