As governors of various states are extending the stay-at-home orders, protests are starting to brew because people are frustrated with not being able to lead normal lives. At the center of all this is the question of whether or not cases of COVID-19 infections would increase if lockdown is lifted.
Federal guidelines recommended social distancing, and individual governors determined whether or not to impose a stay-at-home order. Some states took more stringent measures than others, depending on the extent of the spread of the virus and the urgency to combat it.
In the process of implementing these lockdowns, better known as “safer at home” directives, many businesses were deemed “non-essential” and hence ordered to close. People were frustrated, as business-owners faced mounting losses and employees lost jobs. Even with federal and state financial assistance, people are eager to go back to normal life and start working again.
With several governors now extending shelter-at-home orders, citizens have begun organizing protests. Thousands gathered in Lansing, Michigan, to protest against Governor Gretchen Whitmer. In Brookfield, Wisconsin, protesters lined up along a road, carrying American flags, and drivers honked their horns to voice their opposition to the extension of the “safer at home” order. People cannot wait to get back to normal life, open up their businesses, and start serving customers.
Staying at home would help with social distancing and contain the spread of the virus, and hopefully save lives. But a protracted separation from work would cause havoc to the economy, and ruin people’s lives. Are people, then, left with having to choose between physical health and economic health? Can people not have both?
At the center of this dilemma is the assumption that COVID-19 cases will rise if lockdown is lifted. But is that true?
Dr. David Katz, the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, suggested that while social distancing is helping reduce the spread of the virus, it may also be preventing the development of the much-needed “herd immunity.” According to Dr. Katz, in the absence of antibodies or vaccines, lockdowns may simply be delaying the spread of the virus, and therefore is not a permanent fix.
The development of a vaccine would take many months, and shutting down states until then would be the end of our economy. Therefore, months-long shutdown is not an option.
However, opening up the economy, as Dr. Katz suggested, would likely lead to the spread of the virus, which would mean more infections and deaths.
We seem to be in an uncharted territory. The unprecedented threats we face have put our lives and livelihood in extreme peril. According to expert analysis, opening up the economy could open us up to greater threats of the virus, while keeping the states under lockdown would ensure economic death. It is a choice that no one must face, and yet, that is the reality that we seem to be faced with.