The good news here is that, as South Korea’s experience makes clear, this virus is not going to win. COVID-19 is vulnerable to human interdiction, even if we have yet to produce the equipment and protocols required to give our public health system the ammunition it needs. Our country is not facing a binary choice between the imperatives of a healthy populace and a healthy economy. One is simply not possible without the other. Even if stemming the worst of the crisis needs to precede any talk of lifting restrictions on commercial life, the two should not be mutually exclusive.
The bottom line is that, in this tenuous moment, public perceptions play a crucial role. If people believe the virus is a hoax, they are less likely to stay home — and thereby would spread infection. But if people believe the economy will be frozen indefinitely — that there’s a possibility the current national lockdown could extend through the summer or even longer — that paralysis will make it harder for businesses to reopen and for people to go back to work. Let’s do what we need for public health, but let’s also talk publicly, without approbation, about how we come out of this mess sooner rather than later.