Story at a glance
- Andy Slavitt was the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the Obama administration.
- In a tweet thread, Slavitt shared his take on the public health response to the coronavirus pandemic and what could still be done.
- The viral post is both hopeful for and critical of the country’s handling of the pandemic thus far.
Everyone’s an expert on Twitter these days. As the former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Obama, however, Andy Slavitt has more expertise than most on the public health response to the coronavirus pandemic.
As cases rise in several states where they had previously stagnated, it seems that the nation is playing a giant game of whack-a-mole with coronavirus outbreaks, flattening the curve in one area only to find it pop up in another. Some Americans have come to terms with this new reality, choosing to move forward with their lives despite the ever-present threat of infection. But Slavitt says it doesn’t have to be that way.
COVID Update July 26: We can virtually eliminate the virus any time we decide to. 1/— Andy Slavitt @ (@ASlavitt) July 26, 2020
"The good news— and it is good news— is we are always 4-6 weeks from being able to do what countries around the world have done," he said optimistically.
BREAKING NEWS ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
Perhaps it was that hope that enticed more than 60,000 likes and 32,000 retweets and comments on Slavitt's nearly 40-tweet-long thread, posted Sunday evening. And the promise of relative normalcy isn't unprecedented. As he points out, countries including New Zealand, German, Italy, France and Spain, have recovered from widespread infection to steadily declining numbers of new cases.
So how do we do it? Slavitt outlined six major points of action.
- Universal mask wearing. A number of states have begun mandating face masks in public, but the preventative measure has become highly politicized, with some Republican governors refusing to issue mandates and Trump supporters organizing to protest against such measures.
- Keep hot spots, including bars, restaurants, churches and transit, closed. Many states began reopening around Memorial Day weekend, against the advice of public health officials, and have since been forced to pause or backtrack on their reopening plans.
Slavitt said that this would require extended unemployment insurance and an understanding that the economy would take a several-week hit. But, he argues, the payoff would be a return to near-normalcy after about six to eight weeks.
- Prohibit interstate travel. Several states have begun requiring that travelers from other states, especially those states where the infection rate is on the rise, self-quarantine for one to two weeks upon entering the state, with thousands of dollars in fines for those who disobey.
- Prohibit travel into the country. Many other countries sealed their borders soon after the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, and some are still restricting travel, especially from the United States. As Slavitt said, "no one will let us into their country so that shouldn’t be hard.”
- Set up hotels to allow those with symptoms to isolate at no cost. This would likely require government funding, unless hotel companies and private donors were willing to step in. It would also require a much larger coordination of infrastructure and resources than the United States has deployed up until this point, rather than the piecemeal local approach Americans have seen thus far.
- Institute a 90 percent lockdown. According to Slavitt, this would mean keeping even those who were previously classified as essential workers — truckers, farmers and health care professionals — at home. Such a strict lockdown would be unprecedented for the United States, but has been done in other countries.
"Our grandparents who lived through a decade long depression, a 6 year world war, or whatever hardship they faced in their country would tell us we would make it," he said.
We could even create friend & family bubbles. The NBA has been in a bubble for 3 weeks & starting with 10% positives have found & eliminated all cases.— Andy Slavitt @ (@ASlavitt) July 26, 2020
You could even enjoy some of your time in the bubble. https://t.co/CR35J3bWti 15/ pic.twitter.com/neDy3AzEdY
After this lockdown, Slavitt doesn't promise the complete eradication of the coronavirus. But, it would be manageable, he said, and less and less people would die. So would this work? Some medical experts endorsed the idea on Twitter, while others pointed out potential pitfalls.
One of the best threads out there from @ASlavitt explaining the logic behind a lockdown method of flattening the curve to the point where we can actually contact trace. #COVID19 https://t.co/7DlsHSP2cD— Amar Kelkar MD (@amarkelkar) July 27, 2020
As long as no one is ‘telling them to do it’ people will not stop playing golf, going to bars/restaurants, having parties, traveling state to state w/o tests or quarantine - both D and R are guilty of acting like they don’t know how to be better people w/o being told to do so.— Reilly Neill (@Reilly2020) July 27, 2020
Could we? It’s possible. Should we? Perhaps. Will we? Only time will tell.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CORONAVIRUS RIGHT NOW