We could have prevented 98 percent of our COVID-19 deaths. That is the wrenching conclusion of an open letter to decision makers signed by top health professionals across America.

The letter recommends an immediate 50-state shutdown of all non-essential businesses. It urges a universal mask mandate and a marked increase in testing and contact tracing. An expansion of federal unemployment benefits can help Americans weather the shutdown.

When we’ve done these things, we can cautiously reopen. How simple. It’s what countries in Europe and Asia have done. Why can’t we?

We can’t, because each state has its own COVID-19 plan. Without central leadership, the states are like a football team without a quarterback.

Recognizing the problem, researchers at Harvard recommend that state governors form an “Interstate Compact” and a governing board empowered to build up testing and tracing.

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Since COVID-19 deaths could reach 300,000 by December, the Harvard plan seems like a good idea.