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Shutdown will wreak even more havoc on us

With COVID-19 slashing through populations throughout the world, some nations are preparing for lockdowns of the type employed last spring to curb the virus’ spread.

Americans can’t afford to do that. Another business slowdown / shutdown of the type we experienced for a few months could well send the economic plunging into a depression.

In France, where the epidemic death toll topped 36,000 during the weekend, another lockdown — this one to last four weeks — was ordered. All 67 million people in the country have been told to stay at home or face criminal charges. The only exceptions are to get medical care, buy necessities such as food, or go to work.

That is a change from spring, when many countries — and many states within this one — restricted many working people. Only those with jobs defined by government as essential could go to work.

Here in the United States, that devastated the economy. Many businesses simply closed their doors. In most states, curbs remain in effect on restaurants, bars and similar establishments. Jobless rates in our region cracked 20 percent in April, reflective of state and national trends as businesses grappled with shutdowns and layoffs amid the viral outbreak.

Now, with restrictions being eased — not eliminated, just relaxed — our economy is making a comeback. Unemployment had dropped to 7.9 percent nationally as of the last Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Still, between 10 million and 12.5 million Americans remain unemployed. Even without a new lockdown, millions of them — men and women who were working last February — never will go back to their old jobs. Thousands of businesses were unable to weather the COVID-19 storm. They have shut down forever.

A new round of draconian limits on businesses would kill even more stores, restaurants, factories and other types of establishments.

Surely we Americans can find ways to hold down the epidemic death toll — already in excess of 230,000 — without adding the economy to the fatality list. Again, bear in mind that we are talking here not just of some vaguely defined entity we call “the economy,” but of millions of our fellow Americans who may find themselves destitute unless their businesses recover. Except in severe, localized outbreaks, a new lockdown simply can’t be considered. We can beat coronavirus without it — if we just recognize the stakes involved.

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