The Other Epidemic

A week and a half ago, President Trump was starting to think about reopening the economy. “You have tremendous responsibility. We have jobs,” he told the handful of White House reporters spread across the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. “People get tremendous anxiety and depression, and you have suicides over things like this when you have terrible economies. You have death. Probably and—I mean, definitely would be in far greater numbers than the numbers that we’re talking about with regard to the virus.”

Only, the numbers with regard to the virus got worse. At the time of publication, 6,058 Americans have succumbed to COVID-19, and the administration’s own models now peg 100,000 deaths as the pandemic’s best case scenario. In 2018, 48,344 Americans died by suicide, per the CDC.

So the president changed course, accepting his public health advisers’ recommendations and extending current guidance—working from home whenever possible, avoiding discretionary travel, limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people—through at least the end of April. More than 300 million Americans—92 percent of the country—are currently, or about to be, under a shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order. “We had no choice. We did the right thing,” Trump said on Wednesday. “But you will have … domestic violence, you have violence, you’ll have suicide, you’ll have drug addiction. A lot of people are going to be lost.”

And Trump—who lost his own brother to alcoholism in 1982—may have a point. 

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