Ready to reopen? - Barokong
I've been on the "reopen fast but smart" bandwagon for weeks. The reopening is coming. Are we ready? I'm afraid not. I remain on the "plan ahead" bandwagon, which means not lots of ideas from bloggers but lots of implemented plans of action for local public health bureacracies. Two items in today's news.
Coronavirus Testing Capacity Is Going Unused
Many commercial and academic laboratories in the U.S. are processing coronavirus diagnostic tests far below their capacity, leaving tools crucial to slowing the virus’s spread unused.
Lab executives and public-health officials say that in some cases, the labs are getting far fewer orders for tests than they could conduct.For weeks, everyone has been saying "test test test," and bemoaning the lack of testing capacity. Well, now we have testing capacity. What's going wrong? Well, our public health officials don't have (and did not, in the last month, develop) concrete ready to implement testing protocols in place. You still get a test if you ask for one, which mainly is if you think you have symptoms and can get through the guidelines that still restrict testing. These guidelines are not developed with public health in mind.
Testing meant, for example, widespread random testing, or at least testing of volunteers, so we could find out where the virus is. Just how many people in Palo Alto have the virus, right now? With 1000 roughly random tests we could find out. Nobody is doing that.
We remain, I think, sorely lacking in the public health infrastructure that must take over from blanket shutdowns. California just issued a revised list of what businesses can open. Apparently that's all we know how to do.
Food plants turned out to be a super spreader. ( Kris Maher, Jacob Bunge and Alexandra Berzon in WSJ) The larger point here: About 40% of the economy is still open as "essential." Well, as we get ready to reopen safely the rest of the economy, one would think that the "essential" parts would be rapidly implementing the open with distance protocols that the rest will follow. No. It's pretty much business as usual. The same cropped up in the Amazon and Instacard delivery strikes.
If the "essential" businesses are still not operating with reasonable protocols, just how can the rest reopen?
It's not zero. I read with pleasure the quite sensible list of actions that our county required of the local hardware store, including posting said list on the front window where I could see compliance. (Waiting with the dog while my wife bought TP.) But one would expect the essential part of the economy to be really zooming along with safety protocols if the 'inessential' part is ready to reopen.
That does not mean reopen. The economic carnage is everywhere, and people will not stand to watch their livelihoods disappear, while virus trackers in many counties remain with stable small numbers. But watch out for the second wave.
We Still Don’t Know How the Coronavirus Is Killing Us is a great essay by David Wallace-Wells. While we're spending $2 trillion or more, and printing $5 trillion or more, it is really striking that our government is not spending massive amounts on research, including just collecting data. Sure, bottlenecks and waste abound here too, but the amount just not known is striking.
For example, I attended a great presentation by Stanford's Jay Bhattachrya on his random sample testing in Santa Clara County, which found a surprisingly large number of asymptomatic cases. Yes, I've read the controversy. Some other day. But, in a $2 trillion dollar budget why are lonely heroes like Jay doing random testing on a shoestring?