UVA economists say increased COVID-19 testing may save the economy

Car-side testing for the coronavirus (FILE)
Car-side testing for the coronavirus (FILE)(NBC29)
Published: Jul. 3, 2020 at 4:32 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Businesses are continuing to open their doors, hoping for positive economic results, but new research from economists at the University of Virginia suggests increased COVID-19 testing and isolation efforts could save about $10 trillion, as well as hundreds of lives.

“What’s key to getting the economy where it was before the infection started, is public health policy should be whatever we can to contain the virus,” Zach Bethune, an economist and researcher at UVA, said.

Bethune says if businesses continue to open without adequate testing and isolation strategies put in place by government leaders, what is called a “smart containment strategy,” the economy will continue to suffer.

“Just pushing the reopening without any kind of policy in place is a bad idea. In fact, worst case outcome you can have,” Bethune said. “You reopen the economy, the disease continues to spread and people will curb back their activity, and you still get a recession. So it’s not like you can have this great recovery while the disease is spreading. That’s not reality.”

The research suggests that just one individual contracting the virus can cost about $55,000.

While closing down completely may seem like the safest option, Bethune says solving the economic problem is not as black and white as it may seem.

“It’s really this false trade off that we either reopen and risk life, or we keep it closed and save lives. You can have both, but it’s really largely dependent on if you have testing capability,” Bethune said.

Bethune says for coronavirus testing to help the economy recover, it needs to be as extensive as possible, from the federal level down.

“In a lot of localities they’ve really improved testing, but it’s nowhere near where we need to be,” Bethune said.

Although there are still many uncertainties regarding what businesses or the economy will look like in the next few months or even the next few years, the only thing that is certain, is that business operations will not look the way they did before the pandemic.

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