We should take the news that President Donald Trump has contracted COVID-19 for what it is: Trump is among more than 7 million confirmed U.S. cases.
What we shouldn’t do is turn the news into a political weapon to roll back the anemic reopening of the U.S. economy and use it as a reason to double-down on ineffective lockdowns and overreaching, unenforced restrictions on businesses and nonprofit organizations.
We wish the president and first lady Melania Trump a speedy and complete recovery. And we urge government officials to not use Trump’s diagnosis to further hobble what has been a slow and painful return to business and life.
The positive test for the leader of the world’s largest economy understandably brings more economic uncertainty.
Jeff Henriksen, co-founder and CEO of Thorpe Abbotts Capital, told CNBC the news “would thrust COVID-19 back into the spotlight for investors, upsetting the dueling narratives of COVID as a ‘slow disaster’ versus the belief that the United States is emerging out of the crisis into a strong recovery.”
Data released earlier Thursday showed joblessness remains widespread, news service Bloomberg reported. Last week, 837,000 Americans sought state unemployment benefits, still about four times the pre-pandemic level, while 11.8 million claimed continuing benefits the week before, the U.S Department of Labor said.
Although consumer fear about the virus is partly to blame, governmental closures and restrictions on businesses are largely to blame.
News the president of the United States has contracted coronavirus might be rattling. But it’s important to remember the disease can cause varying degrees of illness.
Trump is 74 and it’s proven COVID-19 can be especially dangerous for older adults in frail health and people with existing health problems, who are at risk of severe effects, including pneumonia. But for most of those affected, coronavirus creates only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, with the vast majority recovering from the virus.
The president’s opponents also shouldn’t waste their time waiting for a contrite Trump to change his ways, reverse his stance and approach the pandemic differently.
It’s possible, but unlikely, that Trump, who has pushed to keep the economy open through the pandemic to the dismay of his critics, will change his approach. It certainly isn’t his style, anyway.
But there are lessons we can learn from this. Trump’s diagnosis reminds us COVID-19 is real, is still with us and can be combatted by social distancing and wearing masks, measures that curb the virus’ spread and which Trump has neither practiced nor championed and has sometimes mocked.
“Every time you see him, he’s got a mask,” Trump said of his opponent Joe Biden during Tuesday night’s debate. “He could be speaking 200 feet away and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
But as our knowledge of COVID-19 evolves, we understand draconian lockdowns aren’t the answer and might be part of the problem.
“A team of economists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently published the results of a study that compared various alternative strategies for limiting the spread of Covid-19,” a June 15 Wall Street Journal editorial argued.
“They concluded that twice as many lives could be saved if governments focused limited resources on protecting the most vulnerable people rather than squandering them on those who seem to face almost no risk, such as children.”
We’ve argued before and will again that our health largely lies in our own hands and not in a paternalistic government. Leaders can set examples but, ultimately, and as with everything in life, it’s up to us to navigate our own risks.
• Laura Elder