Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Coronavirus Pandemic Playbook - A Work in Progress

Life is so much easier when we can rely upon a playbook to guide us over and around obstacles.  Indeed, many professions are devoted to creating policies and procedures to help businesses, individuals and organizations navigate through rough currents.  In general, these prepared plans are created to address challenges that are either known from prior outbreaks or can reasonably be assumed to be potential adverse events.  For example, regions of the country that have suffered from natural disasters would be expected to have contingency plans in place to prepare for the next arrival of Mother Nature. 

Navigating Through Rough Currents

How comfortable it is when facing a dilemma to be able to pull a binder off the shelf for advice.
Of course, as anyone alive knows, we don’t have a binder, an advisor, a parent or a GOOGLE site that can reliably land us safely when confronted with adversity.  So many issues require us to rely upon our experience and judgement and to leap beyond our comfort boundary.  Over time this boundary expands.  This is what is regarded as ‘experience’.  And with experience, fewer challenges are unique, novel and perplexing as it is more likely that we have encountered them.

And then came COVID-19.  Yes, we have addressed pandemics before, but this was a mold breaker.  Health experts, economists, U.S. states, countries, counties, businesses and individuals have all offered differing opinions on how to react to this catastrophe.  And these differences have been brought into sharper relief in recent weeks.

Do you think it would be easy to achieve consensus on the following inquiries?
  • Should we lock down a country or opt instead to achieve herd immunity to protect the population and the economy?   England and Sweden, two western nations, were not following the ‘herd’ on this issue.
  • Who should wear a mask and when? What kind of mask?  Face shield?
  • How much national testing for coronavirus is sufficient?
  • What constitutes adequate scientific evidence for a treatment candidate to be tested in a clinical trial?
  • Should unproven medicines with toxicity be offered to ill patients?
  • Where should finite financial resources be allocated?  Who determines the winners and losers?
  • What is the definition of an essential business?
  • What is the intensity of a potential COVID-19 exposure that should shut down a factory?
  • What is the long and winding road to opening up an economy? 
  • How are disagreements on the pace and process of opening up the economy resolved?
  • What metric of ‘safe’ should be used before the economy begins to open and social distancing can be relaxed?
  • Is there a valid point that the ‘cure can be worse than the disease’?
Much of our response to the pandemic is based on sound public health principles along with sober advice from epidemiologists, scientists and health experts.  But so much of what we need to know is simply not known.  The playbook is incomplete.  A silver lining is that COVID-19 has added many chapters to the Pandemic Playbook, which will leave us much better prepared when another invisible enemy strikes us again.  

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