Officials Weigh Restarting the Economy with Public Health Needs

'Public Health Includes Economic Health—that’s a Key Point. It’s Not Either-Or,' Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow Said
March 24, 2020 Updated: March 24, 2020

Officials are seeking to strike a delicate balance between protecting the lives of Americans amid the COVID-19 outbreak and accommodating people’s needs to get back to work and make a living.

Bipartisan calls are mounting to consider ways to restart the economy as soon as possible amid the pandemic to minimize the economic impact as parts of the country grind to a halt to mitigate the spread of the virus.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s point on shutting down of the economy being unsustainable is essentially correct.

Meanwhile, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Tuesday that economic health should factor into public health considerations, saying “it’s not either-or.”

Speaking at a briefing at New York City’s Javits Center, which is being converted into a temporary hospital site, Cuomo said there are ways to restart the economy with “younger, recovered, tested” workers without compromising public health, but added that “the crisis at hand . . . has to be the priority.”

“Once they’re resolved, let them go back to work. Let the younger people go back to work. Let the recovered people go to work,” Cuomo said, adding, “And then ramp up the economy with those individuals.”

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during his daily news conference amid the coronavirus outbreak in New York City on March 20, 2020. (Bennett Raglin/Getty Images)

Cuomo’s remarks follow statements made by Trump at a Monday press briefing, where the president sought to balance public health needs amid the outbreak with ways to minimize the economic impact of the crisis.

Trump told reporters that his administration will monitor the situation and use public health data “to recommend new protocols to allow local economies to cautiously resume their activity at the appropriate time.”

“We also have a large team working on what the next steps will be once the medical community gives a region the OK—meaning the ‘OK’ to get going, to get back, let’s go to work,” Trump said. “Our country wasn’t built to be shut down.”

“This is not a country that was built for this. It was not built to be shut down,” he added.

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President Donald Trump and officials attend the daily briefing on the CCP virus at the White House in Washington on March 23, 2020. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

“Our people want to return to work,” Trump wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “They will practice Social Distancing and all else, and Seniors will be watched over protectively & lovingly. We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM!”

In his remarks Tuesday, Cuomo similarly called for exploration of ways to reconcile the apparently competing objectives.

“It’s not the economy or public health,” Cuomo said. “It’s restarting the economy and protecting public health, it’s both.”

Cuomo insisted people in high-risk groups, like the elderly, those with compromised immune systems or with underlying health conditions, should focus on staying safe amid the outbreak.

“My mother is not expendable. Your mother is not expendable. We will not put a dollar figure on human life. We can have a public health strategy that is consistent with an economic one. No one should be talking about social Darwinism for the sake of the stock market,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter.

New York State now has over 25,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Cuomo said, with over 3,000 people hospitalized and nearly a quarter of those requiring intensive care at some point.

On Tuesday, Kudlow said that while Trump wants to restore economic activity as soon as it is feasible, the president would not disregard the advice of public health professionals.

“We’re not abandoning the health professionals’ advice but there is a clamor to try to re-open the economy, perhaps make it less of a shut-in,” Kudlow told reporters Tuesday at the White House.

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White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow talks to media outside the White House in Washington in a Sept. 26, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Asked by reporters whether it’s worth opening up the economy at the expense of public health, Kudlow rejected framing the issue as a zero-sum equation.

“Public health includes economic health—that’s a key point. It’s not either-or,” Kudlow said, according to RealClearPolitics’ White House correspondent Susan Crabtree. “That’s why we’re taking a fresh look at it.”

Earlier, Lieutenant Governor of Texas Dan Patrick suggested on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that getting the country back to normal by going back to work would be a calculated move some might be willing to take.

“Tucker, no one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in,” said Patrick, who is about to turn 70.

“My message is, let’s get back to work. Let’s get back to living,” Patrick said.

“Our biggest gift we give to our country, and our children and our grandchildren, is the legacy of our country,” he said. “And right now that is at risk, and I feel like, as the president said, the mortality rate is so low, do we have to shut down the whole country for this?”

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Texas Lt. Govenor Dan Patrick speaks at an event in Houston, Texas, on March 15, 2016. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The White House’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread” campaign (pdf) includes calls for social distancing, teleworking, and limiting social gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

“At the end of the 15-day period we’ll make a decision as to which way we want to go, where we want to go, the timing. And essentially we’re referring to the timing of the opening. Essentially the opening of our country,” Trump said Monday. “Because we have it pretty well shut down in order to get rid of this invisible enemy.”

“Stay at home” orders have been issued over the past week in multiple states, affecting more than one in three Americans, in efforts to curb the spread of the CCP virus that causes COVID-19. The states include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, West Virginia, and Washington.

Residents are recommended to remain at home unless they need to leave for essential activities. Non-essential businesses have also been ordered closed. Each state has slight variations as to what qualifies as “essential,” but generally the list encompasses grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and basic health services.

The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.

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