By Colleen O'Connor
Elizabeth Warren may not be running for President anymore, but “a plan” is still very much in vogue and demand.
Especially given the still virulent nature of the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the world.
Fact. We cannot stay in lockdown forever—especially with the predictions of second and third waves of the virus.
Fact. We cannot “defeat the invisible enemy” by listening to the President, who has called it a “hoax,” promised a miracle, and recommended dangerous treatments.
Simply put, we are not doing enough of anything; hence, slowly failing at everything.
The numbers tell the story. Federal spending is gushing with little accountability. A $4 trillion deficit is forecast. Unemployment has grown to 26 million Americans.
The daily count of infected Americans is approaching 1 million and over 54,000 have died. Those are the highest numbers in the world.
The one clear success is the admirable behavior of 80% of Americans who support shelter-in-place orders and quarantines—to help starve the beast and save lives—while their states and municipalities face insolvency.
But then look at the political nonsense. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s response to the states’ looming insolvency? Declare bankruptcy!
The governor of Georgia’s strategy for fighting the former hoax? Open up tattoo parlors, hair salons, bowling alleys, beaches and shopping malls. The mayor of Las Vegas wants to make her city a Petri dish for experimentation. Open up the Strip and see who gets infected!
The fabric of America is not just being tested, it is being shredded—economically, politically, socially, and even spiritually—in mind-bending fashion.
That reality will not change any time soon, or by doing the same thing—at the same pace—ad infinitum.
As the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu warned, “Every battle is won or lost before it’s ever fought.” The United States has already lost the first coronavirus battle, and is headed toward losing subsequent ones.
Looking backward, standing pat, or assigning blame are no longer viable options. We need direction. We need a plan.
“We do not propose a modest level of testing, tracing, and supported isolation intended merely to supplement collective quarantine as a tool of disease control,” the authors write. “We need to massively scale-up testing, contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine — together with providing the resources to make these possible for all individuals.”
“We need to deliver 5 million tests per day by early June to deliver a safe social reopening. This number will need to increase over time (ideally by late July) to 20 million a day to fully remobilize the economy,” according to the plan.
The authors argue that this approach will save both lives and money, noting that its cost of $50 billion to $300 billion “is dwarfed by the economic cost of continued collective quarantine of $100 billion to $350 billion a month.”
In addition to turbocharging the current prescription, the plan outlines several additional steps for success.
- A “Pandemic Testing Board” that would be tasked with securing and deploying COVID-19 tests and hiring 100,000 workers to carry out contact tracing.
- Peer-to-peer smartphone apps to trace infected citizens, under the supervision of a government board to guarantee privacy.
- Guaranteed “job protections,” “material support” and access to healthcare for those placed in quarantine.
- An expanded U.S. Public Health Service Corps assisted by corps of medical and healthcare reserves at the state level.
- A National Infectious Disease Forecasting Center to modernize disease tracking.
This plan is a start. Opening the country by Aug. 1 is surely preferable to another never-ending war or White House task force briefing.
Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.
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