Americans of all political persuasion are anxious to restore precious lifestyle freedoms and get back to work.
Early last week, protesters began to descend on statehouses and governors’ residences to balance hypothetical safety benefits with pragmatic economic and social impacts.
The protests have come about following a record-shattering month when 22 million workers sought unemployment benefits caused by coronavirus-related business and industry shutdowns.
Economic damage has continued to mount as Americans cut retail spending with staggering losses in March as industrial output dropped at its steepest rate in more than 70 years.
Under the most optimistic estimates, economic and job recovery will be slow at best. Business operations can’t be expected to fully return to normal until a COVID-19 vaccine is deployed.
That medical breakthrough is likely to require at least a year.
The largest rally so far, "Operation Gridlock" motivated more than 50,000 honking, flag-waving protesters who drove past and congregated at Michigan’s Lansing Capitol building to express their displeasure with what they regarded to be Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s overreach stay-at-home and establishment lock-down orders.
Many employees and business owners had grown particularly frustrated with forced shutdowns of small enterprises not involving large gatherings.
President Trump has made it clear that while the federal government will issue voluntary guidelines for opening up the country, onus will fall on governors to decide relief requirements and schedules for their respective states. As reported by Andrew Restuccia and Catherine Lucey at The Wall Street Journal, he told them, "You’re going to call your own shots . . . We’ll be standing right along beside you and we’re going to get our country open."
Trump later added, "We must have a working economy, and we want to get it back very, very quickly."
The president has assured governors that he won’t pressure any state to reopen their economies, but suggested that some may decide to do so before his administration’s voluntary social distancing guidelines lapse at the end of April.
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has set the nation’s second-largest state on a path to reopen shopping, hiking and some medical procedures beginning this week.
Similar to restaurants, Texas stores will be allowed to reopen effective April 24 on a to-go or delivery basis so that employees can run items to customers at the front doors to the shops, at their car windows, or at their homes.
Gov. Abbott’s announcements came after heavy pressure from the business community to get people back to work again. Steve Ahlenius, chair-elect of the Texas Chamber of Commerce Executives, said, "If we waited until everybody has adequate testing, we’d be two or three months down the road."
The Texas strategy also took into account that the state has a relatively low COVID-19 infection rate, with just over 17,300 people testing positive in a population of 29 million.
New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said that nonessential businesses in his devastatingly hard-hit state would remain closed at least through May 15.
California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom urged his fellow governors to avoid lifting restrictions too early. He said, "Do the right thing. Don’t play politics, don’t do the expedient . . . We’re all in this together, none of us are Democrats, none of us are Republicans."
Gov. Newson laid out indicators to help determine when he will begin to modify his state’s stay-at-home order. Included are expanded testing, and meeting needs of hospitals in case of additional surges. His administration will also offer guidelines for businesses and schools to practice social distancing: restaurants with fewer tables, and classrooms configured to separate students.
Although no regulatory timelines have been set, Oregon Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has agreed to reopen her state’s economy jointly with California.
Also without specifying dates, the Trump administration has proposed new voluntary guidelines to reopen the country "one careful step at a time."
Termed "Opening Up America Again," the plan outlines a three-phase process that encourages states to make individual case-appropriate determinations based on evolving data.
The first phase would enable places of worship, movie theaters, restaurants, sports events, gyms, and other venues to reopen with strict social distancing guidelines in place. Bars would stay closed, and schools and day-care centers that are already closed would remain so.
Vulnerable people would be advised to remain at home, and visits to nursing homes and hospitals would remain banned. Although some people could return to work in phases, telework is encouraged when possible.
Nonessential travel would resume in the second phase.
Bars, schools and youth activities could open with some restrictions. Vulnerable people would continue to be advised to stay home, and visits to nursing homes and hospitals would still be barred.
Phase three would remove restrictions on work places, and bars could increase their standing-room capacity. Visits to nursing homes could be allowed, and vulnerable people could resume social interactions while practicing social distancing.
In other words, we can learn that it makes little sense to commit economic and social suicide out of excessive fear of dying.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of several books, including "Cyberwarfare: Targeting America, Our Infrastructure, and Our Future" (2020), "The Weaponization of AI and the Internet: How Global Networks of Infotech Overlords are Expanding Their Control Over Our Lives" (2019), "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity" (2019), "Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations" (2018), "Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful" (2017), "Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self" (2016), "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax" (2011). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles." Read Larry Bell's Reports — More Here.
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