EDITORIAL: Hoosiers must stay home now so economy can reopen sooner

We hope you are reading this at home.

We know that might not be the case, that you might be one of the thousands of Hoosiers who are working in groceries, on the police beat, in restaurants cooking food for takeout, or on the front lines at hospitals and nursing homes. We thank all of those people and others for their dedication at a time we desperately need them.

But for everyone else, if you don’t absolutely need to be at work or don’t need to be out and about, please just don’t.

Yes, we are concerned about your health. But more important, we are concerned about the health of our community, of our state, of our nation. And we’re not just talking about staying safe from COVID-19. We are equally concerned about the condition of our economy, the mental health of the thousands of Hoosiers who have already lost their jobs, and the physical health of so many people who might not be receiving timely treatment for other concerns.

That’s why Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order is so important and, we believe, a necessary part of a larger effort to contain the coronavirus.

Stay-at-home, as painful as it is for the economy, is meant to give health officials a chance to catch up and be ready for what’s to come. It’s a chance to contain the virus and slow its spread so hospitals can better serve the patients who do show up.

But it will not stop the spread of the virus. And shutting down the city and the state—essentially shutting down commerce almost completely—can’t last forever. In fact, it can’t last long at all if we are to avoid an economic collapse from which it could take decades to recover.

Make no mistake. This seemingly brief break in activity is already devastating for many. Some restaurants, retailers and small businesses will not recover from even three to four weeks of interruption in their operations.

Some workers will lose jobs they will never get back. There will be bankruptcies, evictions and foreclosures—maybe not immediately, as Holcomb’s executive order has essentially stayed them for now—but as the financial problems caused by shutdown roll into the future, that day will come for many low-income workers.

Extending the shutdown for additional weeks if not months will only spread that devastation to more businesses and more families—and leave a trail of desperation that can lead to mental health problems, drug use and crime.

And so, these two or three or four weeks when most of us are staying home are vitally important. It’s the time when the Holcomb administration must lead the effort to get our hospitals and our social-service sector ready. It’s when federal health officials must study who is most vulnerable to the disease and what treatments are the best options for those who are sick. And it’s when companies that can help by producing health care equipment and supplies should get in the game.

We are counting on all those efforts so the economy can reopen, so that, slowly, people can go back to work. Not without risk—but with more calculated risk. And with the goal of balancing health consequences of COVID-19 with the very real consequences of a ravaged economy.•

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