A Focused Strategy to Counter COVID-19
Defeating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States requires the development and execution of three strategies by federal and local governments, health care providers, corporations and individual citizens. First, and of paramount importance, is a strategy focused on the immediate needs of protecting the population, slowing the spread of the disease and producing an effective vaccine. Secondly, we need a short-term focused strategy that reenergizes the global economy by allowing the world’s population to leave their homes and go back to work. And thirdly, we must develop a long-term strategy focused on ensuring we develop mechanisms to prevent a repeat of this event which has occurred numerous times over the last century.
As of March 22, 2020, the World Health Organization has reported 325,000 cases of the coronavirus, with 14,380 known fatalities. In a recent announcement by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, there are over 15,000 cases in New York with 13 percent of those testing positive being hospitalized. 114 cases have already resulted in death.[i] Because of the slow deployment of test kits a very low percentage of the world population has been tested. As more of the world population undergoes testing, the number of positive cases is expected to rise dramatically. But the mortality rate will likely drop to below five-percent, due to otherwise healthy asymptomatic individuals testing positive.
The immediate strategy should focus on necessary, instantaneous responses to health and security threats. Within this strategy, a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) is necessary to ensure governments and organizations remain functional. A succession plan, a critical COOP component, should include quarantining a section of government and industry to ensure organizations can continue to operate if some members fall ill or die. The president and vice president, for instance, should not be in the same room. Similarly, the Congress and Senate should find ways to vote and meet remotely to prevent spreading the virus. In a worst case scenario, a large percentage of the legislative or judicial branch could be lost. Similar efforts should be taken with the executive branch, military and health care providers. As an example of proper execution of this technique, at least one hospital in Madison Wisconsin has separated its staff and doctors in separate twelve-day shifts to ensure at least one team is always available.
The immediate strategy should ultimately focus on the production and distribution of a vaccine. While searching for a vaccine, all citizens should receive a serologic test to determine if they hold the antibodies which may allow them to be exposed to COVID-19 without the possibility of further negative health risks.[ii] Additionally, all citizens should be tested to determine what percentage of the population is infected and determine the real mortality rate.
Continued efforts must be undertaken to identify the real requirements for personal protective equipment. The amount of equipment required should take into account health care workers, first responders and all those who are working or can go back to work. This is an opportune time to repair the infrastructure of major cities. While fewer numbers of people are commuting to major population centers, this is a chance to repair roads, subways, trains and airports with minimal travel impact. It will allow for some workers and businesses to re-establish a degree of normalcy and provide much-needed repairs to the cities.
The second strategy should be the short-term strategic response as we gain control over this virus and get America back to work. Corporate America can get the labor force back to work quickly while simultaneously saving lives if the government continues to eliminate legal, procedural and policy barricades to American companies and entrepreneurs. The government cannot resolve this issue alone, but can potentially prevent corporate America from succeeding if obstacles are not removed and interoperability with other nations is excessively restricted. Many Americans can return to work almost immediately with smart new technologies. Infusions of cash into the economy by the U.S. government and reducing interest rates in themselves will not fix the economy. We need to get America back to work as quickly as possible and get the economic engine running again. As an example, low or no interest credit cards may infuse money into the economy without massive bills to taxpayers.
The third strategy should be a long-term effort to ensure we appropriately respond to, and prepare for, pandemics. We have seen too many outbreaks since the black plague of 100-years ago and yet, we continue to respond poorly.
The United States government needs to be prepared for another black swan.[iii] The nation is already dealing with both the coronavirus and the recent negative impact on the oil market. Another disruption to American livelihood is possible and could significantly compound the nation’s ability to cope. Black swans such as a major cyber-attack, a biological weapon event, a major terrorist attack or internal strife in major cities are all possibilities.
While COVID-19 is a devastating global event with catastrophic consequences, it also presents Americans a rare opportunity to reflect on our priorities, how we can improve outdated systems and rebuild the country in the way America deserves. This is a rare chance to rebuild the economy and our infrastructure, to include how and where we do business and educate our citizens in the future.
We must take advantage of this opportunity to bring the world together while not repeating mistakes of past pandemics.
[i] Governor Cuomo addresses New York on coronavirus on March 22, 2020.
[ii] The possibility of antibodies working to counter future infection or negative health affects is still being researched.
[iii] A black swan is an event that comes as a surprise and has a major effect on humanity.