The balancing act that President Donald Trump is attempting between public health concerns over the Chinese virus and the economic disaster being left in the wake of the government social distancing flattening the curve cure is perhaps the defining question of his presidency.
In a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence yesterday, I was asked along with other attendees to remind people about the President’s Guidelines: 15 Days to slow the spread. But he also stated that the President is looking to end the economic shutdown in weeks not months.
Let’s talk about that.
The social distancing hopefully will have had the effect of somewhat limiting the exponential growth of the disease. And while it may seem callous, since the first case was identified on Jan. 14, at this writing there have been fewer than 700 deaths and 55,000 cases. To put this into perspective, an average of about 110 Americans die in car accidents each day. This is not to criticize the decision to shut down flights from China in January, or to shut down flights from Italy and elsewhere in Europe, and to push social distancing along with the cancellation of mass gatherings.
Those were valid decisions based upon the possibility that this Chinese virus could kill as many as one and a half million Americans.
However, since the health emergency has been declared, we have companies like 3M and Haines producing masks, medical gowns and automakers are turning their assembly lines loose on making needed ventilators. The Defense Department and FEMA are actively setting up field hospitals to back stop the private medical systems capacity, and pharmaceutical manufacturers are moving rapidly toward finding treatments for this nasty little virus. Senior health facilities have been locked down and those who are most vulnerable have been a high priority focus for education and help.
All of these things have happened due to President Trump’s system wide approach to dealing with the Chinese created emergency. The President has cut through the bureaucratic red tape to allow new tests that work to be created and widely disseminated (note: it is reported that the Chinese test kits provided to the Czech Republic are generating more false results than correct ones, making it clear that testing without accuracy has no value at all.) Chloroquine is under a mass efficacy test focusing upon health providers, and other meds like Zithromycin are reported to be having positive results around the world. Tens of millions of masks should be produced for U.S. distribution in the next few weeks, and the panic buying should subside so our store shelves will be restocked.
I lay this out because the health emergency situation should be dramatically different in two to three weeks than it is today, giving the President a pathway to re-opening our nation for business without significantly increasing our collective risk of our medical systems being overrun during the economic re-start.
The economic havoc already being wrought by the emergency response cannot be understated. Personally, I have two nephews laid off and my step-brother is having to lay people off from his business.
People like Kim McKenna Johnson who runs One Cross Medical in Campbellsville, Kentucky is helping patients over the phone to overcome their fears, but their waiting rooms are empty because of that same fear. She estimates that her health provider service company will go under in two weeks as they run out of funds to pay staff.
Or, Hector Alvarado who runs an auto detailing company in California. Many of Mr. Alvarado’s orders have been cancelled, and like so many others, he cannot afford to be shut down because he is 100 percent self-employed with his family depending upon the income he provides.
These are just two of thousands, if not tens of thousands of local small businesses having their very survival threatened as the fallout from the wise upfront actions of the President to meet the virus head on, and they are exactly why he is pushing hard to create a pathway to open up our nation for business.
Killing our nation’s economy for a decade with the social distress, increased suicides and drug addiction associated with it is not an acceptable outcome. President Trump wisely has taken measures to slow the spread of the virus over the past two and a third months since it first was diagnosed on our shore, but he now has to move toward balancing the scales so the cure for the disease doesn’t kill the patient.
These are difficult decisions, but it is important that the voices of those whose businesses are at risk and the employees they have had to lay off be heard as part of this national discussion.
America’s free enterprise system is proving its greatness as companies are voluntarily moving their production lines to meet the emergency health supply needs without having to be compelled by the federal government. Small businesses have accepted the sacrifices put upon them to meet the crisis, but they should not be forced to shutter their doors, as we move to the next stages in dealing with the health effects of the Chinese virus. Congress needs to act on the CARE Act which provides a lifeline to these businesses, and in the weeks ahead, the President will have to make the very difficult decision on when and how to push the start button on the economy.
To make the decision easier, each of us should follow the guidelines put out by the White House last week for social distancing.
Listen and follow directions of state and local officials;
If you feel sick, stay home, do not go to work and contact your health provider;
If your children are sick, keep them at home, don’t send them to school and contact your health provider;
If someone in your house has tested positive, everyone in your household should stay home;
If you’re an older person, stay home and away from other people;
If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition that can put you at additional risk, stay home and away from other people.
Let’s do the things needed today so America can get back to work tomorrow.
Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.
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