A number of protests across the country took place over the weekend, in which participants argued against stay-in-place orders meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and in favor of “reopening the economy” as pushed by President Donald Trump.
Such calls for a quick “reopening” contradict what health experts have said is feasible at this time, particularly because there aren’t enough testing kits across the nation to determine which states are able to move in that direction.
Asked on Monday morning about the issue of ending stay-in-place orders, Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, suggested that even if social distancing standards were relaxed, it wouldn’t restore the health of the economy as some protesters have implied it would.
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Asked by “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos to respond to the protests, Fauci tried to show sympathy for their cause while also noting how their goals couldn’t be achieved without controlling the virus first.
“The message is that clearly this is something that is hurting, from the standpoint of economics and the standpoint of things that have nothing to do with the virus. But unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not going to happen,” Fauci said.
— Steve Grzanich (@SteveGrzanich) April 20, 2020
“Reopening the economy” came with risks, Fauci said, and little possibility of big rewards.
“If you jump the gun, and you go into a situation where you have a big spike, you’re going to set yourself back,” Fauci explained. “So as painful as it is to go by the careful guidelines of gradually phasing into a reopening, it’s going to backfire if you don’t.”
The push to end stay-in-place orders issued out by most state governors is one that has the apparent approval of the Trump administration — Trump himself urged several citizens last week to “liberate” their states from such orders, in defiance of his own recommendations on how to transition — but it’s a cause that even a number of economists say isn’t a good idea to pursue.
New York Times opinion columnist Paul Krugman wrote last week that economists tend to listen to experts from other fields of study rather than rely on their own instincts alone.
“Serious economists know what they don’t know — they recognize and respect experts from other disciplines,” he wrote, adding that, in his opinion, the push to “reopen” the economy is coming from “cranks and cronies.”
Trump may in fact be motivated by other factors, including political ones, in his push to end stay-in-place orders. Sources with knowledge of the president’s thoughts and conversations in recent weeks have described how Trump is eager to “reopen” things in order to still appear strong politically on the issue of the economy in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.
But Americans overall are skeptical about prematurely ending stay-in-place orders. According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 58 percent of Americans are concerned that efforts to “reopen the economy” might be too fast, while only 32 percent believe the opposite, that efforts to do so may be too slow in coming about.