After several months of closed businesses and schools, governors across the nation are beginning the balancing act of keeping their population safe and the economy from crumbling. The warm weather provides an even greater challenge as many Americans, weary of being sheltered at home for months, defy orders to social distance.

But, what happens if we open the economy now, before a vaccine has been developed?  New interdisciplinary research from Washington University gives us a window into the probable impacts on the economy and health for three likely quarantine scenarios.

Option 1: Most of the population remains under strict quarantine for 76 weeks.

This option would likely lead to around 208,000 deaths and a 34% decrease in economic productivity.

Option 2: Non-seniors are quickly released from quarantine after the virus is fairly well-contained (40 weeks).

This option would likely lead to around 790,000 deaths and a 28.2% decrease in economic productivity.

Option 3: Non-seniors are slowly released from quarantine after the disease is fairly well contained. They can leave quarantine at a rate of .1% of the population per day.

This option would likely lead to around 220,000 death and a 29.4% decrease in economic productivity.

Although the options are different, they all have the same three constants:

  • 85% of non-seniors are quarantined

  • No restrictions are loosened for the first 40 weeks

  • A vaccine is available in 76 weeks

  • The majority of seniors remain quarantined until the vaccine is available.

Unfortunately, they all share one same outcome:

None of these options bring economic and health outcomes back to pre-pandemic stages before a vaccine becomes available.

Nevertheless, with an increasing push to re-open the economy, it is likely that most states will give in to the pressure and continue to move forward.