Kate Brown, "stay home, stay healthy"

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ordered Oregonians to “stay home, stay healthy,” in a Friday night press conference in order to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (Courtesy of KATU photo). 

With tens of thousands of Americans dying from COVID-19, the end of this pandemic  seems unreachable. As of April 14, the coronavirus has claimed 26,064 lives. And although the deaths in Oregon have only totaled 55, that number will inevitably increase. In such bleak circumstances, it is difficult to pinpoint a date for Americans to return to normal life.

However, the White House seems optimistic about the disease’s toll. President Donald Trump recently pledged to reopen businesses and the economy on May 1. He said he would speak with governors to reopen states, with some states possibly ready to reopen prior to May 1. In response to the president’s wishes, politicians and health officials have questioned the early May 1 deadline and others warn against date-setting in general. 

Former CDC director Thomas Frieden said that people should not think about “a date, but about the data,” referring to the progress made with the coronavirus. However, U.S. states must consider a general date to ease out of quarantine in order to restore the economy and return to normalcy. 

As long as economic inactivity and uncertainty continue, the economy will suffer. Retail sales plummeted 8.7% in March. Fears of a recession have caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to have its worst point plunge day in market history. Despite the Federal Reserve’s $1.5 trillion in funding markets, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 7.7% on March 9. Continuing the uncertainty of reopening the economy will only worsen the economic downturn. 

Considering reopening up businesses and easing lockdown rules is not a leap. Austria and Italy have begun reopening shops. Austria began reopening businesses after its curve began to flatten. Its government acted early against COVID-19 by rolling out distancing guidelines. Austria acted early against COVID-19, so the cases declined unlike in the U.S. 

However, when our curve flattens, we must consider easing restrictions. In Europe, the matter is of such consideration that the European Commission published guidelines on how to properly ease out of lockdowns. The commission urges member states to reduce restrictions only if there is evidence of a consistent decline in cases, and that the restrictions be reinstated if cases spike again.

U.S. states should consider a tentative date for mellowing lockdown restrictions when cases inevitably flatten. Although the situation in the US is precarious right now, cases will dwindle, and states must be ready to reopen businesses when the time comes. This may mean reinstating restrictions or imposing tougher ones if cases surge after the mellowing of guidelines. States shouldn’t reopen businesses as early as May, but they must prepare to reopen the economy when the curve eventually flattens.