Rock and a hard place? Scylla and Charybdis? Isn't that where we are with this reopening of the country now that it looks like we flattened the curve and are on the downside of Covid-19 hospitalizations?
I can't tell you how torn I am on this topic. I love business. I want it open yesterday. I want people to go to work and for things to return to normal. I've got stakes in two restaurants and an inn. I want to get some patrons into those seats and in rooms. Hey, let's get some baseball going. How about the NBA. I would like playoffs, but who is kidding who, playoffs, I just hope we play a game.
But we've got to be realistic. We are hitting the rock with that attitude and we are going to crash against Charybdis.
I love the attitude I heard on the JPMorgan Chase (JPM) conference call, which I can summarize as "done right, a disciplined transition would maximize the health of Americans and minimize the time, extent and suffering caused by the economic downturn." When is it safe to bring employees back? How about "we will not bring them back to work until we are satisfied we can do it safely." And when will that be? They won't make predictions. "We should return when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and local government entities deem it safe to do."
I think that's a great summary of how to navigate through this tricky moment.
Lots of people criticized me on twitter this morning for saying that we need to address some big issues that would make me feel that things are better so we do not slip up and go back to rising hospitalizations.
First, we need easy testing. I want to have one of those Abbott (ABT) tests I talked about yesterday, the ones that the health professionals use. Once I know I am okay and, perhaps more important, others are okay, I would feel much better.
But not better enough.
I want everyone to wear masks. Everyone. It is ridiculous that masks aren't required at every work establishment. Where the heck is OSHA? Does it even exist anymore? I don't want you getting me sick. I don't want me to give my sickness, heaven forbid, to you. You need masks for when you can't be physically distant, preferably N-95 masks which should be given to everyone.
How about contact tracing? Google (Alphabet: (GOOGL) ) and Apple (AAPL) have combined to offer a system where you can find out if you have been exposed to someone with Covid-19. There's no violation of civil liberties. You do have to register with a public health entity so your phone knows if it was near someone else who got it. The government cannot tell where you were, just that you were exposed. I think that's ideal.
Finally, in the absence of a vaccine, which I know won't be available until next year at best, I want an anti-viral that can get me out of the hospital quickly if I have to be hospitalized.
Tests, masks, contact tracing, anti-virals. Are those too much to ask? When we flattened the curve we did so by sitting in our homes or apartments. I had hoped that something, anything, would have happened to stop Covid-19 infections. The darned thing is too contagious and too lethal to just unleash us with nothing having happened to make us safer.
You give us testing of some sort, home testing, testing in abandoned mall parking lots, you give us the Apple-Google Contract trace, decent masks and something in the hospital that can get you out, we have to open and we have to open right now.
We don't get some combination of those, then I do not know how we can consider the country safe, we will be crushed by rocks on both cliché and on mythology.