Columns

Blaine's Bulletin: Missouri Gets Back to Work

Washington, June 12, 2020

Immediately following Memorial Day festivities at Lake of the Ozarks, we saw daunting national headlines like “Crowds pack venues in Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, ignoring social distancing” and “Americans defy Covid-19 social distancing rules to celebrate Memorial Day holiday.” After reading these headlines, one would think this weekend of lake-goers visiting their favorite establishments and businesses that responsibly opened up in an effort to stay afloat was going to lead to the end of the world. But here we are, nearly three weeks later and the southern part of the Third District hasn’t seen anything close to the spike in COVID-19 cases the national media was predicting. Instead, Memorial Day weekend can now be seen as an example of people’s willingness to safely get back to work, support their favorite local businesses, and find a sense of normalcy after the last couple of months. 

Many parts of the country have begun reopening, and we’re seeing positive results. Last week, the United States Labor Department released the jobs numbers for May. While unemployment numbers were, unfortunately, expected to rise surpassing those of the Great Depression, they surprised economists and government officials alike by dropping, showing our economy is healing faster than anybody had realized. Our economy gained 2.5 million new jobs in May, the most historic rise in employment since the Department of Labor started keeping track of this data. While that was only a fraction of what was lost due coronavirus shutdown, this is outstanding news for American workers, businesses and families. It also shows how eager we are to get back to work and back out in our community.  

For the last two weeks I’ve talked about the non-COVID related risks facing our country. Studies have shown that unemployment can lead directly to a multitude of health risks. Suicide, mental health issues, domestic violence and substance abuse have all been proven to increase during economic downturns. People have also been forced to forgo heart surgeries and cancer treatments because even hospital services were partially shut down due to the virus. Hospitals across the country are reporting that they have more than enough capacity for COVID patients and others who are in need. It’s time that we let people get back to making a living and allowing those who need medical care to get it.

Next week, Phase 1 coronavirus restrictions are set to expire. Because Missouri is surpassing expectations in its recovery, workers and businesses should receive more flexibility and greater ability to provide for their families. Phase 1 included restricted openings for businesses, more testing and more PPE equipment, and as people have started to cautiously get back to normal life, we are learning to live with the virus. Of course, there are parts of this country that are more susceptible to spreading the virus. They, just like all of us, need to exercise caution and look after our at-risk population, but we cannot allow blanket shutdowns when the health risks associated with unemployment are in many cases, just as life-threatening as the virus. 

While opening the economy is absolutely critical, it will not eliminate the health risk for those who are vulnerable or susceptible to getting coronavirus. Information on how to keep yourself healthy and keep from getting others sick can be found at health.mo.gov and CDC.gov/coronavirus or by calling Missouri’s 24-hour coronavirus hotline at 877-435-8411. As we reopen, we should remain vigilant and conscious of the fact that the threat of the virus still exists and is frightening for some. That said, we can continue to take care of the at-risk population without threatening Missouri’s society as a whole and get back to normal life. It’s time we start doing it.