April 12, 2020    America

Has San Francisco Won the Battle Against COVID-19?

How San Francisco managed the pandemic so far is a great story, but what I’m puzzled about is this: Now what? Here is the analogy I can make for San Francisco’s situation. They saw a bunch of zombies closing in on them from far away, so they quickly began building walls with bricks. By the time they finished, only a few zombies had managed to get inside of the walls, which meant it was easy for them to kill these zombies. So, now they are celebrating their victory. But soon enough, they’ll realize that they haven’t thought about how to go outside of the wall in the future. They can’t stay inside forever; everyone will eventually starve to death.

This is the part where nobody seems to have a solution. The current crisis is more like a marathon than a sprint. You could use all of your energy to get to the first checkpoint before anyone else but then what do you do for the rest? Here, energy is equivalent to economy. Shutting down a city is very costly. Economically, there is a limit to how long a city can afford to shut down its economy. There is also a limit to how long the world can do so.

Imagine if China decided to shut down the whole economy and continued to do so out of an abundance of precaution. Where would all of our medical supplies and equipment come from? If the Chinese government wanted to protect only their own citizens, they could reduce the number of essential workers to produce only what they need for themselves. Why should they risk the lives of Chinese workers for the sake of foreigners? If they thought like this, it would be devastating for the rest of the world.

The Asian countries that succeeded in the “suppression” strategy were able to reopen their economy only because they were able to switch back to the proactive strategy of contact tracing. As far as I know, not even a single Western country has succeeded in proactive containment.

Proactive containment means, even as the virus infiltrates through your borders, you are able to track every single case of it and prevent it from spreading. The only reason Taiwan is able to keep the economy open is that they are armed with a database of their citizens with their travel and medical records. They can preemptively identify high-risk individuals and test them even before they show any symptoms.

South Korea can track every citizen’s movement via their mobile phones. So, upon identifying an infected person, they can trace back their movements and identify others he had contact with.

What Western nations can do this? Certainly not the US. So, what is our strategy for breaking down the walls and dealing with the invasion of zombies again? We haven’t answered this fundamental question.

This is the big elephant that not many people are discussing. Without the solutions for this part, we can’t claim victory to this crisis yet.

Although New York’s handling of this crisis gets an F, the bright side is that it will produce many citizens who are immune to the virus. Eventually, it could be these people with antibodies who can go kill the zombies outside of the San Francisco walls. They could function as a rescue team.