The Pros and Cons of the Economic and Social Shutdown in the US

Maeve Healy

Ever since the beginning of the global coronavirus outbreak, the entire country has become a series of ghost towns. Streets that were once crowded with people and schools that once bustled with children are eerily silent. The economy is suffering. All of this panic is due to one thing: the economic and social shutdown.

The pros of going through this shutdown are straightforward: the shutdown will curb the virus’ spread, and it will hopefully stop hospitals from being overwhelmed. Based on China’s reported outcomes, a shutdown had a very positive effect on the decrease of their active cases, shown in the graph below. After peaking at around 60,000 cases, the number of cases decreased dramatically and the lockdown was lifted less than a month later. 

While the United States has not been under social distancing guidelines for as long or as strict as China was, it appears as though the number of cases in the United States has begun to peak. According to one estimate from Health Affairs, if the pandemic spreads over 6 months without such measures, “that would leave a capacity gap of 1,373,248 inpatient beds (274 percent potentially available capacity) and 295,350 ICU beds (508 percent potentially available capacity),” essentially requiring that doctors would have to choose who gets treated, and who does not.

Social distancing, however, has had harsh effects on American lives. The economy is in total distress, and over 22 million Americans are out of work. The economy is not functioning, and several industries have been affected greatly, especially the travel and tourism industry. According to the New York Times, the average American takes approximately 3 flights a year; however, with an emergency like this, Americans are not going to be taking flights, and the travel industry is bound to plummet.

Many Americans have also had issues with social distancing because they believe it impedes on their constitutional rights – especially the right to congregate. Protesters have noted that the United States government cannot enact legislation that would abridge the right of people to assemble; however, in a national emergency like this, the public health must be prioritized. Another issue that many have taken with the lockdown is the fact that citations have been issued by local law enforcement for not practicing social distancing guidelines, such as in Horry Country, South Carolina

The mental health of the average American appears to be declining as well. According to Dr. Johnathan Porteus, the suicide hotline he runs in Sacramento has “seen a 40% increase in calls” just this month. This unfortunate reality makes sense given the current situation: people have lost their jobs, aren’t able to pay their mortgages and loans, and have no sense of their normal routine. Unfortunately, the only way for people to go back to their normal lives and maintain a good state of mental and physical health is to practice social distancing, and hope to get back to normal life sooner.

The coronavirus has progressed horribly in the United States. It will not stop hurting the American economy and public health unless Americans respond properly by giving up part of their freedoms to save lives. The shutdown is the only way to get Americans back to their livelihoods without devastating consequences. As Governor Pritzker says, “you can’t have a livelihood without a life,” and this shutdown can save both.

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