The following editorial appeared in the Wall Street Journal on June 11. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Times-News:

Stocks sold off (Thursday) amid investor worries that a “second wave” of coronavirus infections could cause countries and states that are reopening to lock down again. But headlines about a coronavirus resurgence in the U.S. are overblown so far, and the bigger threat is keeping the economy in a coma.

“We know as a fact that reopening other states we’re seeing significant problems,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. “Twelve states that reopened are now seeing spikes. This is a very real possibility.” This is Mr. Cuomo’s excuse for keeping New York City in lockdown purgatory for 12 weeks as other states reopen and their economies rebound.

Democrats cite a spike in cases in Florida, Arizona and Texas as evidence of a virus resurgence. But more testing, especially in vulnerable communities, is naturally turning up more cases. Cases in Texas have increased by about a third in the last two weeks, but so have tests. About a quarter of the new cases are in counties with large prisons and meatpacking plants that were never forced to shut down.

Tests have increased by about 37% in Florida in two weeks, but confirmed cases have risen 28%. ... In Arizona, cases have increased by 73% in the last two weeks though tests have increased by just 53%. But a quarter of all cases in the state are on Indian reservations, which have especially high-risk populations. ...

Liberals and the media demanded more testing before states could reopen, yet now are criticizing states because more testing has turned up more cases. Keep in mind that New York has reported about the same number of new cases in the last two weeks as Florida, though it ramped up testing earlier so the relative increase appears less significant.

A more important metric is hospitalizations. In Arizona the weekly rolling average for new COVID-19 hospitalizations has been flat for a month. Emergency-room visits for COVID-19 have spiked this week, but the number of ER beds in use hasn’t changed since late April.

Fatalities are a lagging epidemic indicator since most people who die have been in the hospital for two to three weeks. But deaths also aren’t surging. Texas has recorded 151 deaths this past week versus 221 in the last week of April. Florida has reported 239 deaths, 72 fewer than in the last week of April.

Deaths are probably declining in part from better and earlier treatment, but this means there’s less to fear from reopening. While Arizona has reported 114 deaths — 43 more than in the last week of April — its deaths per capita are similar to the 325 that New York has reported in the past week.

Mr. Cuomo boasted that New York “did the impossible” and “crushed” the coronavirus curve. New York has made enormous progress since the early days of the pandemic, which hit the state harder and earlier because of its population density, mass transit and international travel. We aren’t among the revisionists who say Mr. Cuomo should have locked down New York earlier.

But other states that didn’t impose strict lockdowns and have been gradually reopening have kept the epidemic under control and not paid as high an economic price.

More infections are inevitable as states reopen, and there will be much trial and error. States need to be vigilant for outbreaks and protect high-risk areas and the vulnerable. But the costs of shutting down the economy are so great, in damage to lives and livelihoods, that there is no alternative to opening for the broader public good. 

React to this story:


Recommended for you