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'Reopening' won't fix the economy. Beating the virus will.

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BLODGET & PLOTZ

'Reopening' won't fix our economy. What will fix it are declining cases and deaths.

As the political fight about "health versus the economy" continues, it's worth repeating: It's not one or the other. It's both.

Reopening is an important and meaningful step. But even when everything is open, our economy won't recover until people feel safe resuming their normal lives.

"Most of the slowdown occurred due to voluntary social distancing rather than lockdowns," Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists concluded this week.

Charts from the excellent economics site Calculated Risk confirm this.

Take the number of TSA airport safety checks this year (red) versus last year (blue). There have never been formal restrictions on air travel in the US. But flying is perceived as risky. And even now air travel is only about 10% of normal levels.

Screen Shot 2020 05 21 at 9.11.30 AM
Calculated Risk

Similarly, restaurants in many states are now open again. Some diners are returning, especially in states that began opening a few weeks ago. But we're still only a tiny fraction of normal.

Screen Shot 2020 05 21 at 9.09.49 AM
Calculated Risk

Other charts at Calculated Risk show the same trends. Hotel occupancy is still way below normal, for example. Movie-theater attendance is flatlined at zero.

If reopening won't fix our economy, what will? People seeing that the risk to themselves and their families and friends is low.

As we relax restrictions, we must continue to do everything we reasonably can to reduce the spread of the virus — namely, distancing, mask wearing, handwashing, and increasing our testing, tracing, and isolation capabilities. —HB

Sweden's looser restrictions have not saved its economy

Those who blame lockdowns for the state of the economy often point to Sweden as a country that has taken a smarter and more balanced approach.

Sweden does have restrictions — large gatherings are banned and distancing is encouraged — but schools and businesses are open.

The price Sweden has paid for this looser approach is well known: a lot more death.

Economists at Morgan Stanley charted the death rate per million in Sweden (yellow) as compared to Denmark (black), a country that took a more restrictive approach:

Screen Shot 2020 05 21 at 9.42.40 AM
Morgan Stanley

Sweden's sacrifice is sometimes framed as a more reasonable balance between health and the economy. After all, life is risky, Sweden's boosters say, and most of the people who've died were older people who would have died soon.

But here's the part that Sweden advocates often miss.

Sweden's economy has still been demolished.

A new paper concludes that, despite the looser restrictions, consumer spending in Sweden has dropped 25% from normal levels. Spending in Denmark has dropped just 4 points more — 29%. The looser restrictions haven't made much difference.

As Sweden's death rate continues to climb — and as the country remains miles from the nirvana of "herd immunity" — experts in Sweden are increasingly speaking out about their frustration with the country's approach. One of these experts told Insider's Sinead Baker that Sweden's approach is "not something anyone should copy."

Morgan Stanley draws the same conclusion from the Sweden and Denmark data that we and others have been articulating for weeks:

"The economic downturn has been primarily because of the virus. Ending lockdowns is not a panacea." —HB

Meanwhile in Japan

Those advocating for looser restrictions should focus instead on Japan. Despite looser lockdowns than elsewhere — and despite having large numbers of older people — Japan's death and infection rates are low.

Why? Perhaps because of the country's commitment to hygiene and mask wearing.

In Japan, and elsewhere, people are increasingly resuming their normal lives. They're just doing it in masks. —HB


NEWS

You need to know what the coronavirus can do even to healthy, younger people who survive it. Yes, death rates are much higher for older people. But the idea that death is the only measure of suffering with this disease — or the only reason to try to avoid catching or spreading it — is ridiculous.

Mike Schultz:Instagram
Mike Schultz/Instagram

Family finds $1 million in cash in sacks in the middle of a road. They did the ethically and legally right thing: They turned it into the police. Could they have kept it? Local laws differ, but keeping it probably would have been illegal. And they would've owed taxes on it. Sorry, folks!

Trump's latest conspiracy theory — 'Obamagate' — just got blown to pieces. Flynn's name was never "masked" in the first place. (Nice try, Mr. President!)

Wuhan has banned eating wild animals, and nearby provinces are paying farmers to stop breeding exotic livestock. Bad news for those who like to dine on civets and pangolins. But good news for future disease control.

 


BUSINESS

Another 2.4 million Americans filed unemployment claims this week — for a total of 39 million in nine weeks. Meanwhile, continuing claims — the number of people actually receiving benefits — hit a new high of 25 million. Even if we're finally getting a handle on the virus, and even if new claims drop quickly in the months ahead, the likelihood that the tens of millions of jobless Americans will return to work by the end of July is nil. The GOP and Trump should therefore agree to extend emergency unemployment benefits. And, in the end, after complaining, they will.

continuing claims through may 9 2020 v2
Andy Kiersz/Business Insider

As millions more Americans get furloughed and fired, stocks keep climbing. Why? Three main reasons. Some investors think the worst is over. Emergency packages from the Federal Reserve, Congress, and the Trump administration cushioned the blow. And many of the biggest companies in the indexes are doing fine. Or maybe, Insider's Linette Lopez argues, it's just "a perfect storm of stupid."

 


LIFE

Lori Loughlin and husband, Mossimo Giannuli, are pleading guilty in the college-admissions scandal. If their plea is accepted, she'll do two months in jail and he'll do five. They'll also pay $400,000 in fines. Hindsight's always 20/20, but next time make the $500,000 donation directly to the school instead of to a sleazy intermediary. (And post-pandemic, colleges will be so desperate you'll probably only need to donate half as much to get the same unfair advantage.)

Mossimo Giannulli and Lori Loughlin
Mossimo Giannulli and Lori Loughlin in 2001.
Star Max

Humans have dug deeper into the earth than you probably think. Russia has been drilling a hole since the 1970s. Check out this animation.

Bartenders reveal the 12 things you should never do when making a drink. Choose the glass and ice carefully. Don't shake spirit-based drinks. Do shake juice-based ones.

 


REVIEWS

Face masks that protect you and your fellow citizens can also look stylish. Do your part!

 


THE BIG 3*

Now anti-mask zealots are abusing disability laws to force stores to let them shop without one. Come on, folks. It's just a mask, not tyranny. It's like smiling at children and helping old people carry their bags. It's the decent thing to do.

Europe abandons Trump, and America and turns to China as the new world leader. This is what Trump and Trump supporters want, right? No international commitments, leadership, or allies? Then, all good.

Imagine living through lockdown in an off-the-grid, self-sustaining Earthship. You'd have your own power, food, and water. "No matter what happens in the outside world, it doesn't affect us at all."

*The most popular stories on Insider today.

 


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