President Donald Trump on April 16, 2020, issued federal guidelines for states to reopen their economies amid the coronavirus pandemic. The three-phased approach announcement acknowledges that states are not ‘legally’ bound to follow the White House instructions.

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It is now several weeks since the majority of people in the US were instructed to reduce their movement, ‘stay home’ practice social distancing, work from home if possible.  These constraints affect us all. From youngest to oldest our daily lives are changed. It is increasingly clear the extent to which we rely on each other.

In a short space of time people are becoming used to this new way of living and working.  Many of us have become used to remote working and are prepared for that to continue, at least for a limited time.

All of us will welcome a measured relaxation of the guidelines and the opportunity to return to a degree of normalcy. Health experts and business leaders alike warn that widespread, easily accessible testing facilities must be available before Americans can safely return to their normal lives.  There is, as yet, no test to identify individuals who have been infected by and recovered from COVID-19 without knowing it (asymptomatic).  Nor is it certain that having recovered from infection guarantees immunity.

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BUT, while we become more used to it, we must not forget the scale of what is happening and the degree to which it will have affected the US economy, the global economy and people around the world.

Of course, your first concern is for your family, your community. But we need to set ourselves in a bigger picture to gauge the range of options open to us.  Worldwide over two million people have been infected by COVID-19 and over one hundred and sixty-seven thousand people have died.  The comparable numbers for the US are six hundred and thirty-nine thousand with thirty thousand deaths (source Worldometers).

Those are the top numbers.  Much closer to home is the twelve million American citizens now registered for unemployment benefits.  The last time we saw unemployment this high was in January 2010, at the height of the 2008 banking crisis – the ‘great recession’ – caused by financiers knowingly trading ‘sub-prime’ mortgages.

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No wonder our politicians are anxious to stimulate the economy with multi-trillion-dollar cash injections and remove the financial drag of high unemployment.

Many commentators have compared the two events, the great recession and the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is tempting, but we should resist an easy comparison based on similar outcomes.  The causations of the events are totally different.

The ‘great recession’ was a singular event. Just like a stone thrown into a pool, it caused a splash and then ripples that eventually died away. Or did they? Those ripples were a tsunami. But the original stone was thrown with intention, even if the outcome was unintended.

The COVID-19 pandemic was an ‘accident’ the outcomes of which have not been well managed. As a consequence, disease spreads in ripples of infection over which we have only limited influence.

The significant distinction between the two events is that when ripples in water spread, their force is dissipated and they die.  A pandemic, by contrast, GROWS STRONGER AS IT SPREADS.  

COVID -19 is mutation of a family of viruses, Corona. Science has come to terms with COVID-19’s precursors in increasingly shorter time scales. But even the most optimistic estimates suggest it will take at least a year to produce a safe and proven vaccine and in quantities which will effectively limit the spread of this pandemic.

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No prudent politician will make promises or make plans based on the assumption that we will have control of the virus in the USA in less than a year.

Until we have the insurance of an effective vaccine our best and proven strategies are SOCIAL DISTANCING and ISOLATION.  Of course, there are consequences.  The most obvious of these is that some working environments cannot provide social distancing currently in force to limit the viral spread.  

Conceding that the Governors have the authority to act independently will undoubtedly produce outcomes tailored to individual state or regional circumstances, but Governors will understandably demand the funds to match their new responsibilities.  The Administration’s response will define whether the President is ‘delegating’ or ‘disowning’ the problem.

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