by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Citizens concerned about the economic fallout are not just asking for a cost-benefit analysis of “lives or livelihoods,” however, but a recognition that public health and the economy are deeply linked. Shutting down the latter may severely strain the former, and the concerns extend well beyond health insurance coverage.
As zealous policymakers train every hose in the country on the COVID-19 fire, the lives of American families are deteriorating by the hour in the flood of extreme caution.
What does public health look like when 1 in 3 Americans lose their jobs in the span of just a few weeks? What happens when intermediate and long-term social and economic prospects are hopelessly uncertain, and people are isolated from friends and relatives for weeks, even months? What happens when young adults, already the loneliest and most mentally distressed generation in American history, are forced into physical isolation from peers, leaving them to fall deeper into a toxic social media vortex? …
… This is the biggest layoff in American history, with 10 million jobless claims flooding employment offices across the country over the last two weeks, and many more likely to come. According to the study, suicide risk is highest between 15 and 26 weeks of unemployment, meaning time is running out to prevent what is likely to be a crisis of another kind. Last week, Knox County in Tennessee reported more suicides than COVID-19 deaths, a total of nine suicides within 48 hours.
General risk of death increases after mass layoffs as well. A 2009 study on Pennsylvania’s oil crisis and recession in the ’80s found that the chances of dying doubled for men who were victims of mass layoffs in the year following the job loss.
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