The coronavirus pandemic is a major human tragedy which will kill many thousands around the world and cause huge economic disruption. Big mistakes were made in China, the U.S. and other countries which delayed the world-wide response.
Nevertheless, the U.S. has now adopted an effective social distancing strategy which is slowing down the spread of the virus in most parts of the country except for a number of unfortunate hot spots such as New York City.
A sensible plan of action for national recovery has been proposed by Scott Gottlieb and colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute. They have a four part plan:
- Slow the Spread in Phase I. This is the social distancing phase we are already in. Now the emphasis should be on increasing testing capacity to accommodate the ability to test everyone with symptoms and their close contacts. Also issuing stay-at-home advisories in hot spots where transmission is particularly intense, as when case counts are doubling every three to five days.
- State-by-State Reopening in Phase II. This begins when there is a sustained reduction in new cases for at least 14 days, hospitals are able to treat all patients without resorting to crisis standards of care and the state is able to conduct active monitoring of confirmed cases and their contacts. When these conditions are met, the vast majority of businesses and schools can reopen.
- Establish Immune Protection and Lift Social Distancing in Phase III. This means that infections can be prevented either with a vaccine or therapeutics which can mitigate the risk of spread or reduce serious outcomes in those with infections. When these conditions are met, then all social distancing measures can be lifted.
- Prepare for the Next Pandemic in Phase IV. This can be achieved by expansion of public-health and health care infrastructure and workforce as well as government structures to execute strong preparedness plans.
Conclusion. The coronavirus pandemic has caught the world off guard and done much damage. But there are sensible means, as suggested above, for responding forcefully but in a measured way. We want to be very sure that neither the U.S. nor any other country need go through such a traumatic pandemic again in the future.