When the COVID-19 outbreak reached America in early March, we as a nation found that, unfortunately, we were not sufficiently prepared.
The lack of availability of test kits resulted in a delay in identifying and treating the earliest groups of patients in the first few crucial weeks of the outbreak. America has now become the most infected nation in the world, with the highest number of deaths.
Now another critical period will soon be upon us. As our nation reopens, we face the potentially serious risk of an even more deadly “second wave!”
50 million people died in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic which infected one in every three people in the world, and the majority of the deaths actually occurred not in the first wave, but in the second and third waves of the deadly outbreak.
Over a half million Americans have now tested positive with COVID-19, but the actual number of those who are infected could be 5 to 10 times higher. In other words, 2.5 to 5 million Americans could now be infected but are silent carriers.
Most of us are staying home right now. However, when we go back to work, the flood gates will open. These silent carriers will come out of their homes, merge into society, and infect potentially tens of millions of people, starting a second wave of the pandemic.
A resurgence is already seen in some parts of Asia, such as Hong Kong and Japan. Since they are two months ahead of us, we have a valuable opportunity to learn what is and is not working in the effort to mitigate a second wave of outbreak.
I believe that implementing the following seven key measures will help America avoid a second wave when we reopen our businesses:
The reopening should be gradual and sequential, i.e., beginning with only essential, high-priority, less-crowded businesses. Temperatures should be taken for everyone who enters these facilities.
“No test, no work!” Test all employees in these early-to-open businesses.
Allow those who are immune to COVID-19 to come back to work first, i.e., those who have completely healed from COVID-19 (and have also been shown in the subsequent weeks that they are indeed no longer shedding the virus), and those who are auto-immune to COVID-19 (through antibody tests).
Have voluntary testing (like voting), and whoever chooses to get tested has the option to wear a sticker stating “I was tested!”
Require testing in high-risk facilities, i.e., crowded, repeat exposure-prone, and elderly and medical facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, prisons, and in high-risk professionals, such as police, paramedics, supermarket staff and restaurant employees.
Continue social distancing, mask wearing and avoiding crowded activities in enclosed spaces.
Implement cell phone-based contact-tracing technology. It was encouraging that archrivals Google and Apple have been able to find common ground to work together to create this new cell phone technology. However, in a democratic society such as ours, we must also protect the privacy and individual rights of our citizens.