States reopening too soon

Editorial

Forty-two states have been closely monitoring their citizens, enforcing strict stay-at-home orders. However, even as the number of infections in the United States passes one million, some states have become worryingly relaxed, lifting many restrictions in an effort to save their economies. These states include Georgia, Florida, Colorado, Alaska, Minnesota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, and several more. However, rather than improving the well-being of their citizens, state leaders cutting back on limitations that most other states are abiding by will certainly do more harm than good.

Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, insisted on reopening the state in order to aid the economy. This comes after having paid about $600 million in unemployment claims and processing more than one million jobless claims. These numbers have exceeded records set in Georgia during the Great Recession. It is because of Georgia’s essentially failing economy that Kemp has decided to reopen the state. However, is it worth putting the most vulnerable at risk? No, it is not. Opening even the smallest of business will most likely result in a second wave of the virus, leading Georgia’s citizens back into isolation once again. Georgia’s relaxation of restrictions, as the state resumed the operation of businesses such as gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys, and nail salons on Friday, April 24, as well as theaters, clubs, and restaurant dine-in services on Monday, April 27, will lead to new targets for the virus and, consequently, more deaths. 

It is not clear that Georgia has even passed its peak in cases, so reopening the state is unwise, as an even higher peak will now certainly be reached. In addition, a new Washington Post poll even said that two in three Americans believe restrictions on most businesses are essential. Georgia has had more than 1,100 coronavirus deaths, and it has tested less than one percent of its residents, which is low compared with other states and the national rate. Georgia’s move to reopen its economy is the most aggressive in the US. However, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Georgia should not even begin to reopen until June 22, which is more than a month from now. This date also assumes that the state will carry out increasingly aggressive social distancing and testing, which, of course, Georgia is not. There are still more cases being recorded and the death toll is continuing to rise.

After Georgia reopened its economy, several other states have followed in its lead. One of these states is Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis allowed some cities, such as Jacksonville, to reopen beaches with restricted hours on April 17. In addition, Sarasota’s beaches reopened on a limited basis on April 27. This has drawn some well-deserved criticism on social media. On April 20, Governor DeSantis also announced a “Re-Open Florida Task Force,” whose executive committee included 22 elected officials and corporate executives. The role of this task force was to carry out daily conference calls up until April 24, when a report with recommendations was issued. The report suggested that the state reopen in three phases: short, medium, and long term. The task force, rather than comparing essential versus nonessential businesses, focused on how businesses can minimize the spread of the virus once the state reopens. Professionals are uncertain as to whether Florida has truly even reached its peak, which is all the more reason why the state should not have begun to reopen so soon. As of May 1, Florida had 33,690 cases of coronavirus, and over 1,200 reported deaths. The record number for new deaths was set on April 26, with 83 reported in 24 hours. Although the number of new cases has generally been trending downward, there have been some single-day spikes. Because deaths have not consistently decreased for a two-week period, which the CDC recommends states use a benchmark before reopening, Florida should most definitely not have begun to reopen. Another spike could lead to more cases, more deaths, and life in quarantine all over again. 

On a local level, Connecticut is carrying out the necessary precautions that states like Georgia and Florida should definitely be abiding by. The state has joined a coalition with New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts in order to effectively combat the spread of the virus. Governor Ned Lamont ordered all non-essential businesses to close in mid-March. Unfortunately, the death toll has continued to rise, and it is now above 2,200. Unemployment claims have passed 400,000 as the economy continues to struggle. Nonetheless, practicing social-distancing is vital at this time as the numbers continue to rise extraordinarily for the size of our state. The process to reopen Connecticut will come in four stages beginning on May 20 if the number of cases continues to decline. This reopening, unlike that in Georgia, will not be too aggressive. Rather, it will be a gradual reopening that will continue through the rest of the year. 

The relaxation of social distancing measures certainly needs to be slowed down in states that have already reopened or are, at present, planning to reopen soon. This is necessary to save lives and to protect our most vulnerable citizens. Thus, it is imperative that state officials really think about their decisions regarding the reopening of their economies and put the well-being and health of their citizens first.