Of all the relief efforts premised by the coronavirus pandemic, economic immobility reliably incites the most aggression.
Critics and proponents of commercial shutdowns can be found among every affected population. Each even has a rolodex of celebrity mascots eager to validate their position.
Although economists, virologists, and industry insiders are less divided in regards to the importance of social distancing, there hasn’t a lot of concrete forecasts for how long these mandates are supposed to remain in place.
Exactly how long can markets exist in limbo before a clean return to normalcy is no longer a reality? Conservatively, how many lives will be lost in the event quarantine measures are lifted prematurely?
An exhaustive new Penn Wharton Budget Model answers these questions and more with the help of a coronavirus policy response stimulator.
“In response to the coronavirus pandemic, at one point almost every U.S. state had imposed lockdown orders to stem the spread of the virus. Some states have begun to relax these orders, easing stay at home orders and restrictions on nonessential businesses. Many other states are considering easing restrictions as well,” the authors write in the new report. “By default, the simulator shows national forecasts for total reported coronavirus cases, cumulative deaths due to coronavirus, year-over-year percent change in GDP, and change jobs during the previous 7 days.”
Epidemiological and Empirical Assessment of Health and Economic Effects of State Reopenings
By visiting the Penn Wharton University Budget Model page, (linked above) users can analyze varying frameworks and scenarios to simulate the health and economic consequences of abandoning state lockdown policies. There are three policy settings and two behavior settings to choose from.
In this context, policy refers to the extent to which states reopen while behavior denotes the extent to which citizens adhere to emergency declarations, stay-at-home orders, and school closures.
Baseline Policy: Each state maintains its current restrictions as of April 30. Some states are subject to an additional adjustment to bring their infection rates under control.
Partial Reopening: States immediately lift emergency declarations, stay-at-home orders, and school closures.
Full Reopening: States immediately lift all orders listed above as well as restrictions on the operation of businesses and restaurants.
Baseline Behavior: Each individual maintains their current social distancing practices.
Reduced Distancing: Individuals relax their social distancing efforts, returning fully to pre-pandemic behavior by the end of December 2020.
According to the data, If states proceed with shutdowns until June 30, cumulative national mortalities due to COVID-19 would increase to about 117,000 by July 1st. This projection includes deaths that occurred before May 1.
On the flipside, GDP recorded on June 30, 2020 would be 11.6% lower than the recorded GDP back in 2019 and 18.6 positions would be terminated between May 1 and June 30.
However, partially reopening would result in 45,000 deaths before July 1st; even if four million jobs would be saved, for a total of 14.0 million jobs lost between May 1 and June 30. GDP on June 30 would increase by 1%, from an 11.6% year-over-year loss without reopening to 10.7%.
More sobering still is the projected outcome if states fully reopened during these windows. This would lead to an additional 233,000 deaths by the end of June relative to not reopening. It should be noted that under these circumstances, GDP on June 30 would increase by about 1.5 percentage points and almost all net job losses between May 1 and June 30 would be prevented.
“However, if individuals see full reopening as a “return to normal” and as a result relax their own voluntary social distancing practices—behaving in a manner consistent with Feb 1, 2020—cumulative national deaths would reach 950,000 by June 30. Job losses would turn to a net positive of 4.1 million in jobs gained, erasing some of the job losses prior to May 1,” the report continued.
It is impossible to predict the best route to recovery because we’re dealing with a uniquely pluralistic catastrophe.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a health crisis first and foremost, but virtually every sector has been impacted in its wake. Medical institutions have been made sharply aware of how ill-equipped they are to handle a population that has been becoming increasingly ill for the last five decades. A momentary pause in operations has highlighted how ineffective our college system is, while similarly stark realities attended universal health care, minimum wages, and xenophobia.
Ultimately, a return to normalcy is a return to a system ill-positioned to handle an economic downturn, occupied by communities particularly susceptible to progressive diseases.
“The thing I’m most concerned about as an infectious disease physician and as a public health person is the emergence of a new virus that the body doesn’t have any background experience with, that is very transmissible, highly transmissible from person to person, and has a high degree of morbidity and mortality,” US Coronavirus Task Force official Anthony Fauci lamented more than a year before the first COVID-19 case appeared. “The thing that worries most of us in the field of public health is a respiratory illness that can spread even before someone is so sick that you want to keep them in bed. And that’s really the difference.”
Thankfully, some of the corona-induced revelations have been positive. Remote work is experiencing a movement that will likely persist into the ensuing years and pioneering health journals are slowly becoming household names.
Our performative political system, where electorates hope the guy from their faction has less skeletons in their closet and more followers on their twitter than the guy headlining their rival’s faction, is deteriorating exponentially. As evidenced by a bounty of anecdotes found on social media and in news coverage, local leaders have really stepped up to meet this crisis head-on.
Patriotism and solidarity among civilians might be the most visible elements of the COVID-19 crisis.
These are vital lessons learned that will hopefully keep another black swan phenomenon from disabling one of the wealthiest nations in the world.