Dr. Zeke Emanuel, former Obama White House health policy adviser, is warning against opening the economy up too quickly amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I really worry that what we’re doing is having people who really, for obvious and good, well-intentioned reasons want the economy to open up rapidly ... but we need to be realists about what is likely and possible,” Emanuel, now vice provost of global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, told Yahoo Finance on Monday.
Emanuel warns that cities like Detroit and New Orleans, which were late in enacting shelter-in-place measures, haven’t seen their peaks yet. “The number of infections, number of hospitalizations and number of deaths is likely to go up much higher than we’ve anticipated.”
‘Disconnect between the public health community, and the market’
In late March the Trump administration extended social distancing guidelines until April 30. Health experts fear easing restrictions too soon will cause a resurgence in cases.
“It is not gonna be done in 30 days. We are going to have a prolonged period until we get an effective treatment, an effective prophylactic, or a vaccine. That is many months away, and I think this is where there’s a disconnect between the public health community, and the market, and finance people,” said Emanuel.
‘You can’t ease it up with the flip of a light switch’
“One of the things that’s a problem here is that we’re all focused on the day,” warned Emanuel. He believes social distancing is here for “a very long time” and restrictions shouldn’t be lifted all at once.
“You can’t ease it up with the flip of a light switch. It’s not like we’re going to all go out and restaurants and bars are going to re-open.“
Last week New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested rapid tests could eventually be the answer to getting people back to work.
Health experts say a vaccine is ultimately the key to beating the pandemic. “You might get tens of millions of doses a year from now, and for the general public, you might get a lot of doses available for Q3, Q4 of 2021. That’s the timeline, and that’s what people have to get into their heads,” said Dr. Emanuel.
Ines covers the US stock market from the floor of the New York Exchange. Follow her on Twitter at @inesreports.