Restarting America means people will die. So when do we do it?

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Emanuel: Yes, the economy must restart in stages, and it must start with greater physical distance on a site which allows people at lower risk to return. Certain types of construction, manufacturing or offices, in which you can maintain distances of six feet, are more reasonable to start earlier. Bigger gatherings – conferences, concerts, sporting events – when people say they are going to postpone this conference or graduation event for October 2020, I don’t know how they think it’s a plausible possibility. I think these things will be the last to come back. Realistically, we are talking about the fall of 2021 at the earliest.

Restaurants where you can space tables, maybe earlier. In Hong Kong, Singapore and elsewhere, we are seeing resurgences when they open up and allow more activity. It’s going to be this roller coaster, from top to bottom. The question is: when it increases, can we do better tests and find the contacts so that we can focus on particular people and isolate them and not have to reimpose a shelter on site for everyone as we have done before?

Anne Case: The idea that tables could be spaced apart enough to open restaurants safely – maybe it will happen in many cities, but it seems very unlikely that the sector will bounce back, which means there are all those service workers who are not going to find work in the sector where they worked. Losing that for 18 months is huge. Finally, when the time is right for people to return to work, I fear that a large proportion of working class people will have no work to return to.

Peter Singer: If we think about a year to 18 months of this type of lockdown, then we really need to think about the consequences other than in terms of death from Covid-19. I think the consequences are horrible, particularly in terms of unemployment, which have proven to have a very serious effect on well-being, especially for the poorest. Are we really going to be able to continue providing assistance to all of these people for 18 months?

This is a question that each country will have to answer. Maybe some of the rich countries can, but we have a lot of poor countries that just cannot provide this kind of aid to their poor. This is where we will start to say: Yes, people will die if we open up, but the consequences of not opening up are so severe that we may have to do it anyway. If we keep it locked up, then more young people will die because they basically won’t have enough to eat or other basic things. Thus, these compromises will be made differently depending on the country.

Reverend William Barber: Even when we take the rich countries, the poor know from history that every time there is a great struggle, be it the Great War, the Spanish Flu or the 2008 recession, they are the hardest hit.

The United States has many injuries from decades of racist politics and the criminalization of the poor. In 2011, Columbia conducted a study that we have updated: at least 250,000 people die of poverty in America each year. Now, in a pandemic, it’s an open crack.

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