By Mark Naison (April 20, 2020)
As protests against state wide shutdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19 continue to erupt in many states, people are missing one key point. So long as people continue to die in large numbers from COVID-19 and our health care system is stressed well beyond capacity, a large percentage of the population will continue to voluntarily quarantine themselves and avoid situations which put them and their families at risk.
Given the legitimate level of fear people have of devastating consequences to their health if they resume “normal” ( pre-pandemic) activity in the absence of widespread testing and a vaccine, there will be no sudden rush to take advantage of openings of stores, restaurants, theaters, ball parks, hotels and amusement parks without the most extreme precautions being followed
You can change what governments impose , but you can’t change people’s behavior when it has been reinforced by trauma and death. Enough people now know of people who have been hospitalized or died as a result of COVID-19 that they are going to be extremely resistant to resuming activities where social distancing isn’t rigorously enforced.
The “Liberate America” protesters are a far smaller percentage of the population than those who have been traumatized by COVID-19 and fear what it could do to themselves and their families
If you “open the economy” without taking the necessary precautions, the surge in consumer behavior required to make a dent in unemployment will simply not take place.
When people have been traumatized my something real, they will not change their behavior until the source of the trauma has been removed.
Unless the “Liberate America” protesters are ready to drag people out of their homes and force them to shop, go to school and go to work, their protests will have limited impact on the level of economic activity in the country.