If you are like me, you are tired of the “timeline roulette” approach taken by many of our elected officials regarding how to address COVID-19 pandemic. Michigan, my home state, has been in CCP-style “lockdown” since Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a “Stay at home” Executive Order effective until April 13th. Since that point in time, the policy debate surrounding COVID-19 has been around “how long” should we remain in “lockdown”. What we are lacking is a rational, data-driven policy solution. I hope to jump start that discussion with this article.

The pursuit of a data-driven policy starts with a look at pertinent data. Let’s look at some enlightening data that compares the response of Michigan’s governor with the governments of Sweden and South Korea.

Next, before we jump to a solution, let’s define the criteria by which we can differentiate between solutions. This will help us to go beyond identifying “a solution” to defining the “best solution”. Furthermore, while there is often significant disagreement on solutions (particularly in the political domain), there is generally much more common ground when it comes to objectives.

Along these lines, I would submit that any COVID-19 policy solution should address the following seven objectives:

  1. Protects Others
  2. Protects Self
  3. Restores Normal Life
  4. Data-driven not Fear-driven
  5. Minimizes Taxpayer Expense
  6. Mitigates Risks of Future Crises
  7. Respects Constitution

I would submit that these objectives would likely receive broad-based support pretty much anywhere in the world that respects the principle of constitutional governance.

In order to identify the best solution to our current situation, we can then evaluate several potential policy actions against these objectives.

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Upon review of these policy actions against the aforementioned objectives in context of the data presented at the beginning of this article, I would propose adoption of the following policy solutions.

Proposed Data-Driven COVID-19 Response

A) Protect Others: Mitigate the risk of spreading the virus

  • Continue hygiene protocols (social distancing, handwashing, etc)
  • Encourage high risk population to self-isolate
  • Encourage symptomatic individuals and their family members to stay at home
  • Encourage hand sanitizers
  • Promote wearing of face masks in public
  • Make face masks available for free.

B) Protect Self: Mitigate the risk of contracting virus

  • Promote prophylactic treatments as prescribed by physician (Hydroxychloroquine with Z-pack, vitamin cocktails or suitable alternative).
  • Encourage citizens to contact their primary care physician for guidance specific to their medical conditions.
  • Make popular treatments available for free.

C) Obtain Better Data: Use test data to make informed decisions on policy.

  • Expand availability of at home tests
  • Encourage people to share test result data online or via phone
  • Run a test on randomized sample of population to stop selection bias
  • Test influenza-like illness deaths to differentiate from COVID19
  • Make data available to public

D) Improve Supply Chain: Improve availability of critical resources where they are needed.

  • Permanently repeal Certificate of Need law that places government restrictions on the number of hospital beds and medical equipment the private sector is allowed to have (NOTE: this would also lower the cost of healthcare and by extension the cost of government and, in Michigan, auto insurance rates)
  • Work with industry to ensure adequate supply of critical resources:
    • Ventilators
    • Tests
    • Prophylactic treatments
    • Personal Protection Equipment
    • Hand Sanitizer
  • Work with organizations to ensure effective distribution of critical resources:
    • Ventilators
    • Tests
    • Prophylactic treatments
    • Personal Protection Equipment
    • Hand Sanitizer
  • Stockpile critical resources to mitigate risk of future crises

E) Improve Communications: Cease politically-motivated messaging activities and focus upon answering fundamental questions of interest to our citizens

  • Where to get Personal Protection Equipment (e.g. masks, eye protection)?
  • How can one get tested?
  • Where can one get treatment for COVID-19? Other illnesses without risk of contracting COVID-19?
  • What criteria will be used to determine when businesses and schools can re-open?
  • Provide public dashboard that tracks key metrics related to conditions needed to re-open state

F) Rescind closure of schools and businesses as soon as the number of confirmed COVID19 cases declines for 3 consecutive days (appears to be the consensus for when data reveals a trend as opposed to data point outlier).

In short, get back to normal as soon as possible with rational safeguards based upon data.

Re-open schools.

Re-open businesses.

Re-open life.

NOTE: I don’t claim to have the only solution to this problem nor do I claim that I have the best solution. I am only an aerospace engineer who happens to have significant policy experience from my two terms of service in the Michigan Senate. Current government officials have access to significantly more resources. These resources can be employed to obtain better data and search out better solutions. In any case, the important thing is to get beyond the current “timeline roulette” policy approach where no one wants to be the first one to suggest re-opening society for fear of being blamed for every running nose. The time has come for rational, data-driven solutions to supplant fear-driven timeline-based solutions.

P.S. The photo above is of the exterior of the Apollo 13 Command Module. I am confident that Americans can find solutions to complex problems even in the most dire situations if we assume the attitude that “failure is not an option”.

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