Social distancing vs. economic recovery is a false choice. According ta recent study, cities that enacted social distancing hard and fast during the 1918 pandemic were quicker to recover economically. “… the earlier, more forcefully and longer cities responded, the better their economic recovery.”

Scott Duke Kominers at Bloomberg:

That’s not to say that the flu pandemic didn’t cause an economic strain: the authors found that the areas hit hardest saw real declines in manufacturing employment and output, as well as a persistent reduction in bank assets — probably because of losses on loans amid bankruptcies. They also found a decline in auto registrations, which they say suggests a decline in demand for consumer durables.

That said, the cities that implemented aggressive social distancing and shutdowns to contain the virus came out looking better. Implementing these policies eight days earlier, or maintaining them for 46 days longer were associated with 4% and 6% higher post-pandemic manufacturing employment, respectively. The gains for output were similar. Likewise, faster and longer-lasting distancing measures were associated with higher post-pandemic banking activity.