COVID-19

“Open by Easter”? A closer look at the U.S. economy’s timeline

Mitchell Hartman Mar 25, 2020
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Drew Angerer/Getty Images
COVID-19

“Open by Easter”? A closer look at the U.S. economy’s timeline

Mitchell Hartman Mar 25, 2020
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
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What to make of President Donald Trump’s indication during a Fox News town hall that he’d like to get the U.S. back open again by Easter? That’s April 12, just about 2 1/2 weeks from now. Trump is also reportedly resisting extending the 15-day social distancing guidance from the White House.

During a later press briefing Tuesday evening, President Trump nuanced his position on the Easter timeline, saying that health officials and economists were “working to develop a sophisticated plan to open the economy as soon as the time is right — based on the best science, the best modeling and the best medical research there is anywhere on earth.”

There’s a lot of pushback from public health experts against reopening businesses, schools and gathering places while the epidemic is spreading. The World Health Organization warned Tuesday that the U.S. is in line to become the next epicenter of COVID-19.

In the worst-case scenario — one that becomes much more likely if the U.S. returns to business as usual, as President Trump has indicated — America could see 1.1 million deaths , according to experts.

Now, social distancing policies are driving the U.S. economy down, says MIT economics professor James Poterba.

“In a typical downturn, people are still going to restaurants, at least some of the time,” Poterba said. “People are still getting their hair cut, going to the dentist. But in the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen this remarkable event — activities have basically stopped.”

But restarting that activity could be hard no matter what guidance President Trump gives to get people back to work, says economist James McCann at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

“I think it’d very difficult to reverse these effects, certainly in the short term,” McCann said.

He says relaxing restrictions might make the economic contraction less severe.

“But certainly things would still be pretty weak, and maybe we’d see alongside that a further escalation in the number of infections,” McCann said.

Some governors have recently increased state restrictions to keep people at home, which will slow the economy even more.

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