The Path Ahead

POLITICS & POLICY

The worst is yet to come in the struggle against COVID-19 in America, unfortunately. And yet, it’s also not too soon to be thinking about the next phase of the national response to the virus. How will we know when it is safe to begin returning to work, school, travel, and commerce? And how should a gradual return at that point really work?

This morning, the American Enterprise Institute (where I work) published an important paper taking up that very question, produced by a great group of public-health experts led by my colleague Scott Gottlieb. It puts forward a set of milestones to look for (in terms of the pace of new cases, the scale of testing achieved, health-system capacity, and other concrete and measurable metrics), and steps to take when those are reached.

It’s concrete and realistic about the path ahead: The coming weeks will be difficult and things will get worse before they get better. Giving up too soon on the constraints we have adopted would be a disaster. But it is not too early to start planning for the next phase, and to set clear criteria for when it might begin and how.

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As the authors plainly note, their work is based on the state of the science as it stands now and on our current understanding of the reach of the pandemic on our shores. Our grasp of these may change in the days to come. But this offers an absolutely essential starting point, and will be an invaluable tool for policymakers. Well worth your while.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.

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