The real value of the coronavirus protests

Public health remains paramount. Even if we reopen, we cannot experience a full economic recovery if millions remain too sick or too scared to go to work or patronize businesses. But many of the restrictions put in place as a result of the pandemic were not designed to last until there is a vaccine. We can debate whether enough was done with the time the quarantines bought for governments at all levels to improve testing and hospital capacity, but it is indisputable that these measures cannot outlast the outbreak.

Arguing that concerns about the economic cost are simply about getting haircuts or eating at Fuddruckers while grandma dies is as irresponsible as claiming face masks are the mark of the beast or engaging in revolutionary cosplay on the capitol steps. This too is a matter of life and death, and there is a limit to what even multi-trillion dollar Washington stimulus packages can accomplish for displaced workers.

The excesses of the protests do have the potential to discredit arguments for phased and careful economic reopening. So does the overidentification of economy-related arguments with the polarizing president. But so far, elected officials are mostly neither ignoring protesters nor giving them everything they want. States are easing stay-at-home orders while also taking into account health considerations.