Three months ago, on January 22, 2020, when I uploaded my first coronavirus pandemic post (and being one of the first law blogs to post about it substantively), a few people asked me why I already writing about this.
In part, it was because I had been listening to Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
I found him to be thoughtful and, if I’m being honest, more than a little scary at the time. The pandemic was coming. It was inevitable. And we had to be prepared for it.
Over the last week, I’ve heard more lawfirms pontificating already about reopening businesses, giving lofty webinars, and, well, can’t we just all go back to work yet?
So, three months later, before you start thinking that we are all going to back to work at the same time anytime soon, I think it’s worth listening to Dr. Osterholm again.
He gave an in-depth interview with CNN on Wednesday.
Here are a few of the items I took as takeaways from his interview:
- “The epidemiology tells me that this first wave of illness is, in fact, just the beginning of what could very easily be 16 to 18 months of substantial activity of this virus around the world, coming and going, wave after wave.”
- “You might say we’re in the second inning of a nine-inning game. We’ve got to consider how we’re going to prepare ourselves for the possibility that some of the cities that have already been hit hard will have peaks some months down the road that may be much larger in case numbers than we’re seeing right now.”
- “There’s got to be an approach in the middle. I call it “threading the rope through the needle,” where we open our economy and everyday life in a way that is capable of rapidly detecting the emergence of new waves of infection. Then we do whatever we can again with physical distancing to limit the new infection’s spread.”
- “So you have the possibility of at least 800,000 deaths in the US over the next 18 months. This is the number of deaths I’m expecting.”
- “This virus could be in the air around infected people. It could be the same air we share and breathe. The more times you go into public spaces, the greater the likelihood you’re going to swap some air with somebody who has the virus and doesn’t even know it. Again, we have to be honest about that.”
It is a very sobering interview and again, for those that are trying to map out the next few weeks, we need to be thinking far longer than that. Moreover, we have to think about a workplace that leans into the restrictions already in place.
So yes, think about “return to work” plans. Think about how you might do temperature checks, or antibody tests, or social distancing, or masks, or all of the above. Connecticut may start to open up in June and even then, only in fits and starts.
But temper that with the realization that the virus has its own schedule. It does not need to clock in or clock out. It is patient. And it does not care about your best intentions.
Three months in, this pandemic is still here. Keep staying safe and healthy.