The federal government can alleviate some of the damage, but even the biggest, best-designed stimulus bill is no substitute for shuttered storefronts and factories. And how many times can Washington pass $2 trillion bills?
No, this is not sustainable, nor will people stand for it except as a temporary expedient. President Donald Trump is already expressing impatience with his own guidance against gatherings of more than 10 people for the next 15 days. …
… The answer to our current situation doesn’t require downplaying COVID-19, or going about business as usual and hoping for the best. The advantage of the lockdowns is that they make every other public-policy option look cautious and inexpensive by comparison. What can be more radical than telling tens of millions of Americans to shelter in place?
Our aim should be to shift from the blunderbuss solution of mass shutdowns to rifle-shot remedies, on the model of what South Korea has done with its widespread testing (although it has much more favorable conditions as a smaller, more cohesive country with an outbreak centered on one church).
We should focus on the production of tests, ventilators, masks, and other protective gear on an industrial scale. Whatever the government has to spend or do to get it done should happen — just as if we were on a wartime footing.
The first priority should obviously be backstopping the hospital system and protecting front-line medical workers. …
… This regimen would depend on innovation — cheaper, faster tests, etc. — but that is surely within our power with enough will and resources.