Apr 15, 2020 - Health

America isn’t prepared to reopen the economy

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.

Go deeper: We can't just flip the switch on the coronavirus

Go deeper

The pandemic’s health side effects are growing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nearly half of Americans said that either they or someone in their household has skipped or delayed needed medical care because of the coronavirus, according to new polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Why it matters: Shutting down elective medical care may have been necessary, particularly in coronavirus hotspots, but will have lasting effects on some patients.

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

About 40.7 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the coronavirus pandemic began, including 2.1 million more claims filed from last week.

Why it matters: Even as states reopen their economies, Americans are still seeking relief. Revised data out Thursday also showed U.S. economy shrunk by an annualized 5% in the first quarter — worse than the initially estimate of 4.8%.

Fauci: Data is "really quite evident" against hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus

Anthony Fauci told CNN Wednesday that the scientific data "is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy" of hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment.

Driving the news: The comments came in response to news that France on Wednesday banned the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus, after a large retrospective study in The Lancet found an increased risk of heart problems and death among coronavirus patients who took the anti-malarial drug.