Weighing the economics, public health benefits of sheltering in place

April 6, 2020 / Ira Bedzow and Adam E. Block

Imagine trying to hold your breath. Some of us can hold it only for a few moments, others for a bit longer. Now imagine trying to hold your breath as someone starts taking the air out of your lungs. The impulse to breathe becomes much stronger.

This is what is happening all over the country as we feel the effects of “sheltering in place.” We sit at home watching the stock market fall and companies lay off employees or put them on furlough. We all want social distancing to end and for life to go back to normal. However, the consequences of emerging from our homes too soon will be catastrophic for everyone. It will affect young and old, fit and frail, in terms of both health and wallet.

Over the past several weeks, many Republicans have framed the debate in terms of saving people from economic threats to life, while Democrats framed it in terms of saving people from pathogenic threat. Despite the debates in Congress and on political talk shows, when to end social distancing is not simply a matter of either public health or the economy.


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