A New Approach to COVID-19
By: Rom Reddy
As the Coronavirus wreaks havoc with a deadly and fast moving attack, the government is asking Americans to participate in cure that may well destroy the dreams, their livelihood, and the American economy. Italy may well be a harbinger of things to come. After almost 2 months of testing and isolation, Italy has identified 100,000 victims of the virus while 60 millions stay locked down, destroying the economy for perhaps a decade. There must be a better solution that balances public health and economics with long term immunity for both.
How do we find this balance?
The balance lies with recognizing two key issues and implementing strategies that leverage these issues:
(1) Over 80% of those who contract the virus do not need hospitalization. They are either asymptomatic or have mild to moderate flu-like symptoms that clear up in a few days, after which they have immunity.
(2) All “flattening the curve” discussions assume flat hospital capacity (figure 1). We must change hospital capacity in the hot spots with a Federally managed Mobile Hospital Capacity.
Once we understand these two concepts, four clear strategies emerge the will put America back to work:
1. Quarantine the Vulnerable
Use data from the almost 1 million positive virus tests worldwide to develop a profile of those individuals most likely to be hospitalized (MLTH). MLTH’s are typically 15-20% of those infected. MLTH’s must be immediately quarantined for 60-90 days in hotels, senior facilities, or alone at home fully paid for by the Federal Government. Yes, this is a war and the MLTH’s contribution to this war is to support the war by getting off the front lines. Perhaps it is too late to quarantine MLTHs in epicenters like New York City, but it is not too late for much of the country.
2. The Other 80% Fight the Economic War
Let the other 80% of the population restart this great country. Of course, we will continue to practice social distancing, hand hygiene, and reduced workplace density. We are fully motivated to take on this virus as long as the vulnerable have been quarantined. The American DNA is not programmed to run. Let this 80% be the offense we need to win the war. Wars are not won on defense.
3. Isolate Epicenters
We must come up with an acceptable way to isolate virus epicenters. Epicenters should not be allowed to seed new epicenters or we will only strengthen the enemy. Perhaps there are constitutional issues with a quarantine for a state or city, but we are smart enough to come up with an intelligent solution – perhaps require a negative test certificate to leave an epicenter. If this is a war, strategy 3 helps contain the enemy.
4. Mobile Hospital Capacity
Last but not least, the “flatten the curve” conversation must not have a flat line for hospital capacity in the hot spots where the virus epicenters exist. We must invest significantly more than the recently approved capacity in the hot spots where the virus epicenters exist. We must invest significantly more than the recently approved $100 billion in creating Mobile Hospital Capacity (MHC) at the Federal level with assistance form the Army Corp and the National Guard. MHC must be designed to move from hot spot to hot spot and bend the hospital capacity curve to create a modified, but not flattened, curve (figure 2). The beds/ventilators/protective equipment that goes into MHC can become part of a Mobile Hospital Strategic Reserve to which we add supplies regularly (similar to the strategic oil reserve) to protect us against future viruses and future terrorist attacks.
We must use this fight to experiment with and learn tactics that protect us in the future without the traditional isolation / lock-down of the entire nation and a destruction of an entire economy.
Rom Reddy is a Managing Partner and CEO of Sprinturf (www.sprinturf.com), a national artificial turf company headquartered in Charleston, SC. Rom is a graduate of the Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.