Poor economic prospects create bad public health outcomes of their own. Depression, substance abuse, domestic violence, and alcoholism all rise with unemployment. Hard alcohol sales have risen by 75 percent, according to one estimate. Research suggests that unemployment increases the risk of suicides by 145 percent. The national hotline for people suffering from emotional distress jumped 891 percent this past April from last year.
According to a 2014 article in Harvard Public Health magazine, unemployment “increased by 83 percent the odds of new health conditions likely triggered by job loss — stress-related conditions such as stroke, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and emotional and psychiatric problems.”
We can prevent the worst of these medical and socio-economic outcomes by broadly reopening now. Yet some politicians and public health officials are trying to shift the goalposts from flattening the curve to waiting for a vaccine. That vaccine may never come. There’s still no vaccine for other viruses such as SARS, MERS, HIV, or even the common cold — and the flu vaccine is notoriously ineffective. If a vaccine is developed, it’s likely a year or two away and it may not even work.
The risk vs. reward tradeoff of maintaining lockdown restrictions is simply too great, especially as we’ve learned more about the disease’s relative lack of danger to most Americans.
It’s time to broadly reopen society. Not only are Americans ready, but government cannot arbitrarily lift a social-distancing shutdown requirement on tens of thousands of protesting Americans and continue to claim it must be imposed on everyone else.
Read the full oped in the Pioneer Press by Twila Brase, a registered nurse, and president and co-founder of Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, a national patient-centered, free-market organization located in St. Paul and a partner of the Job Creators Network Foundation.