Getting Back To The Future

It is now April 12th, and many parts of America are still “locked-down” because of the CCP Virus. I put lock-down in quotes because I am not sure about the best way to categorize what is happening in America. Most State Governors have issued “Stay at home” or “shelter in place” orders, but the level of legal consequence varies widely across states and localities. Nevertheless, businesses around the country have been closed, gone out of business, or are barely hanging on through delivery services. Martial Arts schools, concerts, dances, are shutting their doors. Since March, 16 million Americans have filed unemployment claims, but society is looking for the next steps to take. How do we get out of this mess?

When we can move out of our homes and back to work is proving to be an impossible task to predict. Though I am seeing two schools of thought emerging. One side believes governors should immediately lift “Shelter in place” orders and allow people to go back to work. The other approach is to create a system of identifying infected people and separating them from others.

First lets look at the immediately lifting “shelter in place” orders. The logic behind this position is based on the perceived severity of the CCP Virus, and damage to the economy. Since many places outside of New York are not experiencing outbreaks and hospitalizations with similar severity, people are questioning the need the for lock-downs across the country. Proponents of immediately lifting “shelter in place” orders believe they will not experience much local disruption if the virus spreads, and assume they can handle the burden that arises. Additionally and most importantly, people are growing increasingly nervous about the economy. At first glance it may seem callous to worry about the economy when lives are stake, but medicine and economics are interlinked. It’s obvious that hospitals need money to run, and people need money to pay. Drivers delivering medicine and much needed PPE need fuel, food, etc. these supplies require a supply chain of people to work. Therefore a functioning economy is necessary for vital systems to remain functioning. There is also a growing concern about millions of Americans being pushed into poverty, with livelihoods being destroyed which may cause more deaths. The implications of staying locked down are legitimate, but all options must be explored.

Another way to begin re-opening the economy is to identify and create virus-free zones, then separate regions by whether or not they have the virus. In the virus-free zones, called green zones, people could work at full capacity(theoretically). Overtime as people recovered and developed antibodies to the virus, they could go to work, and overtime turn red zones into greener zones(or yellow). Simultaneously, as red, yellow, and green zones are being established, newly infected persons would need to quarantine and allow for contact tracing. People that were identified through contact tracing would need to quarantine as well, to maintain green zones.

I am currently in favor of the second option. I would like to see green zones identified where people can immediately get to work without fear of the virus. Overtime we can expand green zones, track and trace the sick, and decrease the size of red zones. This options seems it would mitigate the disease burden, while allowing economic activity to resume, but there are obstacles to achieving these zones.

One of the biggest obstacles is testing. To determine who has antibodies, we need testing on a massive scale. It appears we do not have infrastructure in place to take care of this scale of testing. We also need testing for the virus on a massive scale. In addition to testing for the virus and antibodies, we need the ability to isolate infected people and trace contacts. While self-isolation is the most viable option in America, we have to figure out how to trace at scale. There are numerous ideas being thrown around, including Google and Apple developing systems to alert people if they have been in contact with someone who is infected. Obviously privacy concerns come into play with technology and contact tracing. However, another problem is how to maintain green and red zones.

People have been floating the idea of providing certificates or “papers” to certify that a person has antibodies to the virus or has been tested. This would allow green zones to prohibit entry to people who do not have antibodies or people who are infected. Practically speaking this seems like an obvious strategy. Though when dealing with a country like America, we must respect civil liberties, so these ideas must not be taken lightly.

Which strategy we choose remains unclear, though peoples impatience and institutional incompetence are pushing Americans towards option one: opening up the economy without a mitigation strategy. If we go down this path, people should prepare for more deaths locally. People should also be prepared to isolate themselves or their families independently of government or social decree. This is a critical time to educate yourself, and push for the future you want.

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