Can the U.S. economy get healthier while the population grows ill? I doubt it. Here are some things we know.
First, some states “reopened” too soon and too recklessly. It is obvious in retrospect that those grievous errors have cost many lives, but the errors looked obvious even in prospect. Were tattoo parlors and crowded bars really essential services? People are paying a heavy price in sickness and death for these errors. Several of these states—including Texas, Florida and Arizona—are backtracking on plans to reopen. But caseloads in hot-spot states won’t quickly return to the late-May levels that induced complacency.
Second, many states that aren’t hot spots are nonetheless either pausing or slowing down their phased reopenings out of fear of contagion.
Third, studies by economists and others have shown that consumers and business owners were shutting down before governments told them to do so. Measures of spending in stores, travel, going to work, and associating with others all started falling precipitously in March, before governors ordered partial or total shutdowns.