As the COVID-19 outbreak deals a shock to businesses and workers across the world with unprecedented speed, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said America’s economy will collapse if it remains closed until the number of cases is brought down to zero.
In remarks on Fox’s “Brian Kilmeade Show” on Friday, the Lousiana lawmaker pushed back against critics who claim that expressing concerns about the damage of keeping the economy shut down too long is the same as “putting dollars over human life.”
Kennedy said there has been “a lot of damage done both in terms of public health and in terms of our economic health.”
Recent Lousiana Department of Health figures show that the number of confirmed cases of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, in the state have reached 26,140 and 1,601 deaths.
Labor Department figures released on April 17 show that even before the pandemic decimated the labor market in recent weeks, Louisiana had the highest unemployment rate in the nation, at 6.9 percent for March.
“I’ve heard some national commentators suggest that ‘Jeez, we shouldn’t even think about opening up the economy until clearly we have almost no coronavirus cases,'” Kennedy told Kilmeade. “And, by then the economy will have collapsed. I wish we could do that, but we will have burned down the village to save it.”
Kennedy said some proponents of extending tough lockdown measures say those who talk about reopening the economy are “morally tainted.”
“I think that point of view is untethered to reality,” Kennedy said of that perspective.
The Lousiana senator’s remarks on Friday echo earlier statements made on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” when Kennedy said: “Very soon the can is going to run out of road. We’ve got to open this economy. If we don’t, it’s going to collapse. And if the U.S. economy collapses, the world economy collapses.”
“Trying to burn down the village to save it is foolish. That’s a cold, hard truth,” Kennedy added.
The Republican Congressman said reopening the economy should be done with care and under circumstances of protecting the most vulnerable.
“We’ve got to be smart about how we do it,” he said. “Don’t open up in the middle of a hotspot. Encourage your elderly and those with pre-existing conditions to stay quarantined and provide them financial support.”
He said people should keep wearing masks and continue with social distancing measures for as long as necessary after lockdowns are lifted.
Characterizing the choice between the consequence of prolonged lockdowns and exposure to the risk of catching COVID-19, Kennedy said “this is like choosing between cancer and a heart attack,” and said, “we’ve got to reopen, and when we do, the coronavirus is gonna spread faster, and we’ve got to be ready.”
Louisiana’s stay-at-home orders and other emergency measures are set to expire on April 30.
According to a Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center tally on Friday, over 886,000 Americans have been infected with COVID-19 and 50,700 have died.