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Battling Virus’ Side-Effects

It would be foolish and irresponsible, particularly in West Virginia and Ohio, to ease up one iota on steps being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to help those who have contracted the virus recover from it. This is a monster, with the power to kill by the hundreds, even thousands, in our states.

Yet those who worry about the financial impact of business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders are right to be concerned. Do not make the mistake of thinking of the harm to that nameless, faceless thing we call “the economy.”

Already, tens of thousands of men and women in our states have been hurt badly. They have been laid off from their jobs and will have to depend on the inadequate unemployment compensation system for a few dollars.

Some of the casualties are small business people. More even than some individuals, small businesses exist in what amounts to a paycheck-to-paycheck environment. A few weeks without any customers, while certain overhead costs must continue to be borne, will prove fatal to some of them.

A $2 trillion federal relief package enacted this week will help, but it is only a stopgap measure. In the long term, it must be the working men and women and businesses of America supporting our government, not the other way around.

What are we to do?

For now, just what we have been doing — only with more people involved in social distancing and hygiene behavior to keep from spreading the virus. We have just entered the life-and-death stage of battling COVID-19.

Dr. Deborah Birx, who is coordinating White House efforts against the coronavirus, explained that earlier this week. As she noted, the epidemic in other regions of the world has followed a bell-shaped path. First, a few infections occur. They build to a peak at which the death rate is high, then trail off.

Here in America, Washington state may be nearing the peak of that bell-shaped curve. In West Virginia and Ohio, we are just climbing toward maximum saturation.

For now, safeguarding health must be the priority. It is not too early for local, state and federal officials to begin thinking about financial recovery, however.

Shuttered businesses and millions of people not receiving paychecks have serious ramifications. The sooner we can get them back to normal — whatever that may be in a post-COVID-19 world — the sooner the virus’ side-effects can be blunted.

We cannot jump away from safeguarding health and into curing the economy prematurely, of course. But knowing when we can begin the shift and how to do it will be critical — and we need to be thinking about that now.

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