The COVID-19 pandemic hit the US faster, and harder, than many people seemed to expect. Only a month ago, the kind of reaction the country had to the virus would be unthinkable. Businesses are closed, millions are out of work and nearly everyone is staying home. Hospitals are rushing to help as many people as they can.
In essence, the economy has been placed into a medically induced coma. While doing nothing was never an option, the sheer scope of the American response to the virus is nothing short of breathtaking. Some, however, are already looking for the light at the end of the tunnel and thinking about how to restart the economy.
The Trump administration has been flying blind in their handling of the virus from the jump. Trump’s 2018 decision to fire the US pandemic response team hobbled the government, and they’ve been on the back foot since the pandemic started. Now, Trump has stated that the decision of when to reopen the economy has been one of the hardest of his time in office.
Initially, Trump had hoped to put an end to national social distancing guidelines by April 12, Easter Sunday. However, the advice of numerous experts convinced him that would be far too early. The President has now settled, instead, on targeting May 1 as the date to begin reopening the economy. However, senior White House officials have been quick to note it won’t be a “light switch.”
Instead of simply kicking the entire economy back online on the first day of May, it’s more likely that things will slowly reopen. While millions of Americans are currently engaged in work from home jobs, millions more are just out of work and eager to resume getting a paycheck. While the economy slowly turns back on, millions hope to get back to work.
Some experts fear that May 1 is too soon of a date to reopen the economy. They caution that opening that soon will only lead to a second spike in infections and require another lengthy shelter-in-place order. Trump, however, could be making a political calculation.
By reopening the economy sooner, rather than later, Trump could be hedging his bets that a second infection outbreak could be better managed. Then, swing voters might be more likely to consider him a strong choice for president, instead of his presumed democratic opponent, Joe Biden.