Embrace your inner data scientist for a path forward on COVID-19
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Every American’s heart breaks for the families and friends who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19 in recent months. The collective pain that we have felt as a country is truly unprecedented in our lifetimes and we must do all we can to rebuild our country while working to escape the tragic realities of this pandemic.

While the flatten the curve strategy was appropriate for a period of time, in many parts of the country that time has passed as the broader public health and economic losses are reaching catastrophic proportions. Suicides, mental illness, and child sexual abuse are all on the rise while unemployment has reached over 20 percent in many parts of the country. The cost of this strategy is enormous and it is being fully realized in communities across the country.

This next phase, the rebuilding of America, will be lengthy and characterized by many fits and starts as we fight the dual threats of COVID-19 and economic crisis. As we move through this phase, it is important to reassess all that we have learned about this virus and plot a sensible path forward that ensures public health while also allowing most Americans to get back to work.

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The best way forward is for our public health officials to embrace their inner data scientist. As we have crested the one million case mark and are approaching 100,000 deaths in the United States, it is time that we open up the data box and take a hard look at the insights that can guide our way forward. We cannot use a March 1 understanding of the disease to inform a May 1 path forward. 

It is accepted fact at this point that the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions are most vulnerable when contracting COVID-19. Some of the deadliest outbreaks in the country have occurred in long term care facilities and nursing homes. What has received far less reporting, but is an equally important insight, is that the poor and lower-income essential workers are also far more vulnerable than the average American.

Low-income Americans, especially minorities, are less able to work from home to earn a paycheck, and are more likely to live in crowded multi-generational households. This means that when they contract the virus, it can spread like wildfire within their homes and communities. This is true whether we are looking at disparities across boroughs in New York City or the outbreaks at the Smithville meat packing facilities in South Dakota.

These insights must inform our policy moving forward as it is essential that we more directly target aid, guidance, and medical resources to these at-risk populations. Morally and economically, this is the right thing to do. This is also good for public health as we will be helping those who for structural or natural reasons are struggling mightily with the virus.

But we also need to learn more about how this virus circulates in our society and who is most vulnerable if we can effectively tailor our policy responses throughout the re-building phase.

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While it is well-known that young children tend to handle this virus quite well, it is still an open question as to what extent children contribute to spread. This is something we must get a handle on as parents and communities across the country are contemplating the re-opening of daycares, summer camps, and a fall school calendar.

Additionally, we still do not know to what extent low intensity, low duration activities like shopping at the grocery store or sunbathing at the pool contribute to viral spread. As Americans, we are all dealing with varying levels of anxiety as we try to safely navigate this crisis. Clear answers to these questions could provide important economic and social relief to so many in our society.

As we navigate our way forward and begin rebuilding our country, we need a full public health commitment, from the CDC to our local health departments, to answer these critical questions. We can give Americans across the country the information they need to reduce anxiety and safely re-enter essential parts of our society. Combined with a focus on protecting our most vulnerable, this measured analysis will give us our best chance at achieving our dual goals of rebuilding our economy and solving the unprecedented public health crisis facing our nation.

Congressman Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezHow to expand rural broadband, fast and affordably Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll House passes legislation to boost election security research MORE is a freshman Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives in Ohio’s 16th District. He is a member of President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE’s bipartisan Opening Up America Again Congressional Group and is proud to serve on the House Financial Services Committee and Committee on Science, Space and Technology.