“President Trump said Tuesday during a Fox News Town Hall that he believes shutting down the economy would kill more people than the coronavirus—saying, “This cure is worse than the problem” — contradicting multiple top health officials, such as infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who have repeatedly said it would take several more weeks for people to start going about their lives in a normal fashion.
“Many people — in my opinion, more people — are going to die if we allow this to continue. We have to go back to work,” Trump said. Our people want to go back to work.”
Trump also predicted “suicides by the thousands” if we continue social distancing. “We can social distance ourselves and go to work.”
The whole “cure is worse than the disease” argument ought to be considered in the light of a little-known and counter-intuitive but nevertheless well-documented fact: mortality rates tend to drop during severe economic downturns. A very striking example of this is provided by the USA during the Great Depression: mortality rates dropped by quite a bit between 1929 and 1932 (the official length of the Depression), shot back up during the rapid economic expansion over the next four years, and then dropped again during the sharp recession of 1938, brought on by the demands of Republicans that FDR balance the budget.
This is just one example out of many. There’s a lively literature about why this should be the case, but one thing is clear: the notion that even severe economic downturns kill a lot of people relative to times of economic expansion flies in the face of the available evidence (Not, obviously, that Trump or anyone “close” to him knows or cares about the evidence, regarding this question or anything else).