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Bipartisan Harvard Study Offers Roadmap to Reopening US Economy

With the Trump Administration releasing criteria for state governments to reopen their economies, along with many governors, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, unveiling preliminary plans to restart their economies, a newly released bi-partisan report by Harvard University sheds some light on the avenues government leaders can take to effectively and safely begin the process of mobilizing and reopening the U.S. economy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience,” released by Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics with support from The Rockefeller Foundation on April 20, lays out how a massive scale-up of testing, paired with contact tracing and supported isolation, can rebuild trust in our personal safety and re-mobilize the U.S. economy.

“This is the first plan to show operationally how we can scale up COVID-19 testing sufficiently to safely reopen the economy and keep it open—while safeguarding fundamental American democratic principles of protecting civil rights and liberties,” said Danielle Allen, director of Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. "This Roadmap will move us from can't-do America, to a new era of can-do America."

Among the report’s top recommendations is the need to deliver at least 5.0 million tests per day by early June to help ensure a safe social opening. This number will need to increase to 20 million tests per day by mid-summer to fully re-mobilize the economy and keep it open.

“The unique value of this approach is that it will prevent cycles of opening up and shutting down,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America. “It allows us to mobilize and progressively re-open the parts of the economy that have been shut down, protect our front-line workers, and contain the virus to levels where it can be effectively managed and treated until we can find a vaccine.”

Allen added, “This roadmap is the only approach to both contain the virus and ramp back up to vibrant economic life. And, in the long term, it allows us to build an infrastructure of pandemic resilience that will serve us well when the next health crisis or disaster hits, while improving community health."

Additional key findings include:

  • The level of testing and supported isolation needed depends on how effectively we can trace people’s contacts; warn those contacts about their exposure and need for a test; then test them; and support isolation for those who are COVID-positive.

  • To succeed, isolation must be supported with job protection, resource support—including care packages, grocery and food deliveries—and necessary health care services.

  • Testing and public health response—in programs established by states and administered by local health authorities—can and should be fully aligned with civil liberties, due process, data and health privacy protections, health ethics and non-discrimination.

To achieve these goals, the report lays out a detailed summary—a roadmap—of what is needed, including:

  • Innovation in testing methodologies that permit scaling up the supply of tests.

  • A Pandemic Testing Board established by the federal government, with strong but narrow powers, that has the job of securing adequate testing supply and the infrastructure necessary for deployment.

  • Federal and/or state guidance for state testing programs that align with due process, civil liberties, equal protection, non-discrimination, and privacy standards;

  • Readiness frameworks to support local health leaders, mayors, tribal leaders, and other public officials in establishing test administration processes and isolation support resources;

  • Organizational innovation at the local level--linking cities, counties, and health districts, with specifics varying from state to state;

  • Massively scaling up the nation’s contact tracing personnel, starting by adding 100,000 contact tracers across the U.S.;

  • Pre-emptive regulation of peer-to-peer warning-sharing apps to ensure security; maximum privacy protection; system audits by federal agencies accountable to the electorate via officeholders; and prohibitions on commercialization of any data to which firms supporting the apps have access;

  • Support for quarantine and isolation in the form of jobs protection and material support for time in quarantine and isolation as well as access to necessary health care services;

  • An expanded Medical (or Health) Reserves Corps (paid service roles), and addition of Health Reserves Corps to the National Guard units in every state;

  • Creation of a National Infectious Disease Forecasting Center to modernize disease tracking.

The “Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience” study builds on important work already released by Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the Duke Margolis Center for Public Health Policy, the Center for American Progress and the American Enterprise Institute.

Full report and additional in-depth papers are published on and