As the epidemic and government reactions to it proceed, there are several questions that would be important to have answered to help guide ongoing policy decisions and decision-making processes. These questions include:
What kinds of modeling, analysis or studies were done about the comparative harm and benefits of various mitigation of spread tactics? So far, at least in Minnesota and probably in other states, we have not seen any such analyses, which is shocking. It is still important to have those done so we understand what can be done to bring back economic activity, how quickly job losses be reversed, and what kind of non-economic harms from the shutdowns we should be prepared to address in future months.
Why aren’t we getting more data and analysis about the outcomes in specific hotspots? Here in Minnesota, that would include the town of Worthington, which had a significant outbreak sparked among workers at a meatpacking plan. That situation was highlighted as an example of how quickly outbreaks could occur if we weren’t careful and used to support ongoing extreme lockdowns. The reality appears to be that out of a large number of infections, almost all were asymptomatic or mild, there were very few hospitalizations and no deaths. The state should give us a complete official accounting of the course of the epidemic in that area and other hotspots. What we know suggests that for the general population there is low risk.
How are antibody test results going to be handled? Assuming that they become widely available, how will individuals who demonstrate immunity be treated. They should be freed from any restrictions, but what level of proof will be required and will states begin to treat these people differently.
What is the optimal strategy to handle congregate living situations, especially for the elderly? Since this is where the majority of serious illnesses and deaths are occurring, we need to have a method for protecting residents.
How do we “unscare” the general population so that they feel safe to go back to work and to public life? Unfortunately the media and some political leaders so frightened people that a large number were convinced they would get sick and die, notwithstanding clear evidence to the contrary. The economy is two-thirds consumer spending, so we have to get people back out shopping, visiting bars and restaurants, going to entertainment and sports events and traveling. We need a broad consumer awareness campaign to ensure that people understand the very low risk. Having everyone wearing masks and with all kinds of signs of social distancing won’t help convey the safety message.