A Critique of the ‘Open America’ Movement During the Coronavirus Pandemic


Taylor Chapman

Jing-Mae Wang ’20 has found it to be an adjustment in adapting her schedule under the new quarantine restrictions in place to combat the Coronavirus pandemic.

The quarantine lifestyle forced on us by COVID-19 is not one that is easy to adapt to.  It has caused a massive shift in our regular schedules, and that massive shift will take some getting used to.  Jing-Mae Wang ’20 noted, “Without needing to physically go to class every day, it’s been harder for me to motivate myself to keep up with daily routines, like waking up first thing in the morning and eating three balanced meals a day.” As hard as it may be for all of us, this brief period of isolation is necessary in order to limit the negative impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic.  In spite of this, many have been claiming that the economic impact of this quarantine is worse than the increase in deaths that would be caused without it. The phrase “we can’t let the cure become worse than the problem” has been used by President Trump numerous times. He is correct in the sense that the cure is not currently worse than the problem, but incorrect in assuming that it ever would be.

Of course, this is not to say that the quarantine has had no negative impacts.  We are living through one right now.  These issues though, are for a greater good.  This is ignored in the ‘Open America’ movements that are sweeping the nation. The ‘Open America’ movement seeks to paint itself as a series of large-scale, grassroots protests to re-open businesses, claiming a number of reasons to do so, ranging from quarantine infringing on the rights of people to several conspiracy theories.  The chief reasoning used in these movements was that we must reopen businesses for the purpose of saving the economy.  Concern for the economy is reasonable, as the earliest days of the Coronavirus had stocks dropping in value quicker than they did in the 2008 housing crisis, the worst decrease since 1987’s Black Monday.  While the stock market itself has not continued in such a way to cause an economic depression, this possibility posed enough of a threat for the Federal government to inject $1.5 trillion into Wall Street. Even that sum of money had a limited effect, as stocks only briefly stabilized before they continued to plummet.  Although as of publication, the stock market has regained much of its value since the drop in February 2020.  

While this is no doubt troubling, lifting the quarantine orders would be even worse; the decision effectively places the economy over human life, but in actuality, it would harm the economy more than quarantine is currently doing.  Though lifting the quarantine would alleviate the impact of Coronavirus on the economy, the cost of human life should be enough to make one reconsider that position.  If it is not, even within the framework of doing this to “save the economy,” lifting the quarantine falls short: economists remain in support of the quarantine, saying that lifting the quarantine too early would be worse for the economy in the long term.

While economic impacts may be the chief reasoning behind ‘Open America,’ it is not this movement’s only detraction from quarantine. Another prevalent one is that the quarantine is “unjust.” The main aspects of quarantine that are viewed as unjust are the closing of stores and businesses across the country.  

However, stores and businesses that are closed across the nation do not make the case that Federal intervention has gone too far (for the most part, Illinois and other states can threaten the business license of open stores if they defy quarantine orders and remain open).  The quarantine orders throughout the country have largely been self-enforced by the business owners of stores and chains themselves.  Even if quarantine is lifted prematurely, there is no solid reason to believe that stores would open merely because the Federal government has been pressured enough to open up.

Obviously, people should have the right to advocate for what they believe in, and while these ‘Open America’ rallies have been just that, the root cause for them is poorly reasoned.  Rallying to open up America, if it is what you truly believe in, is just an expression of free speech.  You should realize, though, that in doing so, you are worsening the current situation, extending the need for a quarantine, all for beliefs that are not justified or correct in any manner.  If you are petitioning and rallying to open up for the purposes of “saving the economy” while economists agree with quarantine, or for “freedom” when you are just charging at smoke and mirrors, you are certainly allowed to.  However, these ‘Open America’ rallies are worsening that which they try to alleviate, and are, if anything, detrimental to efforts to resolve the issue causing our quarantine.

The quarantine orders throughout the country have largely been self-enforced by the business owners of stores and chains themselves.