Good analysis.  I think Lesser’s concluding paragraph is a realistic summary.  

These solutions will, of course, be technically, socially, and politically 
difficult. For the sake of our economy, the livelihoods of millions, and the 
health of our society, we have to get started. Winter will come again, and we 
must begin preparing now.

The question is, can this country execute with the mixed messages we are 
getting from our leaders.  Some are seemingly spot-on; other’s may be 
exacerbating the problem with careless words and ideas.

 

From: radicalcentrism@googlegroups.com <radicalcentrism@googlegroups.com> On 
Behalf Of Centroids
Sent: Tuesday, March 24, 2020 11:36 PM
To: Centroids Discussions <RadicalCentrism@googlegroups.com>
Subject: [RC] BCG: 6 steps to sustainably flatten the ECONOMIC coronavirus curve

 

Commentary: 6 steps to sustainably flatten the coronavirus curve
https://fortune.com/2020/03/19/coronavirus-covid-19-flatten-curve-solution/
(via Instapaper <http://www.instapaper.com/> )

  _____  

We are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. It started as a health crisis, 
within days became a real economic crisis, and is now on a swift path to 
becoming a massive fiscal challenge, as well. Spring may soon arrive on the 
calendar, but as a society—increasingly alone and stressed—we feel as if we are 
in the middle of winter.

While reserve banks and governments are reacting swiftly to try to stabilize 
the economy and financial markets, many government moves weren’t quick enough 
to slow infections of the coronavirus <https://fortune.com/tag/coronavirus/> , 
which causes the COVID-19 disease. Unfortunately, efforts to stabilize the 
economy will be enormously costly because of that delay.

Without a vaccine for 12 to 18 months, we are facing not just a short-term 
crisis but a massive ongoing challenge both to protect health and preserve the 
economy—and the businesses and workers depending on it. The challenges we face 
are daunting. There are potential ways to control the virus without shuttering 
the economy, but we must begin working on them immediately.


The question that matters right now


To date, as the coronavirus has spread around the world, one question has been 
top of mind: How much can we flatten the curve of infection rates?

We have all seen the charts that show the value of spreading out infections in 
order to keep the peak within the manageable capacity of our health system. In 
Wuhan, China, and Italy—and soon parts of the U.S.—we’re seeing the enormous 
human toll when sickness exceeds what health systems can handle. Most of us 
look with great respect at how quickly China was able to add hospitals and 
health system capacity. But it will be challenging to replicate this feat all 
around a world often filled with constraints on cost, capability, and 
governance.

For the next 30 to 90 days, the degree to which we can flatten the curve is the 
most important challenge, and we’re seeing countries, U.S. states, and smaller 
communities start to respond aggressively. Unfortunately, many of these 
responses are happening about two weeks late, but they are still critical in 
limiting the impact of the disease and saving the lives of those most 
vulnerable to it.

The most obvious efforts underway involve social distancing, and every day 
brings more examples: school cancelations, remote working, sports leagues and 
commercial travel shutting down, Broadway going dark, bars and restaurants 
closing. This is painful on many levels, from the elderly left alone to 
students out of class to enormous economic damage. But we have no choice, 
particularly where the coronavirus has spread and where insufficient testing 
limits our ability to measure and isolate the problem.


The question that will soon matter most


If we succeed in flattening the curve, and I believe to some extent we will, we 
will be faced with an even more daunting question in 30 to 90 days that we have 
to begin addressing right away: How will we continue to flatten the curve, not 
for the next two or three months, but for nine months to a year or even longer?

The total economic distress from one to three months of social distancing will 
be enormous, but we can manage it—especially in richer countries. It will 
require bailouts and support for workers, zero to negative interest rates, and 
massive injections of cash into the economy.

But the cost of 12 months of aggressive social distancing is hard to fathom. 
How do we support airlines for a year of almost no passengers? What is the 
societal cost of keeping children out of school for that long? What happens to 
the service economy, even as digitization grows, when it offers the bulk of 
jobs? And how can this possibly be affordable when tax revenues are collapsing 
at the same time?

We need to limit the spread of the virus, but if the cost is an economic 
cancer, eating away at many industries and undermining financial markets and 
public sector finances around the world, how can we bear this? Right now, we 
have to focus on flattening the curve as much as we can, but very soon we must 
shift our focus to how we flatten it for a sustained period without destroying 
major parts of the economy in the process. There are potential answers, but we 
have to start now to make them workable.


Six steps to flattening the curve sustainably


All the business leaders I know are focused on supporting their people, 
sustaining business in the short term, and protecting the balance sheet. A few, 
particularly in China, are thinking about the rebound as their economy starts 
to come back, rethinking their business models for a different world.

Governments are trying to ramp up health care capacity as rapidly as possible, 
protect their economies with both fiscal and monetary levers, and get their 
citizens tested and protected quickly. Given challenges in the U.S. health care 
system, there is now a huge effort to help citizens avoid the direct and 
indirect costs of this illness.

