Two major factors are impacting one of the most important decisions to be made in the 21st century. The decision is about the tradeoff between the public health and the economic impacts of COVID-19. The two major factors are:

  1. Who should make the decisions?
  2. What decision is best?

Today, who is making decisions is unclear. The decisions are being made via a decentralized process. The federal government is making decisions, state governments are making decisions, companies are making decisions and consumers are making decisions. What makes this even more unclear is no one knows who is responsible for making which decisions. Thus, massive confusion. Who decides about wearing masks? Who decides about social distancing? Who decides what stores are open? Until the question of who decides over each jurisdiction, it is not clear we will have good directions to follow.

Even more difficult, however, is what decisions to make? The compromise of eliminating the public health issue vs. avoiding a deep global recession is a very difficult tradeoff. People are adopting a preconceived answer based on their perspective. If people with a public health perspective address this tradeoff, they will argue in favor of not reopening the economy and maintaining the stay-at-home orders and non-essential business closures. If, to the contrary, those with an economic perspective address this tradeoff, they will argue in favor of canceling the stay-at-home orders and non-essential business closures and reopening the economy.

It is clear that who is making the decisions and what decisions are made are of monumental importance. Individuals or groups—with the proper authority and jurisdiction—must make decisions that create the proper balance between the health and economic issues related to this pandemic. The health vs. economy tradeoff is not about one state vs. another, or one country vs. another, but an issue of major global importance to all. In our newest thought leadership piece, “Restarting the Economy: Guidance for Public and Private Leaders,” we address what companies can do now to prepare for when the country is ready to reopen and life goes back to a ‘new normal.’

About the Author
Jim Tompkins
Jim Tompkins