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Hard shutdown to slow COVID would be more effective, less expensive

The strongest, best country in the world has repeatedly failed to strategically overcome the coronavirus plaguing the country.

Let’s look at the numbers:

Over $4 trillion allocated to coronavirus relief. Many of these dollars are going towards people and organizations that desperately need and want them while, at the same time, much is going to frivolous places that do not help our country overcome this crisis.

What if we could learn from other countries? What if we could utilize the best in public health knowledge and expertise to overcome the virus? What if we could come together as Americans, rather than fighting the Red team versus the Blue team with the same abysmal result?

What if we took a step back and realized that our country needs to take a new, different, and better approach? The path that we are going down leaves success still far off. It is a costly path that will hamper future generations with debt.

Furthermore, the costs are more than the economic costs of the situation: the psychological and mental health impact of this pandemic is long-lasting, causing countless people to be in a fatigued, half-clouded state with senses of desperation, hopelessness, and suicide all on the rise.

There is a better path forward. It is not a Democratic solution. It is not a Republican solution. It is an American solution.

But to form our American solution, we must have the humility to learn from other countries on how they’ve been able to largely overcome the virus; namely, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Vietnam and China.

New Zealand has gone days, weeks, and months without a new COVID case. These nations have invested far less, even at a per capita standpoint, than has the U.S., with greater success. To be clear, there is no eliminating this virus. It is extremely contagious and deadly to many. However, these countries have demonstrated successful strategies that America could adopt and adapt.

Which leads to the solution.

We know that the incubation period of this deadly virus is between 10 to 14 days. We know that if people are able to stay home, that the virus will diminish in numbers and severity. We know that the minimum people need to get through the days is a minimum wage (at least) and can estimate that figure at $12, even though most states do not have minimum wage at that level — many below, some above.

If we estimate that there are 300 million Americans who all need to earn $12 an hour for two weeks (80 hours of working) this equates to $288 billion. Wait a second — you might ask — — $288 billion? Isn’t the current bill that Congress just passed estimated at $900 billion? And, wait a second, hasn’t there been over $4 trillion allocated by the American government in coronavirus relief spending?

Giving people the means to shelter in place for a prolonged period and dramatically reduce the viral spread, as other countries have successfully demonstrated, is a far better alternative than tossing trillions of dollars at the problem without solving it.

We must urge our elected leaders to pursue a better course.

Irving Steel lives in East Lyme. He holds a Master of Public Health degree from the Chicago School of Public Health. Dr. Bill Freeman also contributed to this commentary.



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