Researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania warn that the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. could top 350,000 by the end of June if all states restart their economies, Philadelphia’s CBS affiliate reports.
The latest projection poses tough questions for governors weighing the risks of reopening their states amid a continued battle against COVID-19.
“Significant, unprecedented costs”
While previous predictions have been revised in one direction or the other as conditions change, the researchers behind this model say it represents the possibility of fully reopening the nation.
On the other hand, the study predicts that about 117,000 people will die as a result of coronavirus — and 18.6 million will lose their jobs — if states extend existing stay-at-home orders throughout the month of June.
Many states are in the process of restoring services and opening businesses that had been shuttered as part of restrictions designed to mitigate the virus’s spread. As a result of those restrictions, nearly 30 million Americans are unemployed, according to the BBC, with an economic toll that has yet to be fully realized.
According to Alex Arnon, senior analyst at the Penn Wharton Budget Model, the nation is “suffering really significant, unprecedented costs as a result of these policies.”
President Donald Trump himself expressed concerns about the impact of lengthy lockdowns as far back as late March, tweeting at that time that America “cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”
“Leaders must do everything in their power”
Aside from the deaths directly caused by an infection, the economic shutdowns imposed to slow the spread could come with their own humanitarian consequences.
The 2008 economic crisis was linked to thousands of deaths by suicide, according to a report from Forbes, and the United Nations has issued a warning that hundreds of thousands of children could die from a global economic downturn.
“Leaders must do everything in their power to cushion the impact of the pandemic,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, according to Reuters. “What started as a public health emergency has snowballed into a formidable test for the global promise to leave no one behind.”
Unfortunately, this pandemic appears to have presented the world with a lose-lose scenario.
As the recent projection suggests, a return to normal life would cause a tragic spike in deaths, but the costs of remaining locked down for an indeterminate length of time could be too great for the nation to withstand. Only time will tell what state governors decide to do.