These are all essential actions, but not enough. We need to mobilize now on six 
fronts to flatten the curve in a sustainable way. Some of this is 
U.S.-specific, but most applies around the world. There will be many ideas 
about how to do this, but I hope these can serve as a starting point:


Dramatically accelerate preparedness


We need to massively expand and speed up the testing process and provide 
related kits and supplies, as well as medical devices needed for care, 
protective equipment for health care workers, and expanded facilities for 
treating the ill. We should also invest in and distribute simple digital tools 
that can help people decide when to seek care and when to stay home. Over the 
next 30 to 45 days, we have to leverage our knowhow to spur rapid investment in 
building capabilities at whatever the cost.


Change the social distancing paradigm


Our goal should be to get most workers and students back up and running, 
ideally within 45 to 90 days. Of course, this will require new practices such 
as careful hand washing, no handshaking, and other protective activities. This 
will also likely require some measures based on risk stratification.

We know some of the risk factors now, such as age, comorbidities, and 
immunological compromise. With careful epidemiological analysis and modern 
analytical techniques, we should be able to create risk stratification 
methodologies to allow lower risk individuals to get back to work while 
responsibly decreasing the risk to themselves and society.

This strategy will not be easy to implement, but it’s an essential part of 
restarting the economy without ramping up the infection curve beyond health 
system capacity. It will allow us, over time, to build more herd immunity 
across the broader population and enable much of society and the economy to be 
operating at a reasonable level.


Change the operating model


We have to accelerate the use of digital and mobile technologies to make remote 
work and other activities easier. But more broadly, we will need to adapt to a 
more intrusive environment. Beyond the urgent need for greatly expanded 
testing, we must begin taking temperatures before individuals enter a school or 
place of work, go to a restaurant or other public space, or get on an airplane 
or train. We should use artificial intelligence to notify at-risk individuals 
to self-quarantine, so that we avoid outbreaks while respecting personal 
privacy.

In the next couple of months, we should also work aggressively to develop an 
antibody test for the coronavirus, allowing us to see if people have become 
immune to it. Knowing that people are no longer at risk for getting sick from 
or spreading the virus will give us an enormous advantage in reintroducing 
people to the workforce.


Adapt regulatory and support frameworks


Let’s give organizations the right to protect their businesses, workers, 
customers, and students with testing, as well as the obligation to require 
at-risk people to stay home. We should protect workers and parents with sick 
leave support and medical care when they or their loved ones get sick. And we 
have to create protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits for those medical 
professionals acting in good faith.


Invest in and support innovators


We will need a multipronged set of tools, including the development of 
diagnostics, antivirals, and vaccines, and we have to invest aggressively in 
capacity to deploy therapeutics at scale before we can be certain they will 
work. 

The economic assurances we provide to qualifying R&D companies must come with 
assurances of open intellectual property sharing. And we must be prepared with 
our therapeutics to respond quickly if there are further mutations in the 
virus, which will require adaptive frameworks. 


Increase communications dramatically


We need consistent, coherent, unified leadership that brings communities 
together and highlights what is required to navigate this enormous challenge. 
People need clear communication about what it means to travel and work safely, 
as well as how to engage in more careful social interactions and how to support 
at-risk populations who are still socially distanced, starting with our elderly.

In normal times, we would take years to debate some of these options, but we 
don’t have that kind of time. While we are focusing on the unprecedented and 
acute situation in front of us, we need to start thinking about how we will 
economically navigate the critical phase that follows the surge of cases we are 
about to get, as well as how to accelerate progress to our end game—when we 
have effective therapies, vaccines, and herd immunity to protect us from this 
new and dangerous novel virus.

These solutions will, of course, be technically, socially, and politically 
difficult. For the sake of our economy, the livelihoods of millions, and the 
health of our society, we have to get started. Winter will come again, and we 
must begin preparing now.

Rich Lesser is CEO of Boston Consulting Group.


More opinion <http://fortune.com/section/commentary/>  in Fortune:


—The next Great Recession has already begun 
<https://fortune.com/2020/03/16/great-recession-2020-stock-market-crash-2008/> 
—Combating coronavirus starts with keeping health workers well 
<https://fortune.com/2020/03/11/coronavirus-health-care-workers-well-being/> 
—Want to solve America’s problems? 
<https://fortune.com/2020/03/05/broadband-access/>  Start with broadband
—Should consumers be wary of Apple’s heartbeat monitoring app 
<https://fortune.com/2020/02/26/apple-watch-heart-rate-app/> ?
—Listen to  <https://megaphone.link/FMC2389138644> Leadership Next, a Fortune 
podcast examining the evolving role of CEO
—WATCH: CEO of Canada’s biggest bank on the keys to leading through the 
coronavirus 
<https://fortune.com/videos/watch/0234c551-a2af-4f8d-bfb3-eeedd89854dd> Listen 
to our audio briefing,  <http://fortune.com/radio/> Fortune 500 Daily

  _____  

 

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