Economy and health intertwined in the fight against coronavirus
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Facing the depths of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt told the nation that the only thing to fear was fear itself. America has begun to see the medical consequences of the coronavirus, which has killed over 1,000 people thus far and rising. But on an even larger scale, we’ve seen and felt the emotional and economic consequences of fear itself.

Absent clear data, citizens and government officials alike have been acting on the fear of the unknown, hedging against imagined or computer-modeled worst-case medical scenarios. In doing so, we have put ourselves on a path towards the economic worst case scenario—a full-blown depression.

America’s economy has largely come to a halt. Millions of small businesses sit idly day after day without customers. Unemployment has skyrocketed, with over three million Americans applying for jobless benefits last week alone. Surveys show that one in three workers say that they or an immediate family member have been laid off. Congress passed an unprecedented $2 trillion stimulus plan, which is already being deemed insufficient as members begin work on the next round of funding.

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If these are the consequences of this current brief shutdown, then the impact of extending it for months on end seems almost incalculable.

Fortunately, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE has recognized this and wants America back to work as soon as May. New information is emerging that supports a range of options to help us get there.

Studies of coronavirus patients in the U.S. continue to demonstrate that particular subsets of patients, such as those over 70 and those with other complicating illnesses, are most vulnerable to serious consequences, but the vast majority of Americans are likely to experience few if any life-threatening complications.

Additionally, Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci on latest surge: 'No matter how you look at it, it's not good news' Trump federal salary adviser resigns over order stripping worker protections White House to host swearing-in event for Barrett on Monday night MORE, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH), announced on March 26 that there is significant evidence to indicate that the coronavirus may be cyclical. If true, the good news is that means warming temperatures across much of the country will help control the spread of the virus. The bad news is that it will be back in the winter with a vengeance.

Taken together, these two facts, along with other data surrounding the coronavirus, have started to enable decisions based on what we actually know, not what we fear may happen, and begin to implement rational, balanced approaches to fight this scourge.

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It is evident that our current health care resources and supplies are likely inadequate to handle surging masses of patients. Regardless of our next steps, building up our capacity to meet expected needs is crucial. Our leaders should do whatever it takes to ensure that we have ample treatment facilities and supplies to tend to those who fall ill.

It is also clear that all Americans will need to accept some extra preventative measures until this virus is under control. Countries such as South Korea have developed a number of protocols, such as wearing masks and temperature checks at public facilities, that control spread while enabling citizens to go about their daily business. Some similar measures would allow the majority of Americans to get back to work with only the most vulnerable requiring more aggressive measures such as extended quarantining.

Getting America moving again isn’t just an economic equation; it’s a health equation too. If Dr. Fauci is correct, we can expect to see another surge later this year when temperatures begin to cool across the nation. An economically strong America can pay for expanding our health care capacity, developing drugs, and stepping in to stanch the economic bleeding. Crippling our economy now and forcing millions out of work, including health care professionals, product manufacturers, and truck drivers, would only render us that much more weakened in this coming onslaught.

The blunt actuality is that there just won’t be enough stimulus money to cover all the cascading costs of an extended shut down in an economy as large and complex as the United States. That leaves our nation’s leaders with the unenviable task of balancing economic realities with medical advice aimed at protecting public health.

President Trump has assembled the best medical and economic minds in the world to make sure Americans have steady hands on the helm. Some opponents have attacked President Trump for resisting calls for a national shutdown and tried to paint his desire to reopen America as a false choice between patients and the economy. The truth is that they are intertwined and interdependent. President Trump would be irresponsible to focus on one without considering the other. Six months from now, if the virus ramps up again, America will be glad he didn’t.

Lynn WestmorelandLeon (Lynn) Acton WestmorelandEconomy and health intertwined in the fight against coronavirus Juan Williams: GOP to blame for civility's breakdown Veteran GOP lawmaker Westmoreland to retire MORE served as a U.S. member of Congress for Georgia's 3rd District from 2007 to 2017 and the 8th District from 2005 to 2007.