The Re-Opening of America: A No-Win Choice for the President

by | Apr 17, 2020 |

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The country is just beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel, but the national hell that was created by COVID-19 is not over yet. People are still getting sick, people are still dying, there is not yet a cure, and not yet a vaccine. 
The President is faced with a terrible choice. Because if he maintains the quarantines and constraints that have been put on the American people, it is possible that many more people will survive this pandemic. But the country will remained closed for business, the economy will continue to decline, and the millions of people who have lost their jobs will continue to suffer. 
On the other hand, if the restrictions are removed, if the country does re-open soon, the economy is likely to rebound, jobs will be available again, and America will become as strong as ever. Only there is a possibility that by lightening or removing the restrictions that kept people socially distant, then the pandemic is likely to reinvigorate and begin spreading again. 
Whatever he does, Trump will be roundly damned by the left, and blamed without mercy for whatever fallout emerges from the choices he has made.

There is no easy answer. The world has been swept by a devastating virus that no one really understands, because we have never seen anything like it. More than two million people around the world have been infected, and nearly half a million have died from the virus. 

And it gets worse, because new antibody research suggests that the number of cases may actually be many times greater than reported, because there may be many more people who were infected but did not have any symptoms or whose symptoms were so mild that they were dismissed. So these people were never tested and thus, never counted among the cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. 
This is significant for at least two reasons. In the first place, all the models that the CDC (Center for Disease Control) are using to forecast the progress of the virus in the U.S. are based on the number of infections that have been counted. And the numbers they are using are based only on the number of infections they know about. People who do not present symptoms are not included in these totals, and so, at best, the models are skewed and inaccurate. If they knew the number of total infections, they would have a much better basis for accurate forecasts. And accurate forecasts help the country to prepare, to deploy the medical assets where they are most needed in time to be of use, and to better understand the nature of this pandemic which remains so much of a mystery.
The second reason this is important is that these people who contracted the virus but never showed symptoms have developed antibodies against the virus. These antibodies may protect them against getting sick from the virus, and may also help others to fight it off as well. When the plasma from a person with antibodies is infused into a person who is sick with the virus, in may make the difference between life and death. 
So it is important that our scientists know the real number of how many people have contracted the virus, and the only way they will know this, is for them to be counted. One way to do that is to apply a program of universal antibody tests, to be given throughout the country. And that will surely not happen overnight. 
Why is this important? Well one thing leads to another. We also need to know much more about the virus itself and how it spreads, in order to help us understand how to deal with the pandemic, and how to destroy the virus. 
Because there is growing evidence that this is not a normal virus that we are dealing with. It was created – not by Mother Nature – but by people, virologists in China, whose aim it was to make this virus as potent and as unpredictable as possible. And it is clearly both. 
So this is more than a pandemic. This is a war. And the President has now been faced with a problem worthy of King Solomon. If he chooses to keep the country shut down, the people will suffer and the economy may implode. And if he allows the country to “re-open”, the virus may take on a new life and begin to spread wildly again. And the outcome of his decisions may make China more powerful or, instead, may bring China to its knees.
So President Trump has chosen a middle ground in response, a process by which the country can be re-opened in stages, bit by bit, and in parts of the country that were both less severely hit by this plague, and well on its way to recovery. On Thursday, April 16, the government released a 16-page document called “National Coronavirus Response – A Road Map to Reopening” in which he outlined four phases for reopening the country in ways that will both protect the American people, and help to re-ignite the country’s economic engines.
These partial measures have been well thought out, but they may still be accompanied by awful side effects. Small companies – and maybe even some big ones – may still not be able to recover, not even from the ‘temporary’ closures of the past weeks. And they will never get to re-open their doors again. 
And more people will still get sick, and some of them will die. Even now, as all the constraints remain in place in most states, the numbers are still growing. By the end of the day, Thursday April 16, there were 32,276 new confirmed cases in the U.S., and there were 2,359 new deaths – all within the previous 24 hours. And total numbers throughout the country so far have reached astronomical levels: 686,991 confirmed cases and 32,232 deaths.
As of the afternoon of April 17, there were 15,660 new confirmed cases, and 614 new deaths reported within the previous 24 hours. It is going to take some time before the figures begin to show a significant decline in new cases. 
And even as the President’s moves to re-open America, Texas is reporting a spike in its numbers. On April 17th, 963 new cases were reported within 24 hours and 29 more people died from the virus. The total number of confirmed cases in Texas was 16,455, and 364 people in Texas had died since the first case appeared in Texas on March 4, only six weeks ago.  And yet, despite the spike in the number of cases this week, Governor Greg Abbott has announced that he plans to re-open the state’s economy, which is the 12th largest in the world, this week, and at a news conference on Friday, he said he hoped to reopen the state in early May, if possible, and said that his plans will be announced on April 27.  He has appointed a task force of medical and economic experts to design the program under which the state of Texas will be reopened for business. 
What is at play here is a conflict of goals. On the one hand, the health and safety of the American people is paramount. The pandemic has ravaged our country in a way that hasn’t been seen in over a century. But on the other hand, our economy can’t weather an extended shut-down without dragging the country into a prolonged and painful depression. 

It is remarkable that despite all of the non-stop criticism that he has been facing since the beginning of his presidential campaign in 2016, Donald Trump has kept to the path he promised, guided by his original platform and strongly supported by what may prove to be a silent majority of Americans. 

The Solomonic problem facing the President requires balancing the scales between economic re-opening, and keeping the American people safe from the virus. And he is dealing with it in something not unlike a Solomonic way. 
Our economy is getting close to a sink or swim moment. If we don’t get back into the swim of it, it will irrevocably sink. So the President is right. We must open it back up – carefully – maybe little by little –slowly but surely and within a reasonable time frame. If this stay-at-home exercise has taught us anything at all, it has taught us what we need to do in order to stay safe in the face of the virus – even a deadly one like COVID-19 – and even after moves are made to open our country up again. 
This is what the President is talking about now, and I agree with him. The President was faced with an impossible choice, and he has turned to his team of experts to help him sort it out. He is responsible to the people of America to keep them safe and keep our economy strong. 
If we don’t charge up our economy, we may never truly recover our normalcy and our country will fail, our people will suffer, the jobs will not come back, we will all lose. And China will win. We cannot let that happen.

Ilana Freedman

Ilana Freedman is a veteran intelligence analyst with more than thirty years in the field. She was trained in Israel, where she lived and worked for sixteen years. After returning to the U.S., she served as CEO of Gerard Group International in Massachusetts, providing major corporations and government agencies with intelligence-led support for their homeland security programs. Her global network of specialists and field assets has provided her with an ongoing resource of critical, real-time intelligence and domain expertise. Today, Ilana is an independent consultant and author of hundreds of articles on terrorism and the geopolitical landscape. She has written four books on Islamic terrorism, and is currently working on a comprehensive book on China - past, present, and future.

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