I’m not the President, I’m not the Prime Minister. But if I were, this is the speech I would deliver. The deep dive behind this speech is available here.
Over recent weeks, a new disease has overtaken our communities. It lurks among us, threatening us with terrible illness and even death. It has become a terror waiting to strike at any place or time.
Reacting to it, we have shut schools, public events and more. We have followed the guidance of our expert epidemiologists.
I am not an epidemiologist – I can barely say the word. Like most politicians, I have few qualifications of any kind. My job is to make decisions, taking into account the opinions and expertise of those smarter and more knowledgeable than myself. I am surrounded by many talented men and women who can guide me on this path.
Listening to these experts has revealed a critical reality to me: our decisions have been too narrowly focused on the coronavirus. These decisions will end up costing many more lives than the virus itself.
If we enact truly extreme quarantine and isolation measures, we will be able to slow the spread of this disease. As has become popular to say, we will be able to smooth the curve. But even if we defeat the virus here, it will be sustained in 2nd and 3rd world countries and it will return. To successfully defeat this virus, we will need to sustain these measures for a long time – until we have vaccines or treatments.
We may be fortunate in identifying treatments soon. But vaccines will take a year or more. A recent study from the Imperial College in London stated that we would need 18 months of confinement.
Unfortunately, we can’t maintain these measures for more than a few weeks.
To give but one example, we can define hospital staff as essential. They can go to work. And this will work. But it will only work until we run out of our supply of extra beds, or IVs, or gowns or advanced medications or even generator parts.
Then, we will depend on a vast supply chain that employs literally billions of people in dozens of countries. We will be depending on the same supply chain that is now being threatened by layoffs, bankruptcies and more.
People talk about flattening the healthcare demand curve, but if we continue on our current path, our efforts to spread out the impact of the virus will dramatically reduce our health care resources. Our supply of health care services will plummet.
We may cut the lives lost to corona virus, but we will certainly and dramatically increase the lives lost to other diseases and conditions we will lack the resources to treat. If we maintain the path of isolation, our health care capability will soon resemble North Korea’s.
Of course, violent economic contractions do more than reduce healthcare capacity. In Israel, which reports unemployment data very quickly, 2.3% of the workforce has already been laid off. This is after less than one week of recommended home isolation.
Past studies have shown that the loss of employment can result in a tremendous drop in life expectancy. On average, those under 60 will lose more years of their life to the economic crises than they will to the virus itself. Those who have been laid off will face tremendous economic difficulties. If they were not already well-to-do, the debts they will incur in order to survive will threaten them for years or decades to come.
And then there is the third world.
Nine million people a year die of hunger. In the third world, 3.4 billion people live on less than $5.50 a day. A vast economic contraction will not just deny them healthcare, it will deny them food. If our economy is undermined, many of those people will lose their tenuous place in our global supply chain. Whether they are miners, farmers or factory workers, they may find themselves without the resources to eat.
Tens or hundreds of millions could die.
We can not feed the modern world’s population without a vibrant economy.
Dramatically slowing our economy to support this laudable mass isolation effort will kill far more people than the virus itself. Putting the brakes on our business activity is not an heroic decision. It is not a selfless decision.
It is a poor decision.
Instead, it is our responsibility to fight this contagion. Not by constraining our resources, but by exploiting them. By working and producing, we will create the resources that will enable us to get through this battle.
How will we spend those resources?
First, this virus is far more dangerous to the elderly and infirm. And so, I am recommending quarantine for anybody over the age of 60. I will kick off government programs to supply those at private homes and nursing home facilities with sterile food, medicine and supply packages. Additional spending will help nursing homes buy biohazard equipment and hire staff to support their efforts during this trying time. With successful isolation, I believe we could cut the death rate among this vulnerable population by more than half.
This virus will demand vast medical resources and so I am authorizing massive funding for both the conversion of facilities and the arming of our medical personnel with the best equipment we can buy.
In addition, we will temporarily authorize nurses to make more medical decisions, orderlies to take more nursing actions and the untrained to work in baseline hospital jobs. These steps will reduce our quality of care, but it will increase the quantity of care available.
Of course, fighting this virus will demand rapid innovation. For this reason, I have instructed our regulators to temporary, and dramatically, loosen the requirements for the testing and use of treatments for this disease. Already several treatments appear to show promise.
As the virus is already endemic in our communities, I am redirecting testing resources from tracking the disease to studying the effectiveness of medical interventions.
If we are fortunate, we may find a viable treatment soon.
All in all, this program will be enormously expensive. But with a functioning economy, we can afford it.
Of course, even with a functioning economy, it won’t be easy. It is because of that that I have authorized the creation of Corona Bonds. If you want to help this war effort: work, earn money, and invest that money in Corona Bonds.
Your money will be spent saving lives.
My fellow citizens, it is likely many lives will be lost to this virus in the months ahead. But because of the decisions being made here today, we will preserve our health care capacity, we will preserve the live of those most vulnerable in our society and we will save untold millions internationally.
There are no good choices. Instead, we must make the best of our poor options.
Let’s maintain a near complete quarantine for a week – we can afford that and it will buy us a little more time to prepare. But then, let us open up our doors and emerge from our homes. As we do so, we may be afraid. We may be afraid that we will be exposed or that those we love will be threatened.
That fear is not irrational. Even as we wash our hands and keep our distance, many of us will get ill, many will be hospitalized and many will die. Like a soldier going into battle, fear is natural.
But like a soldier going into battle we must fight nonetheless. And we can fight by working, earning money, and investing that money in Corona Bonds.
We will fight this disease and we will maintain the overall health of our society.
Together we will stand strong in the face of fear.
Thank you and may G-d bless humankind.