We Can (Safely) Begin to Reopen the Economy!


New coronavirus infections in the U.S. have levelled off to the rate of about 30,000 per day and several states are experimenting with loosening restrictions on “nonessential” economic activity.

                     There are reputable reports that the death rate from COVID-19 may be as low as .025% to .635% of the number of infected individuals, even lower than the mortality rate for seasonal flu.

Experts have already proposed some general guidelines for reopening the economy in a safe but also sensible manner.

Now a top expert in medical economics, Avik Roy, at the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, has given more explicit reopening guidelines even assuming a more pessimistic scenario, in which accurate, near-ubiquitous testing is difficult to achieve; infected individual’s antibodies do not lead to immunity; anti-viral treatments take longer to develop; and vaccines never arrive.

The FREOPP strategy takes into account the heavy skew of poor health outcomes and deaths from COVID-19 towards the elderly and those with chronic disease, as well as new tools for contact tracing being developed by Apple and Google.

Here is are some of their major ideas:

  • Reopen pre-K and K-12 schools right away.
  • Lift stay-at-home orders for most non-elderly individuals.
  • Reopen safe but “nonessential” businesses.
  • Incentivize employers to deploy testing at work.
  • Incentivize consumers to use contact tracing apps.
  • Continue to prohibit large group gatherings.

Conclusion.  Even if, and perhaps especially if, the U.S., and the rest of the whole world, are in for a long slog to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, there are a number of fairly simple measures as above which can be taken to lessen the current economic pain.  Since we don’t know how long it will take to completely eliminate the pandemic, we need to figure out a way to return to a more normal and sustainable way of life in the meantime.

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