FILE – In this Nov. 11, 2003 file photo, a sculpture entitled “Mourning Parents” by German artist Kaethe Kollwitz looks over a German World War I cemetery in Vladslo, Belgium. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I on French soil, and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be in London’s Westminster Abbey for a ceremony with the queen. But in Germany, there are no national commemorations planned for the centenary of the Nov. 11 armistice that brought an end to the bloody conflict that killed more than 2 million of its troops and left 4 million wounded. That’s because the armistice did not bring peace to Germany. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)
President Trump was attacked by many on the left, and some on the right, after he said he would like the U.S. to be open for business by Easter. The President has qualified that statement and says he would prefer a more targeted approach, meaning that the areas of the country which were the least affected by the coronavirus will open first and as conditions permit, other areas will follow.
The Federalist’s Tristan Justice reported the rather stunning news that nine residents in Knox County, TN took their own lives within a 48-hour period last week.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, so far, there have been six coronavirus deaths in the entire state. (Rather than issuing a statewide shelter-in-place order, the Tennessee governor has shut down the counties which have been the hardest hit, Knox County being among them.)
Knoxville, Tennessee Mayor Glenn Jacobs said, “That number is completely shocking and makes me wonder if what we are doing now is really the best approach. We have to determine how we can respond to COVID-19 in a way that keeps our economy intact, keeps people employed and empowers them with a feeling of hope and optimism – not desperation and despair.”
While it is unclear at this point whether the recent suicides were directly linked to the spread of the virus, their timing alone is strongly indicative, if not proof that they were. According to local Knoxville news station WBIR, the county’s suicides over the span of two days this week equates to about 10 percent of last year’s total where 83 lives were lost to suicide.
Other states have also reported an increase in suicide-related incidents as the virus continues to take its toll on the nation’s mental health. Crisis hotlines nationwide are surging with calls from Massachusetts to Oregon, both of which are states with “shelter-in-place” orders implemented, keeping people out of work and isolated at home.
In Portland, Police Chief Jami Resch said Tuesday suicide threats or attempts are up 41 percent from this time last year and have jumped 23 percent since 10 days before a declared state of emergency, according to local Oregon news outlet KATU.
During a White House Task Force briefing this week, a reporter asked President Trump, “How many deaths are acceptable to you?” Trump fired back, “Zero.”
However, as much as we want to say zero deaths are acceptable, the reality is that the collapse of the economy will cost lives as well. And perhaps for a long period of time to come as people try and fail to reboot their once-thriving businesses. Or for those who once held meaningful jobs which were lost forever due to the shutdown and then find themselves unemployed or underemployed afterward. Some businesses won’t reopen at all, especially newer businesses or those which had already been struggling prior to the shutdown.
Certainly, they won’t all take their lives. Some will. But others will simply live out their lives in quiet desperation, dissatisfied and frustrated. And their sadness will affect everyone around them.
My point is that we must consider the economy, as callous as that may sound.
Those who are elderly or have underlying health conditions should absolutely remain isolated until the pandemic ends. The rest of us should take whatever precautions we can, but we must be allowed to live our lives and run our businesses.