We know how to solve Coronavirus. Now this government must deliver.
To contain this outbreak and prevent an economic depression, the federal government’s gross incompetence must end — immediately.
It didn’t have to be this way. The White House ignored the warnings and dismissed the threat. But accountability will have to wait for November. Now we must move forward.
The immediate solutions are clear, but they must be implemented with the speed, competence, and focus demanded by a great challenge such as this.
Congress and the Administration should focus on boosting the health response, shoring up Americans’ finances, and speeding up containment and adaptation so Americans can return to work and normal life as soon as possible.
In the meantime, we must intensify short-term efforts to crack down on the spread.
First, every effort must be made to boost hospitals and the health response. The key immediate vulnerabilities are inadequate ICU capacity, a shortage of medical equipment for respiratory critical care, and lack of protective gear for doctors and nurses. The lack of protective equipment is personal for me — my wife Alisha is a doctor here at an Atlanta hospital — but we’re all at risk when medical teams fall sick.
The federal government should spend every dollar it takes and cut through all the red tape to fill these gaps. (This effort should have begun in January.)
Use the Army Corps of Engineers, military logistical and medical units, and the Defense Production Act as necessary to build hospital capacity and properly equip medical teams. Give governors whatever they need. Be transparent about how many additional beds, respiratory critical care units, and isolation wards will be built, where, and by when. Go fast!
Second, shore up Americans’ finances. People are losing jobs. Families are staring over a financial cliff. This isn’t the time for partisan bickering and gridlock. Congress must immediately send generous emergency cash to tide over people and businesses.
The fastest and most generous help should go to those who need it the most. And no secret slush funds or special favors for powerful corporations. We need transparency and accountability. A repeat of the bank bailout would destroy what little public trust in government remains.
Third, speed up containment and adaptation so we can find a “new normal” quickly and get back to work. Study countries that are seeing success. Equip medical experts to track the virus, defending privacy and civil liberties along the way. We have to know where the virus is and isn’t. That means widespread testing and free COVID-19 treatment (so no one is afraid to get tested).
Isolate the virus. Establish clear policies for the self-quarantine of infected Americans until they are healthy. Tighten and enforce regulations to protect seniors from exposure.
Reinforce strong hygiene. Implement widespread temperature checks. Mandate the routine disinfection of public spaces and surfaces.
Finally, intensify short-term efforts to crack down on the spread. Our highest hopes are that these efforts are swiftly effective and the virus is less lethal than suspected. But severe illness is still spreading exponentially, and many hospitals are warning they’ll soon be overwhelmed. Governors and mayors should listen to them and slow down the virus by implementing strong distancing policies now, not later, including shelter-in-place orders where necessary.
This buys time for hospitals to prepare. It buys time to study the virus, developing therapies and vaccines. And it may buy time for the sun to lend a hand, though it’s not yet clear warmer temperatures or UV light will help.
Social distancing at such scale cannot continue indefinitely. That is precisely why we must boost the health response and speed up containment and adaptation — so we can return to our lives without overloading hospitals and causing unnecessary deaths.
We can do these things and defeat the virus together. This won’t last forever. But at minimum, the next few weeks are going to be hard.
It is vital that the federal response becomes more effective and coherent. In 2014, my company investigated the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, where government mistakes cost lives. We can’t afford any more mistakes here.
I truly don’t know if our elected officials in Washington realize how selfish and incompetent they look. The President has been negligent and erratic. Senators were briefed and adjusted their stock portfolios instead of preparing the public. They all have to get real now, and I pray for all our sakes they are successful.
We’re still America. We have huge resources and brilliant people.
Consider what we’ve achieved together when we‘ve brought to bear all that we must: the miraculous industrial mobilization of World War II, the New Deal, the Apollo program.
We’re still Americans. This is what we do. Let’s get to work!