Thursday, 16 April 2020

Ways Out


  • Paul Romer's plan to spend billions to test 7% of the American population every day: each person tested every fortnight.
    • Throw enough money at it and you can make enough reagents for all the tests. It would work, even if there are false negatives, so long as each positive is quarantined. You'd want to do contact tracing on the positives. 
  • The Center for American Progress's proposal for tech assistance on tracing. Basically, all your movements all the time. 
    • It seems impossible to imagine that being feasible in the US. You can start imagining souped-up versions of a FitBit that would log locations while monitoring temperatures and automatically sounding an alarm if you went out while you had a fever; it's also easy to imagine substantial difficulties in compliance. 
  • PolicyLab's suggestion of ramped up community surveillance to watch for outbreaks.
  • Following Singapore in masks, social distancing requirements, free testing, rigorous tracing.
New Zealand's options will be better than America's. But even as we come out of lock-down, we are still on something of a pause button. For how long can international mobility be restricted without mounting consequence? 

It’s not clear how tolerant the United States would be of another national pause. If Americans failed to comply, the results could be disastrous. Preventing a second lockdown could even be considered a long-term investment.

“Our trajectory right now does not give me hope,” said Gregg Gonsalves, a professor of epidemiology and law at Yale. “Social distancing is happening in only a patchwork across the United States. The next phase needs a massive national mobilization not seen since World War II, with dramatic scale-up of the production of tests for the virus and its antibodies, the commodities we need to do these tests, from long-stemmed swabs to RNA extraction kits and the personal protective equipment to keep those conducting the tests safe. We also need a huge new cadre of people to do these tests, trained and deployed across the country.”

“And that’s the first step,” he added.

All this sounds expensive. But consider that the cost of a shutdown is trillions of dollars. We clearly don’t want to do this again. As Mr. Romer says, if it costs a couple of hundred billion to avoid it, that may still be a relatively low price to pay.
Meanwhile, Vincent Geloso summarises the lessons of past pandemics. One big one is not to introduce rigidities that make the economic recovery harder after the pandemic.

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