By Guy Ciarrocchi
Over 100,000 deaths. Over 39 million unemployed. Policy-makers, business leaders and private citizens are now tracking these two COVID-19 related numbers. Heartbreaking.
Congress will continue to look at ways to help. But, they have an equally important duty to undertake a new, vitally important task; looking at how the disease spread and didn’t spread across our 50 states. And, they must review both the virus’ spread and impacts, as well as the varied economic effects of the various gubernatorial executive orders.
For example, today the national unemployment rate is approximately 15%; but, almost 29% of Pennsylvania’s workforce has applied for unemployment.
To be of any value and to gain any trust; it must a bi-partisan, bicameral Committee. The Committee should then present the nation with lessons learned and recommended practices.
As CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry, in Pennsylvania, our story in many ways is America’s story. America’s recovery in the near and mid-term will be shouldered by counties like ours.
Chester County is home to the strongest economy in Pennsylvania, and one of the most vibrant and economically diverse in the nation. Pre-COVID-19, our unemployment rate was about 3%—consistently below the national and well-below Pennsylvania’s average. When the unemployment numbers are in and cross-tabulated, we may still be number one in PA. But, this will be no consolation. Chester County’s unemployment rate is over 10%. More people will have filed for unemployment compensation in April than in the last 15 months combined. Some of our YMCAs are now serving as temporary food banks. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is among the worst in America—with more people filing for unemployment than New York.
We have now witnessed Jefferson’s vision of “50 laboratories.” Each of the 50 states responded differently. Each imposed some sort of business-shut-down and some form of shelter in place order. But the timing, duration and scope varied greatly. What were the correlations between the scope and duration of shelter in place orders across the 50 states relative to the incidents of the virus and the unemployment rates? Was Georgia too lenient? Was PA too restrictive?
Many Southern and Western states had much more lenient closing standards: what does their data tell us? Pennsylvania had among the most aggressive, restrictive standards in the nation—in part leading to the highest unemployment rate in the nation; but, did less people catch the virus or die from its effects?
The CDC’s maps and tables show us that the spread of the disease affected states, counties and age cohorts differently; why? And, what is the correlation among those data-points and Executive Orders? This is not time to place blame; but to learn the facts and to prepare for the future, perhaps as soon as this fall. What do the numbers tell us: How was the disease spread? Who was most at risk? Are the numbers on infections and fatalities different in Georgia versus Pennsylvania?
The goal is not to celebrate or denigrate any Governor. The goal is to learn so that Governors, local officials and citizens can all be prepared for this fall, or for whatever is to come in the future. This cannot be about scoring political points; it must be part of lessons learned. And, we cannot wait “until the virus passes.” Congress must talk to health directors, hospital executives, chamber leaders, county and city officials now.
With over 84,000 deaths, over 36 million unemployed and millions more who have had their pay cut, Congress must study what happened and help us prepare for the next spike or next incident.
Sadly, we cannot bring back those we lost. We cannot recover the economic losses.Congress is duty-bound to listen, learn, ask questions and then share the information and recommendations with governors, mayors, business owners and the public.
Nothing less than our quality of life is at stake—for the next generation.
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