14 April 2020

How we reopen is the most difficult calculation we have faced in this crisis and without a vaccine or treatment intervention, there are no easy answers.

Let’s be thankful, though, that we’re living in the small window of human history during which that’s even possible – and in our case, most likely a matter of time.  We just have to manage that time intelligently and each day is a day closer to an effective treatment or a vaccine.

Authorities only have one shot at facilitating a v-shaped recovery and that’s to get this right the first time.  If we reopen only to shut down again, the capital markets will collapse to new lows and the economy would likely be recessed on a medium to long-term basis by the psychological impact on consumers.  Reopening 2.0 would be muted, let alone any further iterations.

The way to reopen successfully and soon is to change the dynamics that forced a shut down in the first place.  More healthcare capacity, a hardened supply chain, a national surge in testing, and bolstered law enforcement means margin for error in what should be a merit-based and phased restart of economic activities.

Reopening must be constitutional yet nationally-coordinated and phased yet strictly based on the situation – not a timeline.  Most importantly, authorities should build redundancy in key areas to give themselves critical margin to manage issues within each phase without having to move backwards.

By leveraging an unprecedented surge of military support to state and local authorities, the administration can both lead the delicate reopening of America and defuse constitutional or political showdowns with certain governors.  A broad deployment by NORAD of substantial resources to state and local authorities is a massive incentive for voluntary cooperation between all 50 governors and the administration.

Here’s an overview of what the plan to reopen should look like:

 

> Achieve sufficient testing saturation – i.) we need to know how many people are actually sick in real time ii.) we need to know who has recovered and has antibodies.

> Harden the supply chain – guaranteed sick leave, PPE, preventive screening and disinfectants to 100% of our workforce keeping essential goods flowing into American homes.

> Expand medical capabilities – maximally lift the breaking point where our healthcare system would be overwhelmed via further deployment of military pop-up hospitals and medical personnel; states prepare PAs and NPs for physician-level duties and open interstate licensing reciprocity for increased response capacity.

> Boldly pursue the solution – medical intervention through vaccine or treatment is our light at the end of tunnel; we must cut all red tape and pursue any plausible ideas. This is the first commercial mobilization since WW2, let’s be bold with it and win.

> Bolster security and order – while the majority of Americans are working together as part of the solution, the honor system will not be good enough if we want to reopen before a vaccine.  We have to step up and stop the bad apples from ruining our collective effort.

 

The military is the best readily available solution to the logistical challenge of testing saturation in a country that spans a continent and has more than 330 million people.  The military could field equipment and medical personnel for pop-up drive-through testing at any site across the US.  Use the military as a force multiplier for the CDC and commercial labs to win on the testing front.

We also need more resources for public safety efforts as we reopen.  We made it very far on the honor system but we have seen certain groups taking advantage of the lockdown in various ways that tread on the decent majority.  Many have raised accurate concerns about recidivism among the thousands of felons released from jail over recent weeks.  Just the presence of our great troops will go a long way to bolster safety and order.

Using their most gentle posture, elements of the 82nd Airborne stepped into near-total lawlessness in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and brought order swiftly and safely.  We are certainly not talking about martial law – but a surge in law enforcement available to state and local authorities alongside a surge in military medical and testing capabilities.

As we begin to ease lockdown restrictions, we need more enforcement efforts to ensure those that are out should be.  If we miscalculate and have a resurgence of cases among first responders, then redundancy is critical as we can’t do anything without civil order.

We are in the crucial moment where the curve in the US appears to be flattening because of the sacrifice and courage of so many everyday heroes.  Americans have collectively done better than anyone expected and it is a great credit to how much we can accomplish when we put aside the things that divide us and work together.

As we step into our “end of the beginning” moment in the fight against COVID-19, the good news is that this is the first war with both commercial mobilization and overwhelming public support since WW2.  If we are wise and bold, we can all work together to mark a good moment in human history – and solve our way out of a difficult situation.

Steve Yen is Founder of Dux Advisors, he has career experience in Finance, Consulting and as a former Army Captain. He was educated at Georgetown Preparatory School then as a BBA (Finance) with graduate-level coursework at business schools in the United States, England and Germany. Follow him on Twitter @DuxAdvisors.

Disclosure:  This is an opinion article not intended as investment advice – making investment decisions without your own evaluation of ideas is not investing; always do your own research and speak with an investment advisor, if you have one, before making any investment decisions.  Any opinions expressed are as of the date of publication.