Wyoming economists say social distancing is “worth it”

CHEYENNE — Shuttered schools, closed businesses and work-from-home mandates are the new normal in Cheyenne as people try to limit social interaction to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has already killed more than 2,000 Americans. Extended closures of public spaces are creating sudden and large-scale job and revenue losses. But local economists say social distancing is necessary to avoid prolonged financial hardship.

“Given that this is a pandemic, you’re going to have loud voices on both sides,” said Linda Thunstrom, an economist at the University of Wyoming who co-authored a new report that weighed the costs and benefits of shutting down the economy to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s fair to say that social distancing is worth it,” Thunstrom said of the findings.

Keeping public spaces open during the pandemic would exponentially increase the number of cases, and, in turn, medical costs.

An overwhelmed health care system, Thunstrom said, is “what we’re trying to avoid.”

But COVID-19-related precautions have suddenly left droves of Cheyenne and Wyoming residents without work, unsure how they’ll pay their bills next month.

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