Maybe they already have provisions like this, but if they don’t, Congress, lower level legislatures, city councils, and other deliberative bodies should pass emergency legislation allowing them to convene and vote online in case they can’t raise a quorum in person due to quarantine. Don’t wait. Do it on Thursday.
Then, Congress should vote to appropriate a giant amount of money to the fight against COVID-19: a huge round number that gets attention, like, I dunno, $100,000,000,000. They don’t have to specify what it all is for yet, but specify some minimums like at least 10% will go to toward finding a vaccine, 10% toward treatment research, etc. Offer a billion dollar prize for a vaccine.
Then they should delegate emergency authority to bodies like state departments of public health (or whatever is appropriate) for loosening medical regulations to allow doctors to focus on the coming critical cases.
They should look at temporary steps to allow doctors to avoid a lot of routine face-to-face busywork. For example, grant doctors the temporary right for a few months to prescribe antibiotics for children’s earaches to parents over the phone.
Let doctors extend prescriptions without office visits for renewals.
Let nurses write prescriptions.
Allow doctors to charge for phone calls as well as appointments.
Insurance companies should step up and announce temporary changes that would free up doctors’ time.
People in positions of responsibility need to gameplan for scenarios and make sure there aren’t dumb regulations standing in the way of solutions, the way the FDA and CDC between them both botched testing and then twiddled their thumbs for weeks after they knew about the problem because there was a rule and you can’t just go around changing rules you know.
For example, hospitals may need to set up tents in their parking lots before this over. What rules on the books might get in the way? What are the steps to override the rules?
iSteve commenter eugyppius writes:
The US is ca. 16 days behind Italy, that is still outside the ca. 10-day incubation window in which the system-swamping infections are guaranteed yet invisible. Like everyone else they have not been testing though, so the situation could still be vastly more dire than it seems. On the other hand, drastic action, while politically unlikely, has substantial mitigating potential for America.
In a fantasy world all nonessential employees would be sent home right now, most schools would close right now, highways airports bus and train stations closed to all nonessential traffic right now, curfews imposed right now. The government would take control of whatever supply of n95 masks remains in the market, directly arrange the further manufacture of more masks as in Taiwan, and ration their distribution: ensuring that older people and essential employees who need to commute/be outside in major cities have a supply. If masks can be successfully rationed and distributed, there should be rules enacted to enforce their use.
Then, reports from Italy suggest medical ventilators are one of the crucial bottlenecks. Can more such machines be obtained at short notice? Downmarket knockoffs put into service? Older obsolete tech dusted off and plugged back in? I have no idea, but they need to start ramping up icu capacity now, before the demand is there. Otherwise, they’ll have to ramp it up while denying care to many suffocating patients.