What would be the human and economic costs of opening back up the economy? The Penn Wharton Budget Model released some projections in a recent analysis.

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In response to the coronavirus pandemic, almost every U.S. state has imposed lockdown orders. Various states closed down nonessential businesses, placed restrictions on restaurants and bars, and issued stay at home orders.

But as some states begin to relax their lockdown orders, policymakers need to consider both how reopening affects the economy and how it affects public health. To date, there’s been very little interdisciplinary work quantifying this tradeoff between economic and epidemiological outcomes.

We at the Penn Wharton Budget Model are rolling out a new analysis to inform policymakers of these tradeoffs. Our integrated model captures both sides of the economic-public health equation for each state, as well as the nation as a whole. Using cell phone location data, web searches, and more traditional economic and financial data, our model also captures both state policies and the public’s voluntary social distancing efforts. Here are 5 key takeaways our analysis.

Key Takeaways

1. If states do not reopen, we project 117,000 total deaths from coronavirus by June 30, along with 18.6 million jobs lost between May 1 and June 30, and GDP on June 30 11.6 percent lower than a year prior.

Note that these are cumulative deaths, including those that occurred before today.)

2. Partial reopening would cause an additional 45,000 deaths by June 30, save about 4.4 million jobs between May 1 and June 30, and raise GDP on June 30 by 1 percentage point.

Under a partial reopening, we assume that states end their stay-at-home orders, emergency declarations, and school closures.

3.Full reopening would cause an additional 233,000 deaths by June 30, save almost all jobs that would be lost between May 1 and June 30, and raise GDP on June 30 by 1.5 percentage points.

Under a full reopening, we assume that states end all of the orders listed above and also lift restrictions on non-essential businesses and restaurants.

4. In addition to state policy, individual voluntary social distancing is also very important.

If people see reopening as a “return to normal” and start to relax their personal social distancing practices, coronavirus cases and deaths will increase even more than in the above scenarios.

5. Different states face different tradeoffs.

In some states, like Louisiana, the virus’s death curve is already flattening and so reopening would have relatively less effect than in a state like Delaware, where the number of deaths is accelerating. Fully reopening Louisiana would increase total deaths in the state by about 78 percent by June 30, while fully reopening Delaware would increase deaths by about 370 percent.

This analysis was presented in a webinar on Tuesday, May 5—video for this event is embedded above. The analysis is also available as an interactive simulator on the PWBM website, which will be updated regularly as new data come in.

— Kody Carmody for the Penn Wharton Budget Model

Posted: May 6, 2020

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