Here's why we just can’t just 'flip the switch' and have a quick return to economic 'normalcy' post-coronavirus

Here's why we just can’t just 'flip the switch' and have a quick return to economic 'normalcy' post-coronavirus
Wisconsin National Guards troops train as they prepare for potential missions in response to COVID-19, March 22, 2020. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Spc. Emma Anderson

During the coronavirus pandemic, it isn’t uncommon to hear frustrated Americans — even those who support aggressive social distancing — say, “I’ll be so glad when we can get back to normal.” But Axios reporter Sam Baker, in an article published on April 10, explains why, from a business and economic standpoint, the U.S. won’t be able to simply “flip the switch” with coronavirus and quickly go back to 100% normal.


Baker isn’t saying that there won’t be some type of “return to normalcy” in the U.S. and elsewhere, but he stresses that it will come gradually.

“Even as the number of illnesses and deaths in the U.S. start to fall and we start to think about leaving the house again, the way forward will likely be slow and uneven,” Baker notes. “This may feel like it all happened suddenly, but it won’t end that way…. The future will come in waves: waves of recovery, waves of more bad news, and waves of returning to some semblance of normal life.”

Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), told Axios that the U.S. will experience “a gradual evolution back to something that approximates our normal lives.” And Claire Standley, an expert on infectious diseases at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., told Axios, “Everyone wants to return to normalcy. I think, in reality, it has to be incredibly carefully managed.”

Baker goes on to describe some elements of a “post-lockdown world,” predicting that “some types of businesses will likely be able to open before others, and only at partial capacity” and that “restaurants may be able to reopen, but with far fewer tables available at once.” And the Axios journalist adds that “large gatherings may need to stay on ice.

University of Washington epidemiology professor Janet Baseman warns that it’s crucial to keep social distancing in place for as long as necessary.

“If you go back to normal too fast,” Baseman told Axios, “then cases start to go up quickly — and then, we end up back where we started.”

According to MSNBC, less than 1% of U.S. residents have been tested for coronavirus. And a vaccine for coronavirus could be one year or 18 months away. Under those circumstances, Gottlieb warns, it’s highly unrealistic to expect a quick return to normal.

Gottlieb told Axios, “I’m not going back to Disneyland, I’m not going to take a cruise again, until we have a very aggressive testing system or we have very effective therapeutics or a vaccine.”

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