Editorial - Room with a View

Room with a view: How will we know it’s safe to leave home to rebuild?

In the midst of hunkering down, waving at neighbors from a safe distance, Skyping family and friends, learning how to use Zoom… how will we (and those behind microphones, standing at a podium in front of cameras) know that it’s safe to leave home and buckle down to rebuilding?

COVID-19 cases by age as of March 27, 2020. Pie chart courtesy of Orange County Health Care Agency.

Heaven knows that rebuilding will be a gargantuan task. An economic recession is all but guaranteed. The question is: how bad? We won’t know for sure till we slog through and come out the other side, but forecasts call for a drop of up to 14% in GDP in the second quarter of 2020, with unemployment soaring to 9%.

Scary. We’re up for rebuilding but leaving our cocoons too quickly could redouble the catastrophe.

Scott Gottlieb at the American Enterprise Institute has preliminary thoughts on the challenge, based on what we know now. New information could change the analysis and recommendations, but that’s SOP: General Eisenhower said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is indispensable.” A standard caution in wartime is that operational plans never survive a collision with reality. That’s the entire reason that OODA loops work — the process expects change and requires adaptation.

Let me emphasize that all of us will need to apply everything we’ve got to rebuilding. Once the all-clear klaxon sounds, we all will need to pick up the harness and pull, put a shoulder to the stone and push, lend a hand to help someone stand who then turns around to help the next person.

Every single one of us.

The effort may be helped by the federal government, it may be coordinated by state and local governments, it may be facilitated by health care organizations, and strengthened by business efforts — but nobody can sit this out.

Let’s see what Mr. Gottlieb has to say.

Scott Gottlieb’s analysis

Gottlieb’s analysis breaks down the response into four phases:

  • Phase 1, our current phase, targets the spread of the disease. Flatten the curve! Break the back of viral propagation!
  • Phase 2 can be entered as health care organizations within individual state and local government boundaries are able to diagnose, treat, and isolate COVID-19 patients and their contacts. Tracing contacts is vital. Schools and businesses can re-open. Social distancing should remain in place. Public hygiene must be remastered. Vulnerable populations — pregnant women, those over 60 years, those already ill from other causes — should still limit outside contact.
  • Phase 3 allows the lifting of most restrictions once protections such as an effective vaccine and therapeutic intervention are in place.
  • Phase 4 is long-term planning for future widespread infectious disease. We don’t want to go through this again.

Gottlieb goes into detail on each of the phases. I highly recommend everyone read the report.

Further thoughts

Non-governmental entities can and must be part of this effort. Service organizations and churches and synagogues and stakes and mosques can be of immense help and should not be shut out or overlooked.

Look around you: assess your resources and assess what needs doing, and get to work. Don’t wait around for the government (at any level) to fix things.

In your family, your parish, your service organization, your neighborhood, your apartment building: identify members/neighbors to contact in order to find out their needs and figure our how to help. If you are hale and healthy, offer support! Does an elderly neighbor need groceries? Or a single mom need yard work? Or a lonely single need just a friend? (Remember to maintain social distancing! And wash your hands!)

Are you or your immediate family members in need of help? Reach out early before your situation becomes critical.

I also recommend that everyone seriously ponder how we push back on overly intrusive government control once we emerge from the first phases. Permanent heavy-handed government oversight of our personal lives should not be tolerated. Contrary to Gloria Steinem’s assertion, the personal is not nor should it be personal.