Attempting to Peer Into the Future

This article from MIT Technology Review popped up in my feed today:

This is what it will take to get us back outside
How to safely easing social distancing while we wait for a covid-19 drug or vaccine.

“Getting to normal, therefore, is not so much about getting back the old normality as it is about getting back the ability to know what is going to happen tomorrow.”

It’s an okay overview, and it deals specifically with a near future where there is no treatment available (assuming a treatment might be available as early as August 2020 or as late as 2021).

What surprised me most is that the AEI report it links to seems reasonable. I’m not sure if I’ve ever agreed with an AEI policy proposal. If the Republican leadership <snarky comments removed>, they may suggest something along the following:

Stay-at-Home Advisories

The trigger for issuing a stay-at-home advisory in a US state is when case counts are doubling every three to five days (based on the current New York experience) or when state and local officials recommend it based on the local context (for example, growth on track to overwhelm the health system’s capacity).

The trigger for issuing a recommendation to step down from a stay-at-home-advisory back to “slow the spread” is when the number of new cases reported in a state has declined steadily for 14 days (i.e., one incubation period) and the jurisdiction is able to test everyone seeking care for COVID-19 symptoms.

I like this because it gives pretty clear triggers for how to manage life over the next few months. It divides the future into three phases. Phase one is where we are now. Phase two is when we start to open things up again, and phase three is when we have a reliable treatment in place.

The AEI report recommends that when we see a steady decline in new cases for two weeks, we can move to phase two.

Phase two still includes “teleworking (as much as possible), maintaining hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, wearing a mask in public, regularly disinfecting high-touch surfaces, and initially limiting social gatherings to fewer than 50 people.”

States should return to phase one “if a substantial number of cases cannot be traced back to known cases, if there is a sustained rise in new cases for five days, or if hospitals in the state are no longer able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization.”

Phase three begins with a vaccine or other effective and widely available treatment.

The AEI report was co-written by Trump’s former FDA commissioner Scott Gottleib. Don’t agree with him on many issues, but he did a few things while running the FDA I thought were reasonable. He had an op-ed in the WSJ on Feb. 4 saying that a pandemic in the US seemed inevitable and the administration needed to act immediately. Politico ran a piece on him a month ago if you want to know more.

Never thought I’d point favorably to a policy proposal from the AEI, but this one is worth checking out.

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