I recently spoke with a barbershop owner who, two months ago, had dreams of buying her own building. Now, she is worried about losing everything. A young couple in my district fears losing financing for their new home because the state won’t allow construction workers to complete it. A local garden-center owner is dumbfounded that he can’t sell seedlings and plants to customers who want to grow their own food and beautify the homes to which they are now confined. Across the state, the unemployment rate is now 25 percent and rising — a level that recalls the worst of the Great Depression.
This devastation is the predictable result of our approach to containing the coronavirus. Of course, a deadly pandemic requires extraordinary measures, and it would be unsafe and irresponsible to expect to continue life as normal. Public health officials bring valuable scientific expertise to an unprecedented challenge. But these public health officials are advisers, not policymakers. It is the job of elected officials to consider their advice seriously and then weigh it against competing concerns, including economic ones.