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Working people are making sacrifices to keep more affluent people virus-free | READER COMMENTARY

The fast-moving novel coronavirus has case numbers climbing by the hour, with even the best-case death toll projections running into the six figures or beyond. With the pandemic comes a looming financial calamity that could border on total economic collapse as millions of Americans have already filed for unemployment relief. With no end in sight, jobless rates could approach 50 million for a final unemployment rate of 32% — nearly one in three Americans. By comparison, the jobless rate peaked at roughly one in four Americans—about 25%—during the Great Depression.
The fast-moving novel coronavirus has case numbers climbing by the hour, with even the best-case death toll projections running into the six figures or beyond. With the pandemic comes a looming financial calamity that could border on total economic collapse as millions of Americans have already filed for unemployment relief. With no end in sight, jobless rates could approach 50 million for a final unemployment rate of 32% — nearly one in three Americans. By comparison, the jobless rate peaked at roughly one in four Americans—about 25%—during the Great Depression. (Canva)

The current shutdown is dividing the nation between the “haves” and the “have nots.” (“Maryland sees 20 percent increase in coronavirus recoveries as case count rises above 10,700,” April 16). The “haves” in broad terms are the wealthy, people with reliable incomes — salaried people, teachers, professors, people living off dividends, federal and state employees, elected officials, retirees with retirement income, most lawyers, accountants and medical professionals (but not all). The “have nots” are hourly workers, small business owners and employees, office support staff, part-time workers, people paid on commissions, and generally people at the lower end of the income ladder.

The haves are in no hurry for businesses to reopen until it is absolutely “safe,” which could mean several months or more. That would be absolutely devastating for our country, in my opinion, with the greatest impact on the have nots. If grocery stores, pharmacies, liquor stores, farmers markets, Target and Walmart can remain open, then we have agreed to accept a certain amount of risk, independent of so-called “necessity.” Following smart protocols, establishments with similar risks should be allowed to open including stores selling flowers, clothing, shoes, jewelry, books, music, crafts, toys, sporting goods, candy, computers, office supplies, home goods, thrift shops and similar low-risk establishments.

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Restaurants with 50% of the tables and other protocols could open. Customers will decide whether to come back. Arenas, movie theaters and venue spaces should remain closed for now. At this point, I suggest a more nuanced approach to opening now is called for than a virtual complete shutdown for the indefinite future.

David F. Tufaro, Baltimore

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