Apr 15, 2020 - Health

America isn’t prepared to reopen the economy

Illustration of a door made of an American flag with multiple locks alongside the edge of the door.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The U.S. still can't perform many of the public health measures we'd need in order to keep coronavirus infections tightly contained in a reopened economy.

The big picture: Extreme social distancing has bought us some time, but much of the country still lacks some of the critical systems needed to handle waves of new infections once those restrictions begin to lift.

"We have to have something in place that is efficient and that we can rely on, and we’re not there yet,” Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Associated Press yesterday.

  • “I’ll guarantee you, once you start pulling back there will be infections. It’s how you deal with the infections that’s going count,” he added.

We would need to be testing people who aren't exhibiting any symptoms — not limiting tests to the sickest patients.

  • The U.S. is now testing more than 100,000 people a day, but it’s still not enough.

We would need thousands of health care workers across the country to track down, test and potentially isolate people who have interacted with confirmed coronavirus patients.

  • We have barely begun building up that workforce.

We would need a plan for how to transition recovering coronavirus patients from hospitals to post-acute care, raising the risk of the virus spreading through nursing homes, assisted living facilities and rehab centers.

The bottom line: Given how much it has cost to lock the U.S. down once, it’s unlikely we’ll get another chance to get this right.

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