America is starting to recover from its coronavirus-induced coma. The economy added nearly 5 million jobs in June – our largest-ever monthly jobs gain.
Businesses small and large are waking up. Thousands of Americans who lost their jobs are being hired back. And yet with the recent spike in cases, the country needs a responsible plan to bring us back to the pre-pandemic economy: strong, healthy and growing.
Some see the spike and immediately call for another shutdown. They want to abandon our economic recovery, which would give whiplash to hardworking men and women across the country. That’s the wrong plan. The right answer is to continue our responsible reopening.
As a doctor, I trust the science and the data. The science tells me we can’t reopen recklessly, or all at once. The science also makes clear that mortality and hospitalization rates are falling in many areas. Young people, while not invincible, are increasingly experiencing mild or asymptomatic cases. We also know the health cost from staying locked down is huge. Forty million Americans lost their jobs during the shutdown. Data show that long-term unemployment leads to a rise in abuse: spousal abuse, substance abuse and child abuse. These problems are equally as serious as the coronavirus.
The coronavirus shutdowns also stopped Americans from seeing their doctors for routine care. People have missed checkups and screenings for cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The medical lockout put many community hospitals on financial life support. The good news is that we have recovered a lot of ground since March. We have learned more about the virus, manufactured thousands of ventilators and developed effective treatments. The U.S. is setting testing records. We have conducted more than 40 million coronavirus tests and are testing over 600,000 people per day. Businesses now have the confidence to reopen safely and bring people back to work.
We can pinpoint where the virus is spiking, down to specific regions – even events that led to the outbreaks. We know much more about the virus now, and we can beat it. States like Pennsylvania and New York have made deadly decisions involving seniors in long-term-care facilities. Those painful lessons mean we know much more about how to protect our most vulnerable citizens. Children are at low risk, and we need to get them back in school safely and smartly.
Meanwhile, America’s best minds in the public and private sectors are working as fast as possible on a vaccine. One thing is clear: This country cannot afford another shutdown. Some doctors say we should all shelter in place for the rest of the year to kill the virus. That’s one scientific opinion – but it’s completely impractical. The cost to the society would be catastrophic.
The president, governors and Congress continue to weigh the costs and benefits to the public – what keeps families and the economy healthy and society functioning. That supports reopening, not another shutdown. We are giving scientists time and almost limitless resources to develop an effective vaccine. Meantime, we need to keep the economy growing so Americans can go back to work safely and provide for themselves and their families.
Make no mistake: A second shutdown would plunge us into a deep recession. The fallout would further cripple workers who are just starting to dig out. The better way is getting back to work with the sensible precautions we all know.
It’s going back to school, too, so that children keep learning, and their parents have a predictable work schedule. Most people cannot work from home, and working from home while being a full-time parent is extremely challenging.
Healthy families should be our top priority. Families need a healthy economy. A second shutdown would put the economy back on life support. We can be smart and sensible as we reopen. That is the responsible approach we need. Our families – and our economy – will be better for it.
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., is an orthopedic surgeon and chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.