The novel coronavirus has caused immense damage to the economy, in ways that many pundits didn’t expect. While the impact of the disease itself has been mitigated by lockdown efforts, those same efforts have shuttered swaths of the economy. Now, the unemployment rate is at a staggering 14.7 percent, the highest since the government started tracking the numbers in 1948.
What’s more, new reports show that the economy has lost more jobs in the past month than any other month on record. An eye-watering 20.5 million jobs were lost in April, the biggest contraction of the economy in recorded American history. This has many worried that the specter of a lasting depression could follow us out of this pandemic, even as a vaccine could be on the horizon.
At the beginning of the pandemic, many economists predicted a quick rebound once the disease was under control. Many pointed to the origins of the downturn. After all, once the virus is gone, the economy has no reason to be shrinking, right?
Now that the lockdowns have lasted for as long as two months in some areas, however, this is becoming less and less likely. The time it will take to recover from the lost jobs and high unemployment gets longer with each day the lockdown measures are required to keep the virus in check.
Medical experts advise that, in most of the country, continued stay-at-home orders and strict lockdowns should remain the norm. Experts are largely in agreement that this is the correct course of action until there is a vaccine. Alternatively, if the US had better testing capacity and contact tracing, the reopening could commence sooner.
However, this has put medical experts in conflict with economists. Many business owners and economic experts feel as though the lockdown measures are putting too much stress on the economy. Their argument is that, while these efforts might be saving some lives, they could be endangering the economy long-term.
Some states are beginning to tentatively relax their lockdown measures to allow some businesses to reopen. However, experts fear another spike in the virus could follow these reopening efforts. Many medical teams are scrambling to create a vaccine for COVID-19 as this is unfolding.
The most promising of these, at the time of this writing, seems to be a vaccine from Oxford University. Some of that team’s members believe that, if things go according to plan, their vaccine could be ready as early as September.