We are six weeks into our “stay home and stay safe” routines. Many of us have adapted with a compassionate understanding of the many complexities of our coronavirus situation. State legislators, along with the governor, continue to monitor this situation daily. We continually contact many affected organizations…hospitals, nursing homes, Departments of Labor, Banking and others.
Here’s what we know and what we are discussing at the state level regarding the health and economic impact of this virus.
Our local hospitals planned well and have handled patient hospitalization needs. “Stay home and stay safe” has slowed the spread of the virus, and kept our hospitals from being overwhelmed. More and better information and testing for the virus is becoming available. For those infected with the virus, we know the vast majority have mild to moderate cases and are able to fully recover at home.
Data that helps determine who is most vulnerable to die from coronavirus is critical. We’re learning the most vulnerable are those aged eighty and over, those with obesity/diabetes, and those living in nursing homes. Fifty-six percent of all coronavirus deaths occur in nursing homes. For those under fifty who get sick, they likely won’t die. Relevant data is essential as we consider reopening our state economy.
With knowledge of who is most vulnerable, we can forge a common-sense plan to get people back to work. In the words of a constituent, “The state should gather and publish all causes of hospitalization and death, along with those associated with coronavirus, so that we can see a risk comparison. We live with risks on a daily basis. We’ve done so before Covid-19, and we will need to do so after this current out-break.”
I’m hearing from many people that it is time to open up our state’s economy. Just since March 13, 392,000 workers filed for unemployment claims, the equivalent of two years of claims. In 2008, job losses were felt most among upper income workers. Today, most unemployed are minimum wage workers who have little savings and yet greater emotional stress.
With a job, people have a purpose and a confidence that they can take care of themselves and their families. And, with an extended shut down, many small business owners may be forced out of business permanently, despite the Federal Paycheck Protection Program. We cannot dismiss the emotional and mental health impact of sequestering everyone without a reasonable and definitive date on when to go back to work. It’s essential we find a rational balance between health and economy.
In response to these concerns, Governor Lamont formed the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Board. This highly qualified group will consider both economic and public health policies as they create recommendations to reopen our state’s economy. The reopening, for example, may be made in stages and by industry. As I hear from you and from others, I will provide more detail over the coming weeks.
Loss of tax revenue from the shutdown is estimated at $500M to $1.5B for FY ’20. This loss of revenue requires significant spending cuts, coupled with the Rainy Day Fund. To balance our budget, we simply cannot follow the path of more tax increases in a state that is already so deeply in debt. The longer we stay in lockdown, the bigger the fiscal hole.
Yet, we find ourselves with a rare opportunity — to finally set our state on a path of sustained fiscal prudence — that most of us practice at home and in our small businesses. Out of this crisis, we will discover new thinking regarding how we will work together to meet the great challenges facing us all.
Our community has great “can-do spirit”. We offer help to one another and, when able, volunteer with time, talent or treasure. Together, we must remain vigilant, focus on getting the facts and keep a pragmatic perspective…because working together works.
I close with words from an email I received, “Soap and hope —Stay positive and keep a sense of humor —we all have the power to do this.” Together we can and we will!
Please let me know your thoughts and perspective atand FB @Terrie Wood
This op-ed originally appeared in The Darien Times on April 28, 2020.