The coronavirus is growing out of control. Deaths will likely increase to 2,000 people a day before the end of the year, and the virus will be with us for much of 2021 and possibly longer. Of the many failures of the outgoing administration’s handling of COVID-19, the most destructive has been its failure to communicate honestly and directly from the start. We can’t get our economy back on track and help millions of Americans emerge from extended crisis until we control the virus.
A safe, effective, and widely available vaccine would be a game changer, but we’re likely many months away from this becoming a reality. The announcement from Pfizer about its vaccine trial is very encouraging, but the vaccine’s safety and efficacy among groups such as the elderly are still unclear. Even with a vaccine that’s fully vetted and ready to go, it will take many months for enough people to receive it to provide population-wide protection. Until then, we need a one-two punch to knock the virus down and then keep it down.
The first action, closing parts of society, needs to be strategic. Timing matters. The initial widespread closure in the spring poisoned the well. Many parts of the country shut down too soon and for too long. By the time COVID-19 came to areas that hadn’t yet needed to close, people were tired of waiting and resisted continued restrictions. An effective closure needs to be nuanced, specific, and tightened and loosened based on real-time data about where the virus is spreading.