HOW TO GET AMERICA BACK TO WORK

A Plan to Get America Back to Work

Some experts say it can be done in weeks, not months — and the economy and public health are at stake.

By

Opinion Columnist

OPINION A SUBMITTED ARTICLE

These are days that test every leader — local, state and national. They are each being asked to make huge life and death decisions, while driving through a fog, with imperfect information, and everyone in the back seat shouting at them. My heart goes out to them all. I know they mean well. But as so many of our businesses shut down and millions begin to be laid off, some experts are beginning to ask: “Wait a minute! What the hell are we doing to ourselves? To our economy? To our next generation? Is this cure — even for a short while — worse than the disease?’’

I share these questions. Our leaders are not flying completely blind: They are working off the advice of serious epidemiologists and public health experts. Yet we still need to be careful about “group think,’’ which is a natural but dangerous reaction when responding to a national and global crisis. We’re making decisions that affect the whole country and our entire economy — therefore, small errors in navigation could have huge consequences.

Of course, because this virus is potentially affecting so many Americans at once, we need to provide more hospital beds, treatment equipment for those who will need it and protective gear like N95 masks for the doctors and nurses caring for virus-infected patients. That is urgent! And we need to immediately rectify the colossal failure to supply rapid, widespread testing. That is urgent!

But we also need to be asking ourselves — just as urgently — can we more surgically minimize the threat of this virus to those most vulnerable while we maximize the chances for as many Americans as possible to safely go back to work as soon as possible. One expert I talk to below believes that could happen in as early as a few weeks — if we pause for a moment and think afresh about the coronavirus challenge.

 

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