Parts of the rural Northwest have finally received permission to start to reopen. If it were up to some, this day might never have come.

Stay-at-home orders and other precautions have held COVID-19 infections to less-than half a percent of the American population. Those same measures have put 20% of America out of work.

Washington state says more than 1 million in that state have filed unemployment claims because of the response to the pandemic. In Oregon, that number is 400,000. The Federal Reserve reported this week that 40% of the Americans working in February who were making $40,000 or less have lost their jobs.

A study by economists from the University of Illinois, Harvard Business School, Harvard University and the University of Chicago estimates 100,000 businesses have closed permanently since March.

Despite the economic devastation, many in the chattering class continue to denigrate anyone who suggests any reduction of restrictions.

We have been trying since all of this began to express the frustration of working people dealing with both the dangers of the virus and economic ruin but who feel they are being talked down to by those making the rules. There is a giant gulf between those who can do their work from their kitchen table and those who can’t.

Peggy Noonan hit it on the head last week in a column in the Wall Street Journal in which she writes of the divide between the elite “overclass” and regular working people.

“Since the pandemic began, the overclass has been in charge — scientists, doctors, political figures, consultants — calling the shots for the average people. But personally they have less skin in the game. The National Institutes of Health scientist won’t lose his livelihood over what’s happened. Neither will the midday anchor.”

Regular people understand there’s a pandemic.

“They’ve heard all about it! They realize it will continue, they know they may get sick themselves. But they also figure this way: Hundreds of thousands could die and the American economy taken down, which would mean millions of other casualties, economic ones. Or, hundreds of thousands could die and the American economy is damaged but still stands, in which case there will be fewer economic casualties — fewer bankruptcies and foreclosures, fewer unemployed and ruined.”

A false narrative that we must choose between reopening the economy and protecting ourselves from COVID-19 continues to be proffered by the pundits. It is possible to reasonably do both.

An equally false narrative holds that people aren’t smart enough to appreciate what’s really in their best interest.


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