Should the U.S. Favor Public Health or the Economy? History Shows they’re InseparableBreaking News
tags: public health, COVID-19
Robert I. Field holds a joint appointment as a professor of law at the Kline School of Law and a professor of health management and policy at the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University. He is an expert in public health law and policy and a member of The Inquirer’s Health Advisory Panel.
If we have learned anything from the horrors of this pandemic it is that lesson. Economies don’t flourish despite public health. They flourish because of it.
It is a lesson that is hardly new. We have seen it demonstrated time and time again over the centuries.
To take a local example, in 1793 an epidemic of yellow fever brought the economy of Philadelphia to a halt as business activity ceased. Sound familiar? Those who could, left the city or avoided visiting, including such notables as President George Washington and Vice President John Adams. Years later, mosquitoes were identified as the source of transmission, leading to preventive measures and eventually to a vaccine. Yellow fever epidemics no longer threaten our lives and economy.
Relaxing lockdowns too rapidly may not even help in the short-term. Recent polling showsthat just 23% of Americans would be comfortable going out to eat or visiting a shopping mall. Only 12% would be comfortable attending a concert. Business won’t return to anything approaching normal until the public is reassured that it is truly safe to venture out, and only continued public health support and guidance can provide that reassurance.
As we have learned over and over in the past, economies need strong public health foundations to grow and thrive. No one benefits if our reopened economy is built as a house of cards.
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