Fighting Coronavirus and the National Shutdown

Hello readers – Scott Asner here.

I hope that you are all staying safe.

Today, I thought I would take some time to think out loud about the state that we find ourselves in regarding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It has been several weeks since most cities and states have implemented shelter-in-place orders – closing non-essential businesses and public areas and placing millions sheltering in their homes. This strategy has certainly worked to help mitigate the spread of the virus, but it has also presented new challenges. As of this point, more than 33 million Americans have lost their jobs and we could be facing some long-term economic damage.

Essentially, we are at war with this virus, and we have difficult decisions to make in the weeks and months ahead. Whether it be at the federal, state, or individual level – decisions for how to respond will inevitably come to a point of factoring in the common denominator of cost. Hopefully as we learn more about this virus, it will help us make more informed decisions that will allow us to balance safety and our way of life.

As is so common in life, there are no perfect solutions. We are having to triage, as we balance the sanctity of life verses our way of life. But there are ways to think about balancing safe measures with opening our nation back up and running.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, researchers are finding that many people who contract coronavirus display zero symptoms, which also indicates that the virus is much more widespread than we know. And while the research is still out on the lasting effects of the virus, this seems to be good news and gives us hope that it is less deadly than our worst fears.

It will require thorough studying, research and solid testing to confirm just how dangerous this virus is, but I believe that we will eventually ascertain a reliable hospitalization and death rate – hopefully sooner rather than later. We can also expect to learn more about which underlying medical conditions may place individuals at a higher risk, and under what circumstances the virus may spread. Once understood, all of these factors and more will provide experts and leaders with a better guide for balancing the economy and public safety.

If it is discovered that the virus is far less of a public safety threat than originally thought, then states and cities will likely begin to lift restrictions in proportion to the risk that comes with doing so.

And the cost of risk is not a foreign concept. You could also take car manufacturing and safety testing as an example. Every day, automotive manufacturers make decisions to balance safety mechanisms with the cost of production. Everything from the types of material used on seatbelts, to the types of airbags installed – all parts of a vehicle and design choices are based on practicality and the risk involved.

As we move forward against the coronavirus outbreak, we should continue to implement smart and practical safety policies as best we can, but in continuing to do so, we will eventually be forced to factor in the inescapable risk involved.

Testing is the key. The most important thing we can do right now is test as many people as possible. Knowing the likelihood of various health outcomes is a critical step in allowing the public to make an informed decision. Obviously, each individual’s decision tree would be dramatically affected if the actual lethality of the virus is found to be 1/1000 as opposed to 1/10.

I am confident that with the world mobilizing its brightest minds to help solve this crisis, we will find the right balance and can begin to repair the damage done to our economy and communities.

Wishing you all the best,

~ Scott Asner, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, Missouri

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