This cannot go on much longer. The economic and societal damage being inflicted by the shutdown is escalating by the day, and Arizona business owners and families are getting crushed.
There are now over 22 million unemployed unemployed in the US, thousands of small businesses on the verge of bankruptcy, surges in domestic violence and abuse, delays in testing and life-saving treatments for non-Coronavirus diseases, an explosion in calls to suicide hotlines and local governments facing a larger budget crunch than the one encountered during the financial crisis in 2008.
Even basic necessities and staples relied upon by everyone are beginning to falter as well. Major food providers are warning that supply chains are breaking down and we should expect shortages. Hospitals are beginning to lay off and furlough employees since the Covid-19 peak promised by the models never materialized. And our entire energy market is in disarray after the oil markets crashed last week:
U.S. equity markets slid Monday as oil crashed below zero and closed at its lowest level since record keeping began in March 1983.The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by as many as 489 points, or 2.02 percent, before paring its losses. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were down 1.53 percent and 1.01 percent, respectively, at their lows.
Ongoing concerns over swelling oil inventories pushed West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery plunged 305 percent to a record low -$36.73 per barrel. At a price below zero, buyers would be paid to take delivery as there are costs associated with transportation and storage.
Just 2 months ago the oil industry was thriving in America. Now traders are being forced to pay vendors to unload their product as inventories exceed capacity. That’s right, if you can safely store crude on your property, someone is willing to pay you to take it (delivery not included).
The reality is that lives are being lost and ruined by the current shutdown, and it will only get worse every day that we wait. Arizona must reopen, and fast. Governor Ducey announced that he is working on a reopening plan for the state, which will likely include a phased-in approach largely based on the guidelines provided by the Trump Administration.
That is good news, but the next step is going to be the toughest. Reopening Arizona is not going to be easy, especially since any discussion on relaxing the Covid-19 restrictions has become a politically divisive issue. The rhetoric has become so intense that in some corners any mention of ending the shutdown means putting the economy ahead of lives. This is complete nonsense.
Supporting an end to the lockdown means understanding that lives can be lost to economic destruction just as easily as they are to Covid-19. This is being recognized in other countries, as Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, the Czech Republic, Poland and many others has already begun easing restrictions. Here in the US, states such as Texas, Georgia, Tenessee and Florida have begun taking action as well on a reopening plan.
Arizona needs to follow suit, and it can be done in a smart and safe way. Mitigation efforts such as continued social distancing, encouraged teleworking, mask wearing and the suspension of congested gatherings (such as sporting events) will continue. Extra precautions can be taken to protect the most vulnerable populations (senior citizens and those with chronic illness) impacted by Covid-19. If the purpose of the lockdown was to prevent our healthcare system from being overloaded, then a phase down of the restrictions will be more than enough to prevent that from happening.
The end of the current stay-at-home order is April 30. That is the perfect time for Arizona to begin reopening for business. The process won’t be seamless, but the cost of inaction at this point will be worse than staying home.