By Austyn Smith, Contributing Writer

In response to a looming financial crisis, President Donald Trump has begun to question the validity of Covid-19 restrictions, which have put pressure on countless businesses and workers, potentially starting an economic recession or worse. In a press conference on March 24, the President stated that he wants the country “opened up” by April 12. While the President’s concerns are understandable, his suggestion to lift restrictions puts millions of lives at risk. If the United States were to lift restrictions on businesses and travel, the country could potentially become the epicenter for the disease, where hospitals and medical staff resources could be further strained, and the economy may see a more aggravated recession.

The President should not relax restrictions because it would lead to a spike in rates of infected and dead. A study has recently gone viral on the internet, which depicts how social distancing and quarantine can lessen the impact of COVID-19. The study indicates that with more isolation and restrictions on movement and businesses, the rates of infection and the overall death toll will likely be dramatically lower than if the country functioned normally. The virus is not a disease that you can catch once and gain immunity to either. The CDC reports that since the virus cannot check itself as it makes copies of its code, then erroneous duplications allow the virus to mutate and jump species or infect different cell types. This duplication may also produce different symptoms, with increased severity and infection. Additionally, the envelope that forms around the virus from a piece of the cell’s plasma membrane allows it to live outside a human for an extended period. As a result, the antibodies that fight off the infection do not last because the cells essentially forget how to fight it off after recovery. Consequently, a recovered individual can become infected if they are exposed to the virus again. In short, the United States needs to continue social isolation efforts because of the unpredictability of the virus; chances at reinfection means the pandemic can come in waves until a cure or vaccine is found.

The influx of infected and reinfected would exacerbate low-capacity hospitals and overworked medical personnel further. The American Hospital Association reports that the United States owns about 924,000 hospital beds, but only about 98,000 of the beds are for intensive care. As of March 29, those infected and dead in the United States number at more than 136,800 and 2,400 respectively. The country is experiencing the beginning of the outbreak, meaning that if the United States proceeds with limited to no restrictions, the rate of infection will increase which will overwhelm the hospital system. Moreover, states are struggling to obtain much-needed supplies for hospitals, even entering into bidding wars with other states and the federal government over critical supplies such as masks and COVID-19 tests. Furthermore, many hospitals have a low supply of ventilators, a device critical in saving patients with severe symptoms. The same hospitals will not be prepared if an influx of the virus occurs due to relaxed restrictions.

The response to the coronavirus has led to a recession by restricting consumers to stay home and by closing down non-essential businesses; it will worsen significantly by lifting restrictions. The difference is a public that will be ready to enter the workforce sooner. If the United States were to allow businesses to open, and regular international and domestic travel to resume, then rates of infection will increase, fewer workers will be available for non-essential work and, more importantly, essential work. If the American worker base occupies hospitals and individual homes further, then the effects of the global economic crisis will likely only exacerbate. James B. Bullard, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, stated that unemployment could reach 30 percent, and GDP could drop by 50 percent. President Trump should work on a plan to restart the economy after the threat has passed. Andrew Ross Sorkin, from the New York Times, proposed that the government offers all American businesses “a no-interest ‘bridge loan’ guaranteed for the duration of the crisis to be paid back over a five-year period”. The loan requires that 90 percent of worker’s wages remain the same as before the crisis. This plan realistically considers the implications that businesses are facing now and how to navigate repayments in the future. In the same manner, the administration should be focusing more on what can be done now to support and protect vulnerable businesses until the threat passes.

Instead of lifting restrictions, President Trump should address the situation with a more direct approach by asking the public to continue social distancing, taking back the idea to reopen the country, and explicitly stating that non-essential workers stay home. The public and the President should continue to seek advice from the CDC, the WHO, and medical professionals that are vital to the battle against the epidemic. Otherwise, President Trump’s proposal will only aggravate the death toll, hospital care, and the economy. If the United States helps families avoid economic hardship and recommends against going back to work, then the pandemic and the resulting economic crisis will be on track to end sooner than if the President lifted restrictions.

Austyn Smith is a Masters candidate with a focus in international development and conflict resolution at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University, and has earned a Bachelors in Political Science, a Bachelors in Spanish, and an Associates in German at Western Washington University. The author can be contacted at smith212@gwu.edu.