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The effects of being on lockdown for a longtime could lead to more deaths.

The global pandemic is one of the greatest public health emergencies in modern history. Indeed, COVID-19 has tragically claimed the lives of close to 90,000 Americans as of May 18, according to The New York Times, and has further infected over one million Americans. There’s no room to doubt that quarantining the ill and taking proactive measures like hand washing and mask-wearing is a smart idea for most, if not all, to follow. 

Despite the importance of health measures like mask-wearing, measures in place across the country that have forced most Americans to be locked into their homes without work, income and human contact have started to create a strong sense of despair among the most vulnerable in society. With our human need for social activities and human contact these measures — no matter how well intended they are — will ultimately lead to more government mistrust and class divide if state governments continue to extend the COVID-19 prevention measures. 

It’s been heartwarming to see millions of Americans sacrifice their lifestyles to protect the health of those around them. While this has been imperative to help lessen the spread of the virus, the time has now come for the nation to reopen its levers of society and economy. The spread and fatality of the coronavirus have been devastating to the world, but in the long-run, I’m afraid the economic and emotional toll will cause more devastation than what COVID-19 will cause to society. Already, many mental health experts are predicting the current lockdown will lead to over 75,000 deaths of despair, including suicides and drug abuse, according to CBS News. This is on top of the devastating impact of the opioid and suicide crisis the U.S. has been facing for many years, costing tens of thousands of lives each year. 

While we must factor in what our health experts recommend to prevent COVID-19 spread, we must also look at the emotional toll that isolation and economic hardship will take on our nation. Many argue that factoring in economic costs is completely void of human toll, but the economic factors are just as important to the well-being of our citizens — and, as studies already indicate — is going to cost the lives of thousands. 

Texas and Georgia are already providing the case study of how other states should continue to reopen their economies to prevent harming more citizens' well-being with longer-term consequences to mental health. The politicization has become a roadblock to taking the holistic health and wellbeing approach — which includes financial and spiritual — when taking lockdown measures, and that’s dangerous for our well-being. We must hold our leaders accountable for taking partisan actions that make a political or diversionary statement instead of making difficult decisions about reopening. 

Since the global economy effectively closed with the outbreak of the pandemic in March, the new infection curve has flattened in the U.S. since the beginning of May. This spring is now the best time to allow those who are healthy to get back to work and enjoy the beauty our country has to offer. Many will argue that this is simply too unsafe, but I would argue that we must not allow the current pandemic — which will carry short term health consequences — to destroy our economy and let more people suffer than need be. 

Andrey Chun is a senior International Affairs and Economics double major. Contact Andrey at chunsaax@dukes.jmu.edu