Updated: May 26, 2020
The United States is living in what can almost be considered a plot out of an intense movie. Back in December of 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that Wuhan, China was experiencing a viral outbreak. Health experts identified the cause of the outbreak due to a strand of coronavirus. According to the World Vision, coronavirus is a family of viruses, which can cause the common cold or more severe diseases such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), and the new coronavirus disease that first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, called COVID-19.
World Vision also states that COVID-19 is a contagious disease that causes mild to severe respiratory symptoms with fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It can be transmitted through person-to-person contact, though much remains unknown about how it spreads. The new coronavirus was first identified on Dec. 31, 2019. Since that time, there have been 2,549,632 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 175,825 deaths, reported to WHO. To help bring things closer to home, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that there are 802,583 confirmed cases in the United States of America (USA) with 44,575 deaths. Out of that number, the state of Alabama is reporting 5,765 confirmed cases by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH).
Since mid-March, many states have issued stay-at-home orders, curfews, and various mandates in an attempt to flatten the curve. However, despite numerous efforts and the United States seeing over 40,000 deaths, there now arises a new problem. The economy is beginning to take a negative slide due to numerous closures of businesses, and those that open have been dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. IBISWorld recently reported that the United States is experiencing a 16% decline within industrial profits, and currently there are over 10 major facilities within the state of Alabama that are beginning to experience outbreaks among their employees. So, with all of this economic turmoil, one has to ask the question: Why is it that so many governors are looking to reopen the businesses in their states?
Three days ago, Politico broke the story that Republican governors across the Southeast have formed a COVID-19 Coalition with the sole purpose to restarting their economy. That coalition consists of Governors Ron DeSantis (Florida), Brian Kemp (Georgia), Henry McMaster (South Carolina), Bill Lee (Tennessee), Kay Ivey (Alabama), and Tate Reeves (Mississippi). Politico also reported that these states are part of the country that has underfunded health systems, as well as high rates of obesity, diabetes and other illnesses that amplify the deadliness of COVID-19. Also, unlike their peers in New York, New Jersey and other Northeastern states that have been working cooperatively since last week to restart their economies, the six in the South have lagged on testing and social distancing measures. Notably, Governor Kemp of Georgia has already introduced measure to reopen certain businesses before the April 30 end date given by the White House.
There is no disagreement that the economy must reopen. To keep businesses completely closed with no profitable resources for an elongated period of time will certainly prove detrimental. However, restarting the economy at this present moment may prove to be more destructive than what a nationwide quarantine could ever do. It is important to note that these same states combined have only tested about one-tenth to one percent of their entire population according to Politico. ADPH reports that out of its 4,903,185 citizens that only 52,641 citizens have been tested, which does round to two percent of the state’s population. Unfortunately, whereas other states may have peaked, these southern states have not even scratched the surface of this devastating pandemic.
So, what should these states really do? It is evident that the longer these businesses remain closed, this opens the doors for more layoffs and the consistent rise for employment. There is no easy solution, but there is room to improve. In Alabama’s case, Gov. Ivey should consider expanding Medicaid. Medicaid expansion is a part of the Affordable Care Act that provides funding for resources and hospitals in rural counties that are in desperate need of assistance. Additionally, the rise of property taxes allow for more funding for highways and bridges vs. the regressive taxes (Gas tax, Sales tax, Grocery tax, etc.) that hurt the citizens of the state. These southern governors can truly take a page out of the books of their gubernatorial colleagues such as Governors Andrew Cuomo (New York), Gretchen Whitmer (Michigan), and Gavin Newsom (California).
The fact of the matter is that this virus has destroyed whatever was known as “normal” in the country, but that does not mean that things will never get better. However, this COVID-19 Coalition holds the “silver bullet” that can put the economy in worse shape. Citizens of those southern states are encouraged to contact their local leaders to continue engaging their governors. Whether the states continue in the present direction or fully reopen the economy, the only losers in this scenario are the people.
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