Under the present policy paradigm, many commentators and policymakers argue that something resembling the pessimistic scenario will require a prolonged shutdown of six months or longer, or a series of on-and-off stay-at-home orders for as long as it takes to achieve population-level immunity; i.e., one year or longer. As Morgan Stanley biotechnology research analyst Matthew Harrison put it in an April 6 op-ed, “Hope that…the U.S. has not reached crisis levels…will be shortlived, as the reality sets in that the path to reopening the U.S. economy is going to be long, and marred by stops and starts. It will be fully resolved only when vaccines are widely available in spring 2021, at the earliest.”
But the U.S. economy cannot sustain a shutdown of that magnitude, nor the permanent closure of tens of thousands of businesses that will accompany it.
Hence, it is essential that we develop a strategy to reopen the economy for both the optimistic and pessimistic scenarios: that is to say, even if we fail to achieve near-ubiquitous testing and effective anti-viral treatments. In this working paper, we discuss a plan to do that.