The argument that harsh restrictions on business and social interaction during the Covid-19 pandemic will do more harm than good has real power. Unemployment is projected to rise to 30 percent in a few months, and an economic contraction in the second quarter of 15 percent or more has been forecast.
President Trump’s wish to open up the country by Easter and avoid a nationwide shelter-at-home policy is understandable. After all, a Covid-19-induced recession will cause its own serious health problems — depression; suicides; the damage stress will cause to those with heart disease, diabetes and other conditions, not to mention the effects of growing poverty.
Yet it is likely that one million Americans currently are infected with coronavirus, and if that number doubles every six days, 100 million Americans will have Covid-19 by the early May. If 1 percent of those infected die, there would still be a million deaths. That’s the equivalent of what 10 Hiroshima bombs would do, or nearly double the number of annual cancer deaths.
Many of the people infected are 70 and older, and it might be possible to make extra efforts to shelter and protect them. But without shelter-in-place rules, we could expect almost 400,000 people under 70 to die, with about 135,000 between the ages of 30 and 59.