Health experts have been saying for weeks that the key to opening the economy back up and getting people back to work is widespread, massive coronavirus testing. Until we have a realistic idea of how many Americans are (and have been) infected with the virus, we are pretty much stuck with the shutdown as it stands right now. However, if we get an enormous rollout of both proactive testing and antibody testing (which can show us who has contracted the virus and recovered), we can take careful steps towards getting back to work, opening back up the stores and offices, and avoiding the worst economic catastrophe of all time.
According to a new report from Bloomberg News, the White House is currently working on plans to test “far more Americans for the coronavirus than has been possible to date,” with an eye towards getting the economy rolling again as soon as it is feasible from a public health standpoint.
“The effort,” Bloomberg reports, “would likely begin in smaller cities and towns in states that haven’t yet been heavily hit by the virus. Cities such as New York, Detroit, New Orleans and other places the president has described as ‘hot spots’ would remain shuttered.”
President Trump has been clear that social distancing efforts need to stay in place through the end of April, but he’s eager to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. Like many others, the president knows that – as he has said so many times – the cure cannot be worse than the disease. But with 10 million people (at least) having already filed for unemployment, we are well on our way to an economic catastrophe that could leave a generation of Americans struggling for their very lives.
“We had the greatest economy in the history of the world, we had the most people working in the history of our country, almost 160 million people, far more than ever before. And then one day, our professionals correctly came to us and they said, ‘sorry, sir, we have to close down our country,’” Trump said Monday.
To be sure, it doesn’t make sense to open up the economy all at once, watch the virus spike again, and then shut everything down in less than a month. That might even be more devastating than simply leaving things as they are (if that’s possible). We need to do it strategically, and we need to do it wisely.
But we need to do it, and we need to do it sooner rather than later. If widespread testing will bring us to that point, then that needs to be the country’s number one priority.