Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, is scary. He says nothing will stop COVID-19 except “herd immunity.” He believes that 60-70% of us will become infected — about 200 million Americans. If the mortality rate is 1 percent, that would mean 2 million funerals.
Yet, President Trump wants to reopen America immediately. That’s foolhardy. We still lack test kits.
We now test fewer than 500,000 people per day. That’s not enough testing to identify and isolate asymptomatic COVID victims before they spread the virus.
Harvard’s Safra Center released a report urging an increase in testing capacity to 5 million per day, with an eventual increase to 20 million.
Testing is not enough, however. We need the results within hours, so that contact tracers can quickly isolate sick people and their contacts. These measures will help us spot infections as quickly as forest rangers spot fires. With timely action, our cities can knock down new case counts to the point that it becomes safe to go out again.
We might imitate the people of South Korea. They kept their case count strikingly low. Their secret? They rely on masks, distancing, tracing, and testing with an intensity that vaults far beyond the dribble of an effort Trump encourages.
The South Korean government also pays the salaries of idled workers. It channels salaries through employers, so that work forces remain in place, ready to resume work when firms reopen.
We have a choice. We can open America sensibly, making time for vaccine research, or we can follow Trump’s lead and he’ll get 2 million more of us killed.