Reopening America: How to save lives and livelihoods

Marcela Escobari and Ian Seyal | Brookings

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Reopening America: How to Save Lives and Livelihoods, a new report where Brookings experts offer ideas to help policymakers protect lives and save livelihoods in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The United States has experienced many more job losses than other high-income countries due to a significant freeze in economic activity that has been compounded by a decades-long deterioration in labor market arrangements. Reopening promises the opportunity to reemploy millions, but it will be a high-wire act, phasing in business activity without stoking the virus beyond health systems’ capacity.  

Try as they might, early evidence is showing that local leaders’ pronouncements will not flip a restart switch. As we wait for a vaccine, only a cohesive national strategy to test, trace, and isolate will foster trust and rebuild consumer confidence. Yet, though the pace of reopening may not be a matter of local leaders’ decree, there are policies they can implement to limit job losses and maintain workers’ attachment to their jobs. Doing so will reduce human and economic costs during the reopening. And maintaining links between workers and employers will make for a speedier recovery by reducing the costs of rehiring and retraining. 

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