I'll start by saying I'm no doctor. And there's a lot we don't know yet about the vaccines, tests, and life cycle of the virus. But after listening to a million ideas and theories, here is what I believe to be the best plan yet for reopening American society and the economy that we are ruining. There are 4 things that need to happen. And they won't all be popular. But for the next 60 days, here goes:
1. At risk individuals need to shelter in place. Yep, I get it. It's a crappy hand to be dealt but there is no other way to do this. This big objective here is to keep elderly and unhealthy people off ventilators. As a nation, we can be proud of how much we've sacrificed for these folks. If you have health issues, or elderly, you need to hang tough for a while longer. End of life situations, family should be able to visit as long as they quarantine afterwards for a few days. Young people are getting sick from this but they are not dying anywhere near the rate of our elderly. We love you, and you might be mad at me, but we can't keep keep quarantining everyone, and you are the ones who need to be protected. If you feel like you're at risk for any reason whatever your age, you should hang tight too.
2. Everybody else into the pool. We need to let the virus run its course and people need to get it so we build up the mass immunity that we need. Schools open, businesses open, churches open with modifications. (see below) If this thing comes back next winter, then we don't overrun the health care system then because enough people got it this year. Looks like we avoided the ventilator outage in 2020, so hopefully we can do the same in 2021. Yes this will mean some people will get sick. And occasionally you'll have a 40-something that had an underlying health condition that didn't know it, and someone will get sick and die. Just like people do from other things:
From the CDC's 2017 numbers (and I'm not saying I'm just saying that right now doctors say 40,152 people have died from C-19):
- Heart disease: 647,457
- Cancer: 599,108
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
- Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404
- Diabetes: 83,564
- Influenza and pneumonia: 55,672
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,633
- Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,173
3. Elected officials band together in one voice city-state-country and ask Americans to do their part on C-19 etiquette. Everything can open but be smart. Social distancing, hand sanitizer, clean your office, restaurant tables wider apart, church limits number of people in sanctuary, wear a mask in public, etc. Ask people to do it all and hope most will do most. Lot of folks aren't going to even WANT to go to a movie or hop on an airplane yet.
4. We test like banshees. The vibe is that testing kits are coming and soon and in mass quantities. Figure out who has the antibodies and then you know. Do the contact tracing and then you know. If we've learned anything from this it's that people are generally compliant and we respect each other. Plus the social shamers will be out en masse to embarrass people who are doing stupid things anyway. We've seldom had a police force this strong.
If we do these things we can respect public health, support individual rights, put a band-aid on mental health, and let business get back up and running before it's too late for the ones it's already too late for.
Steve Hallstrom is President and Managing Partner at Flag Family Media (radio) and Fieldstone Group (public relations and consulting) in Fargo, ND. He also hosts a morning local radio news program 6-8:30 am on AM1100 WZFG and a 7 pm nightly radio news program. He can be reached at steveflagfamily [dot] com.