- A team of researchers at the American Enterprise Institute, including former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb, has come up with a four-part plan to reopen America when the coronavirus pandemic starts to abate.
- Once cases in a specific state have declined over a 14-day period, the report’s authors say that the normal functions of society — schools, public areas, and some businesses — can reopen as long as strict social distancing guidelines are being met.
- The authors also call for ramping up immunity testing, as well as developing therapeutics that can help patients who have contracted the disease and provide protection for frontline healthcare workers.
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It’s going to take a long time for the US to recover from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, both physically and economically.
A team of experts— including former Trump Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb — at the Washingtomn D.C. based American Enterprise Institute (AEI), have come up with a plan to reopen the country state-by-state. AEI is a non-partisan think tank closely linked to conservative thought.
The four-part plan advocates for a step-by-step approach in first slowing the spread of the disease (Phase I), gradually reopening stores, schools, public areas, and most businesses (Phase II), closely monitoring, identifying, and potentially curing new outbreaks (Phase III), and then creating and investing in a system to ensure the US’s public health infrastructure is prepared for the next pandemic or public health crisis.
As of Thursday afternoon, over 1 million people globally have been infected with the virus. The US has over 234,000 cases, roughly one-quarter of the world’s total. That number is still rising rapidly, and the federal government has extended its social distancing guidelines to April 30 at least.
A sustained reduction in coronavirus cases over a 14-day period
In order to move from Phase I to Phase II, the AEI researchers outline several milestones. They say that there needs to be a sustained reduction in cases over a 14-day period, hospitals should be able to adequately serve all patients, the state has to have the capacity to test all those reporting symptoms, and it should be able to closely monitor those with confirmed cases as well as their social contacts.
In Phase II, states should be able to carefully lift social distancing measures, allow schools and most businesses to reopen, and continue to control the spread of the coronavirus to avoid reverting back to Phase I. One of the critical signs that a state should revert is if confirmed cases increase over a five-day period, or hospitals are no longer able to care for patients due to a lack of resources.
Once schools are open, the AEI experts say physical distancing restrictions should still be met, including limiting public gatherings to less than 50 people and encouraging people to maintain “hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.” They say high-touch surfaces should be disinfected regularly and public spaces should be cleaned frequently.
People and companies that are able to continue remote work should do so, the researchers say. Vulnerable people and adults over the age of 60 should continue to isolate themselves.
Developing therapeutics for sick patients
On top of that, the AEI researchers say that accelerating the development of treatments that can directly target the virus and help alleviate symptoms is critical, citing a drug developed to combat Ebola. They also want to see therapeutics that can work as a form of prophylaxis tto help temporarily protect healthcare workers or those with preexisting conditions from contracting the virus while a vaccine is being developed.
And the researchers say that beyond developing vaccines or drugs that can reduce the symptoms of the virus, it’s crucial to develop a reliable way to test for those who have recovered from the disease and are immune. This, referred to as serological testing, would likely take the form of an antibody test that can determine whether a person has had coronavirus, even if they showed no symptoms.
Last, states need to develop robust surveillance systems that can trace where coronavirus patients have been and who they’ve come in contact with.
Or, if a vaccine is developed — which most researchers don’t expect to become widespread until sometime next year — states can start moving to Phase III, lifting most, if not all, social distancing restrictions.
For large cities and regions that cross state boundaries, local and state governments should work together to make sure the guidelines are being followed in a coherent way.
In order to make sure the next pandemic isn’t as disastrous as the coronavirus, the report’s authors call for the White House to develop a public-health emergency office and leadership structure that is similar in stature to the Director of National Intelligence.
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