April 14, 2020

Frequently heard these days are complaints about the economic costs of current quarantine efforts and the burden such places on society. The recent economic stimulus package is valued at about $2 trillion, for which the taxpayers will ultimately be responsible. The complainers are demanding the nation "be re-opened" in order to restore the economy claiming we cannot afford the ongoing damage to the economy. But, absent from these complaints is an important data point: the cost of not quarantining as much of society as possible during this time. That's important because there must be a comparison in order to put the cost of current efforts into perspective. Actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic range from doing nothing at all to requiring a complete shutdown of society nationwide in which no one leaves their homes at all for a minimum of 5-weeks. Currently, we are somewhere in between those poles, depending on where one lives. With respect to the extreme end of this range, where we do absolutely nothing in response to COVID-19, The Economist has estimated the cost to society to not acting at all would damage our economy to the tune of $8.5 trillion dollars, without accounting for the extreme costs associated with caring for those who survive but are debilitated, direct medical expenses to treat COVID-19 patients, or lost productivity due to illness. Eight and one-half trillion dollars represents almost half of the USA's gross domestic product. While there is justifiable concern as to the cost-burden to the economy of continued quarantine efforts, it is critical to recognize that to do otherwise would be much more costly.

SOURCE: The Economist

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