Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The U.S. is about to embark upon the most momentous social experiment in living memory: What happens when you take laissez-faire economic principles and apply them to public health?

Why it matters: When millions of people make their own individual risk/reward calculations, the result is superior to top-down decision-making by the government. That's the central tenet of capitalism — but you'd be hard-pressed to find any epidemiologists making the same argument.

By the numbers: America continues to see tens of thousands of new coronavirus cases every day. Very few of them result in a comprehensive contact-tracing review. Given the amount of virus in the population, there's a non-negligible probability that any of us could be unknowingly infectious today.

  • Americans react to this uncertainty in line with their own idiosyncratic risk appetite. Younger folks, in particular, tend to be happier making riskier decisions, as do people like undercover police officers.
  • As businesses reopen, decisions about things like whether to step into a crowded elevator will be made on a bottom-up rather than a top-down basis. Some people will be willing; others won't. (Both sides will view the other group as outliers.)

Between the lines: Governors can't simply decree that business is back to usual. So long as a significant proportion of society is unwilling to resume economic activity, employment and GDP will remain depressed.

The bottom line: Countries with more forceful and effective government responses have been able to bring the rate of infection down to a level at which most citizens can reasonably feel safe from the disease. That's not going to happen in the U.S. — and it's not going to happen in places like Brazil, India, or Mexico, either.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

Cash can't fix the economy's problems until the coronavirus is curbed

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There's plenty of money. It's just not moving to where it's needed.

Driving the news: Thursday's jobs report showed 4.8 million jobs created in June, but those were overwhelmingly people beginning to return to places where they had been temporarily laid off. The number of "permanent job losers" went up, not down, rising 25% in just one month to 2.8 million from 2.2 million.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 10,742,416 — Total deaths: 517,162 — Total recoveries — 5,515,076Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 2,699,658 — Total deaths: 128,184 — Total recoveries: 729,994 — Total tested: 32,827,359Map.
  3. States: Florida reports more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases — 5 states saw 27% spike in heart-related deaths in first 3 months of coronavirus pandemic.
  4. Federal government: Coronavirus testing czar: "We are not flattening the curve right now"
  5. Sports: 9 more NBA players test positive for coronavirus.

Coronavirus testing czar: "We are not flattening the curve right now"

Adm. Brett Giroir, the Health and Human Services official overseeing the nation's coronavirus testing efforts, told Congress Thursday that the U.S. is "not flattening the curve right now," and that the nationwide surge in new cases is not simply a result of more testing.

Why it matters: President Trump said at a press conference just hours earlier that the U.S. is getting the coronavirus "under control." He and other top members of his administration have sought to downplay the growing surge in infections as largely a product of increased testing.