As we struggle through the sixth frustrating month of fighting the coronavirus pandemic, one thing should be absolutely clear: We cannot successfully reopen until we crush this virus.
The economy, the schools, the churches — everything we think of as normal in our lives — will not return until people are safe to begin interacting with one another again.
The good news is that we know how to achieve this, because most other countries in the world and several states have already done it. And if we start now, by late September we could have our lives back again.
The virus spreads through human interaction. The only way to stop its spread is to curtail as much of that interaction as possible. We need to return to a strictly enforced shelter-in-place policy until the number of cases is so low that each new one can be identified and the people who test positive can be isolated to prevent them from spreading it further.
Given the life cycle of the virus, a four-week shutdown should reduce the number of infections to a level that can be contained. Within six weeks — by late September — we should be able to return, with precautions, to a mostly normal life that includes dining out, shopping, attending church and perhaps even allowing kids and teachers back in the classroom.
To get through this difficult period, we will need to extend unemployment benefits for the jobless and boost assistance to small business. We also need to ensure that seniors and other vulnerable people have the aid they need to stay at home.
Perhaps most importantly, once the number of cases declines, we need to provide alternative housing to people who test positive and cannot isolate from other family members or roommates. This is crucial because so many essential workers live in crowded, multi-generational households where stopping the spread from one person to another is almost impossible.
And finally, at long last, the government must begin collecting and sharing the kind of data that will let people see how the virus is spreading and how we can stop it once we emerge from this lockdown. That means doing widespread testing in the community — not just of those who think they might have the virus — and using our contact tracing program to gather and aggregate information about…