Economics at your fingertips  

Effects of Physical Distancing to Control COVID-19 on Public Health, the Economy, and the Environment

Stephen Newbold (), David Finnoff, Linda Thunström, Madison Ashworth and Jason Shogren ()
Additional contact information
David Finnoff: University of Wyoming
Linda Thunström: University of Wyoming
Madison Ashworth: University of Wyoming

Environmental & Resource Economics, 2020, vol. 76, issue 4, No 12, 705-729

Abstract: Abstract Physical distancing measures are important tools to control disease spread, especially in the absence of treatments and vaccines. While distancing measures can safeguard public health, they also can profoundly impact the economy and may have important indirect effects on the environment. The extent to which physical distancing measures should be applied therefore depends on the trade-offs between their health benefits and their economic costs. We develop an epidemiological-economic model to examine the optimal duration and intensity of physical distancing measures aimed to control the spread of COVID-19. In an application to the United States, our model considers the trade-off between the lives saved by physical distancing—both directly from stemming the spread of the virus and indirectly from reductions in air pollution during the period of physical distancing—and the short- and long-run economic costs that ensue from such measures. We examine the effect of air pollution co-benefits on the optimal physical distancing policy and conduct sensitivity analyses to gauge the influence of several key parameters and uncertain model assumptions. Using recent estimates of the association between airborne particulate matter and the virulence of COVID-19, we find that accounting for air pollution co-benefits can significantly increase the intensity and duration of the optimal physical distancing policy. To conclude, we broaden our discussion to consider the possibility of durable changes in peoples’ behavior that could alter local markets, the global economy, and our relationship to nature for years to come.

Keywords: COVID-19; Air pollution; Co-benefits; Physical distancing; Social distancing; Optimal control (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (1) Track citations by RSS feed

Downloads: (external link) Abstract (text/html)
Access to the full text of the articles in this series is restricted.

Related works:
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.

Export reference: BibTeX RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan) HTML/Text

Persistent link:

Ordering information: This journal article can be ordered from
http://www.springer. ... al/journal/10640/PS2

DOI: 10.1007/s10640-020-00440-1

Access Statistics for this article

Environmental & Resource Economics is currently edited by Ian J. Bateman

More articles in Environmental & Resource Economics from Springer, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists Contact information at EDIRC.
Bibliographic data for series maintained by Sonal Shukla () and Springer Nature Abstracting and Indexing ().

Page updated 2021-02-19
Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:76:y:2020:i:4:d:10.1007_s10640-020-00440-1