TIME

The risk of reopening

THIS BRUTAL SPRING, THE U.S. FACES TWO GREAT CRISES. OVER THE PAST 14 WEEKS, 84,000 AMERICANS HAVE DIED OF COVID-19.

That’s 28 times the death toll of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, more than the U.S. combat deaths in the Vietnam War, and one-quarter of the total global casualties from the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, the national lockdown designed to halt the spread of the disease has pushed 33 million Americans out of work, forced hundreds of thousands of small-business owners to board up their shops and left 1 in 5 children uncertain where they’ll find their next meal. It’s the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and with some economists forecasting unemployment to soar past 20%, a second one is a real concern.

As the death toll has rung out against a crescendo of economic despair, Americans have had no time to mourn. Instead, we have been pulled into an increasingly heated debate that pits those twin tragedies against each other. In exchange for our jobs, our livelihoods, the ability to pay our rent, how much death are we willing to bear? How many tens of thousands of lives are we willing to

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