Set goals now for returning to normal
The greatest failing of our politicians and scientists in this COVID-19 pandemic is the inability (or unwillingness) to provide Americans direct “line-of-sight” to conditions that, when met, will allow us to return to normal.
More data has been collected and analyzed than for any other disease in history. Data is posted daily. Running tallies of cases, deaths, hospitalizations, ICU capacities, vaccinations, etc., are shared in all news media. But one piece of data is always missing: What objective condition(s) must exist for Ohioans to return to prepandemic normal and where do we stand?
After more than a year, we know where the virus originated; how it’s transmitted; who is most vulnerable; and how it attacks. We know how to recognize symptoms and how to test and treat it. Now we have effective vaccines.
Given this spate of knowledge, condition(s) can be set that will allow us to return to prepandemic normalcy. There must be two considerations: (1) They must be achievable; and (2) the goalposts cannot be moved.
Consider this: While vaccinations must certainly be one of the goals, it is unrealistic to say that “80 percent of the population must be inoculated before we open up.” Information shows 35 to 40 percent of the population never will take the vaccine, so an 80 percent vaccination rate is unrealistic and unachievable. A better approach would be to establish realistic rates based on age groups: 65 percent over age 75; 60 percent between 60 and 75; and 55 percent for those under age 60. These are realistic and recognize the disparate effect the virus has on differing age populations. Secondary goals might include measures of ICU bed availability, or death rate over a period of time. There are others. Find them and agree on thresholds to be met. Then measure progress daily and publicly.
Once conditions for reopening are set and daily counts and measures begin, there can be no readjustment or resetting goals. The public has suffered for more than a year without any clear end in sight and will not tolerate moving goalposts.
The public needs more than the great hope vaccines provide. We need to know there is an end to the economic and social strangulation we have endured for over a year. Set goals now and visibly measure daily progress toward meeting them with the same vigor we currently use in reporting “cases” and deaths.” When the goals are met, we should remove all restrictions on crowd size, dining, building capacity, mask wearing, curfews and any other onerous restrictions that have hobbled our businesses and society.
CHARLES M. COLEMAN