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Another lock down would devastate fragile economy

With COVID-19 slashing through populations throughout the world, some nations are preparing for lock downs 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 economy plunging into a depression.

In France, where the epidemic death toll topped 36,000, another lock down — 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 and our own region, that devastated the economy. Many businesses simply closed their doors. Curbs remain in effect on restaurants, bars and similar establishments.

The unemployment rate here skyrocketed to 14.7 percent in April. 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. In Pennsylvania, it had fallen to 8.1 percent in September from 10.3 percent in August.

Nonetheless, that left between 10 million and 12.5 million Americans unemployed.

Even without a new lock down, millions of them — men and women who were working last February — will never 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.

We have become very familiar with some of the tools — hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing — and simply must remember to use them with vigilance.

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 lock down simply can’t be considered. We can beat COVID without it — if we just recognize the stakes involved.

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