The economy is hurting. That’s a bad thing. This is something we think everyone can agree on no matter our political leanings. But figuring out how to help the problem is a whole other matter, and it’s currently rife with heated politics and pressure and desperation.
Here’s how we, the Daily Herald Editorial Board, which is composed of people holding a range of political opinions, feel on the matter. Wanting to delay reopening the economy does not mean you’re anti-business, anti-commerce or whatever you’d like to call it. Delaying the reopening of the economy might give the economy its best chance.
It seems counter-intuitive, but here’s two simplified paths we as a society can take: First, we can begin reopening things soon — as soon as next week, as Gov. Gary Herbert said he is expecting. The ban on sit-down restaurants would be lifted, gyms would open back up and so on. There’s a chance this path can work, which, of course, would be great. But there’s also a real possibility that we will have moved too soon, causing a second, even worse wave of the novel coronavirus and the economy wouldn’t just suffer again as it is now, but possibly completely fall apart.
The second, and in our eyes, the better path we can take is to not rush to reopen the economy, but take things slower than Utah is currently taking them. This path significantly reduces the chances of a second, worse wave of economic demolition. From an economic standpoint, the negative chances of the first path far outweigh the negative chances of the second.
Utah is making a gamble, and the stakes are astronomical.
When and how we should restart the economy is outside this editorial board’s expertise, but when it happens, it won’t jumpstart as quickly as it hit the brakes when the whole pandemic started. Rather than going 0 to 60 in five seconds, it’ll be a gradual rebuild, which is why we need a more thought-out, well-planned roadmap by experts, instead of our state’s policy makers rushing things, as some seem to be attempting now.
We do acknowledge, as Herbert said when introducing the updated plan called “Utah Leads Together 2.0,” “We are not having to scramble like other states.” Yes, as a state we are in better shape than most. Which is great. That means we’ll most likely be able to safely begin reopening our economy before most other states. But that doesn’t mean we should be reopening our economy next week.
When leaders were introducing the new plan last week, they said they expected the state to move into the orange, moderate risk phase by May 1. But some of the business reopenings listed under the phase seem to be at odds with the safety guidelines that will still be in place.
For example, under the orange phase, sit-down restaurants could be reopened, but 6-foot social distancing rules and facemask rules will still be in effect. How can a server deliver customers’ dishes while staying 6 feet away? How can groups dine together 6 feet apart, or eat with facemasks? It’s illogical, and it shows that if we still need those safety precautions in place even when we move forward a phase, many nonessential businesses probably shouldn’t be opening so soon.
We do appreciate the work our state leaders have put in to come up with the 2.0 plan. We just hope that the government doesn’t start turning that plan’s dial from the current red, high-risk phase to the orange, moderate phase too soon.