The novel coronavirus pandemic is assailing the United States at an accelerated pace. But so is irresponsible leadership. President Trump wants to “reopen” the America up by Easter to revive the economy and because people don’t want to be locked inside.
Of course no one likes to be restricted in their movements! But a majority of American citizens, businesses and organizations are taking the new reality in stride and looking for ways to adapt and continue on safely until the virus is under control. How can the country’s top leadership even think that they have a right to debate whether to save lives or the economy?!
A lives versus the economy debate is irresponsible and inhuman
The economy can transform through the very vim and vigor and energy that Trump hails as the reason that people can’t stay at home. But there are three other characteristics that Americans have that when pooled by all can work as an emergency “generator” to keep the economy going, even if at a minimum: creativity and resilience.
This is the time to actually practice the saying: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And Americans are tough. And they’re resilient. And they’re creative. But no matter how tough, or resilient or creative we can be as individuals and as a nation, there’s no coming back from physical death.
Relaxing social distancing and the consequent restrictions would be disastrous. They haven’t even had time to start working! Contrary to President Trump’s wishful thinking and lack of empathy, the faster everyone goes back to working in the office and to normal social relations, the worse it’s going to get, and the more people will get sick and die.
Listen to the experts, for God’s sake!
COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition has been formed in response to the pandemic in the United States. This new organization is a private sector response to coordinate collection, aggregation and analysis of COVID-19 data and best practices. MITRE was asked to help coordinate the real-time data analytics effort.
On March 18, 2020, MITRE’s infectious disease analytics team published a report entitled Stopping COVID-19: Short-term actions for long-term impact. The team of MITRE and external experts draws on available data and its clinical and epidemiological expertise to offer recommended Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPI) to disrupt the coronavirus trajectory, which is in full upswing in the United States. Taken together, these actions can help save lives, the American healthcare system and the U.S. economy.
According to the report, coronavirus infections in the United States are doubling faster than other nations. The United States continues to show a very short doubling time with no improvement to date, due to what we believe are spotty and not well-coordinated social distancing actions defeating the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States will require that our citizens reduce their contact rate with other citizens by 90 percent simultaneously across the entire United States.
The main recommendation made in the report: aggressive and multifaceted social distancing NOW. The country’s leadership must incentivize Americans NOT to leave their home for anything other than medically necessary movement or to work.
The rate of increase in domestic cases is now estimated to be in the range of 25 to 40 percent per day near to or eclipsing the alarming rates of case growth occurring in France and Italy, where governments have recently instituted strict social distancing actions to prevent further transmission. Without significant social distancing in the United States, the COVID-19 virus could infect millions within months.
According to the Worldometer, as of March 25, 2020, there are 62,805 diagnosed coronavirus cases and 884 deaths. But the case counts are likely underrepresented due to an inadequate domestic testing infrastructure; further, as testing accelerates, the number of confirmed cases will jump.
Intentionally disregarding a data and evidence-based cure makes for a feloniously villainous problem
The stringent measures required may appear painful, costly, and intrusive, these measures are critically important to suppress, and eventually eliminate, the spread of COVID-19 among Americans. Epidemics die off quickly when observed reproduction rates drop. So when that rate drops well below 1 and until all new cases are under contact tracing, AND NOT BEFORE, can the nation begin to gradually lift implemented NPIs. Once there are no new cases for at least one week, we can begin to lift NPIs. But it will be important to be extremely vigilant and thorough with testing in order not to stop social distancing actions too early, or there could be a resurgence of the epidemic, as has happened in Hong Kong.
The METRICS team anticipates the NPIs will have to remain in place for at least three months if the infection rate is to be slowed to a point of eventual elimination. Doing so will preserve the health and economic security of our nation and minimize morbidity and mortality for our citizens.
Health experts in unison are pointing to overwhelming evidence from around the world that shutdowns and social distancing are crucial to avoid exponential growth in the number of people infected and to avert not just thousands but hundreds of thousands of deaths. It is simply short of criminal to decide that the lives of people, many more people, are worth less than the economic cost of arresting the spread of COVID-19, a cost that can be offset with the American mix of vim, vigor, energy, creativity, and resilience.