April 9, 2020 / By Arpit Gupta and David Sraer for CNN Business Perspectives
The Covid-19 pandemic has paralyzed the US economy, with millions of Americans being urged to stay home and many businesses shuttered. Now that the stimulus package has passed, our policymakers should be working on a credible and feasible way to reduce the length of the lockdown and get the economy back on its feet.
Public health experts are unanimous in their belief that it’s too soon to let Americans go back to work. With limited hospital capacity, lifting all restrictions immediately would result in a new spike in coronavirus cases and put excessive strain on our health care system. But at the same time, we cannot simply “flatten the curve” for long enough that it becomes safe for everyone to go back to work at once: The economic costs would be enormous due to the sheer length of the resulting lockdown.
Implementing selective containment once we get past the first peak of the epidemic could help get many Americans back to work faster while keeping the most vulnerable populations safe. This approach would allow a fraction of households to resume normal activity while the rest of the population remains in quarantine. Three simple principles should guide how we decide which households are “released” earlier.