China bent the curve, Italy bent the curve and I believe that the curve is bending in the United States. Suppression is working and the second part of the strategy of test, trace and isolate will start to come into play in a few weeks. The states are gearing up to test, trace and isolate and several large serological surveys are already underway which will gives us a much better idea of how widely the virus has spread. Ideally, we will move from test, trace and isolate to a situation where we can conduct millions of tests weekly which will take us into the vaccine time.
Before testing is fully operational, however, we will need to follow safety protocols. We can learn about what works from what essential workers are doing now. Green Circuits in CA, for example, redesigned the shift schedule:
His first move was to redesign the plant’s work schedule. The company, owned by the Dallas-based private equity firm Evolve Capital, always had the first and second shifts overlap for a half-hour. That allowed workers arriving in the afternoon to confer with colleagues as they handed off duties.
But O’Neil said they realized that would risk their whole workforce getting quarantined for 14 days, if someone got infected by the coronavirus and spent time at the factory as part of this larger group.
The solution was to create three separate teams of 40 workers each. The first shift now ends at 2 p.m., and then there’s an hour when the workspaces, tools, and breakrooms are sanitized. The third team does not work at all, but rather is held in reserve and available to jump in if an illness hampers one of the two other teams of workers.
Other safety protocols include:
- Shift work for white collar workers as well as for blue collar workers. Including spreading work over the weekends.
- Senior shopping hours.
- Temperature checks, perhaps via passive fever cameras at work and public transport.
- Mandatory masks for public transportation.
- Masks for workers.
- Sanitation breaks for mandatory hand washing.
- Quarantining at work for essential workers, as the MLB is thinking of doing despite not being essential.
- Reducing touch surfaces (even with simple things like propping up bathroom doors) and copper tape for hi-touch surfaces that cannot be eliminated.
It will take longer to reopen restaurants, clubs and sports stadiums but I believe that applying these protocols will allow many of us to work safely. We aren’t ready yet but now is the time to plan for our return.