I may have a different perspective on the current situation because of the trajectory of my own career. Additionally, nothing I will say here diminishes my respect for Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx or Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams and the teams they lead. By training and profession their job is to ask a different set of questions than business people and workers. Given the last 24-48 hours, I think these health experts need to be challenged to reframe their thinking in regards to the CCP Virus response to open up the country more rapidly and safely.
Should vs Could
I am a Registered Nurse and worked in the field for seven years. Working as a nurse and as part of a medical team, the question most often was framed in the context of, “What should we do?”. In an environment governed by the credo ‘First Do No Harm’, the goal was to collect as much data as possible to base treatment decisions on. Even in emergencies labs are being drawn, images are being taken and physical assessments are being done. The collective picture drives the response.
This is part of why you see such a heavy reliance on data and modeling in the national health experts. Unfortunately, they are building the plane while flying it. The model they have been relying heavily on was just updated and revised down. Yet the consequences of the decisions they are driving has a terrible personal and economic cost for many Americans.
I also spent a fair number of years working as part of senior management teams in Fortune 500 companies. When confronted with problems and opportunities the question asked was more in the vein of “What could we do?”. This encouraged consideration of a wide range of options based on different perspectives and experience. Business requires a higher risk tolerance and an understanding that mistakes may be made. The goal is to have contingencies, good measurement of results and enough agility to make nimble course correction.
A New Task Force
The President has mentioned forming an Economic Task Force to complement the Coronavirus Task Force. I would prefer to see these two teams work together and focus on what we can do. The only information coming out the current Task Force for many Americans is what we can’t do. It is being framed as what we can do to stop the spread of the virus. But the only recommendations are to severely disrupt our lives and livelihoods when the vast majority of the population would survive and may never even know they contracted the virus.
This is why the questions the Task Force needs to answer must be flipped on their axis. What can we do? For example, there are some workplaces where social distancing is the natural condition. Construction, many types of continuous process manufacturing and even some types of discrete manufacturing fit this bill. Open them up. Let’s get business and operations leaders to consult and figure this out.
Meanwhile let’s get the specialists in to figure out what precautions places like hairdressers, nail salons and restaurants can take to resume at least partial normal operations. Let’s think about retail establishments too. Many grocery chains and pharmacies have put in innovative store maps, one-way aisles, face guards at check out and floor markings to help customers maintain social distance. What other ideas are out there and how fast can they be implemented?
Next, where can this happen? The media has bullied many governors into issuing statewide lockdown orders. Yet when I look at a map of the southeast, the vast majority of counties have between 0 and 50 diagnosed cases. Is this not a situation where we could turn on the surveillance and contact tracing Dr. Birx and Fauci have spoken of?
We have been told that this system is already set up through healthcare providers and local health departments to monitor flu and flu-like illnesses. If it is a resource issue for the current Task Force to fire it up, put a separate team together to get this monitoring running at the county level. Get manageable counties opened up and back to work.
The final question is who can do these things. Obviously we know the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are at the greatest risk. Until such a time that the therapeutics and preventatives we are testing are proven and widely available, they may need to continue to isolate. However, good news on these drugs is coming almost daily and these weapons will likely be available in the short term. Meanwhile any monetary assistance could be directed at these individuals, rather than the population generally.
America is more innovative than we have been allowed to be. Stay at home orders are not going to go much beyond the end of the month with peaceful compliance in areas where most people know absolutely no one that has contracted, become seriously ill or died from the disease. Looking at a nationwide map that is huge swaths of the country.
Let’s Do This
Yet our leaders and policy is being driven by national politcal reporters who live in hard hit counties. They seem to want to impose what is required where they are living to protect public health on everyone. This is both myopic and politically motivated. Your misery decreases the likelihood you will reelect a President they hate. This is obvious if you listen to their questions at the daily briefings. Never mind I would trust Donald Trump to guide the economy back about a thousand times more than I would trust any Democrat. Especially Joe Biden.
So let’s challenge the health experts. Give us the systems you have said are already in place to free up much of the country using surveillance and containment. Tell us how we can open up providing the highest degree of safety while clearly understanding the risks. Finally, tell what you need to endorse the therapeutics available short of a double blind clinical trial. America does not have that kind of time and a fair portion of it doesn’t have that kind of patience.