End the coronavirus crisis, before the 'cure' kills our economy

The coronavirus health crisis seems to be over. But the economic and constitutional crises continue.

National-level data show that the number of new COVID-19 cases peaked on April 4. Since then, they have declined 22 percent. In New York, the worst of the virus hot spots, the net change in total hospitalizations began to decline April 2 and, by April 13, more people were leaving hospitals than entering them. In addition, the predicted overload of New York’s hospital bed space never happened.

To put things further into perspective, there are currently about 526,000 active diagnosed cases of coronavirus among 329 million Americans. That is, 99.85 percent of the population do not have the virus. This is nowhere near the tens of hundreds of millions of cases some experts predicted only recently.

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Some might argue these radically lower numbers are evidence of the success of the social lockdown measures the government has imposed on us. But even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cannot claim convincingly that “social distancing” is effective in slowing the spread of this ill-understood virus. In fact, a new study out of Israel shows that the coronavirus timeline is the same across countries whether they locked down or not.

We have not seen death and other data for Americans denied access to "elective" medical care due to the effective shutdown of the health care system. There are no models that show the ongoing destruction of health care jobs.

The bigger issue is that we can't have adequate health care without a strong economy. While only a small percentage of Americans have caught the virus, almost everybody has been affected by the government’s response to the pandemic. Tens of millions are out of work. Businesses are shutting down.

This pain is not spread evenly. Have any "non-essential" federal workers been laid off? Or is just the private sector supposed to go through all the economic "inconvenience" of the coronavirus shutdown? The problem, of course, is that millions of unemployed, small and medium-sized business owners and families have too few advocates in the government or the media.

The consequences of this national shutdown, apart from any pandemic, are dire and will not be materially alleviated by government spending. Budget-busting federal stimulus packages may offer temporary relief, but the best stimulus is opening America back up for business.

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The Constitution also is under threat, thanks to shutdown orders by governors. People are being fined for attending worship services, detained for running on empty beaches, and arrested for not wearing masks in public. Meanwhile, some in the media promote  on your neighbors for supposed violations, seeking to make us into a nation of informants.

The political left has used the pandemic to push its fanciful concept of a “mail-in” 2020 election, which would open the process to unprecedented fraud. Under its plan, ballots would be mailed to everyone whether requested or not; unlicensed ballot harvesters would collect and drop off ballots in bulk; voter ID would be nonexistent.

And many in the media seem to have zero interest in coverage that might lead to reopening the economy. Instead, they are pushing the shutdown drama narrative, ignoring positive statistics and encouraging states to resist federal advice to reopen. Common-sense stay-open policies such as in South Dakota are mischaracterized as irresponsible and dangerous. And every effort by the Trump administration to move toward or even discuss reopening the country, in whole or in part, is criticized as a dire threat to public safety, regardless of the economic consequences of maintaining the lockdown.

We can't wait until May to reopen, which would mean tens of millions more unemployed, further erosion of our liberties, and untold destruction to our national fabric. The president should push back on governors resisting efforts to reopen the economy and who continue to suppress Americans’ constitutional rights.

The national coronavirus response has been a radical experiment on the American people that destroyed our economy and harmed our liberty. We’ve got to get the country moving again — because, when it comes to the nation’s long-term public health, a strong economy is the best insurance. It doesn’t mean you can’t take significant steps, continue reasonable restrictions to secure the public health, whether at the border or internally, and focus on treating new COVID-19 outbreaks as needed. But we’ve got to get people back to work, back to school, in a regular, organized way while balancing the public health risk. We can’t let the cure kill the patient.

NOTE: This post has been updated from the original to clarify a point in the eleventh graph.

Tom Fitton is president of Judicial Watch, a conservative nonprofit educational and government-watchdog foundation.