Steve Hilton: How to reopen America safely, but soon

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The coronavirus has left death and devastation in its wake. But as we've said since the beginning, this shutdown costs lives, too, and here's the toll.

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More than 1 in 10 Americans thrown out of work, higher taxes to come, businesses collapsing, mental health declining, poverty rising and with it, life expectancy falling. We're hearing that there was pushback against the shutdown in early February.

Of course, there was and quite right, too. President Trump's instincts on this have been right all along. He's the one that has to consider all the implications of any decision, including the social, economic, and yes, public health devastation of a shutdown.

As the shutdown toll grows, so has the demand for a better, more sustainable antivirus plan. We've said it different ways, but it's all the same thing: Reopen America safely, but soon.

I've read the ideas that are out there for how we move out of shutdown. Frankly, none of them makes sense, except the one put together by a world-renowned team of scientists and entrepreneurs that we will present to you.

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First, let's get the bad ideas out of the way. The central truth of our current situation is that it's not just as I said a few weeks ago, that the cure is worse than the disease. This cure is not even a cure.

The minute you lift the lockdowns, the virus starts spreading again, whether that's May, June, July, August or Christmas. That's the central floor in the first bad idea for reopening. Lift the lockdown now but reapply it until we get a vaccine.

MSNBC's Zeke Emanuel talks about shutdown 2.0, 3.0, 4.0. How about, just "no." Anyone pushing the recurring shutdown idea has no clue about how the economy actually works. Uncertainty is a killer for business, for consumers and for workers. We need to reopen and stay open.

Another terrible idea is the one we told you about last week. Governments in Europe are looking at immunity passports or certificates for those who've had coronavirus. Our own Dr. Fauci said on Friday that immunity certificates, "might actually have some merit under certain circumstances."

Again, no. This has no merit under any circumstances. Of course, we respect Dr. Fauci's medical expertise, but this is a policy idea that would be an Orwellian nightmare, like the past laws they had in South Africa at the height of apartheid.

To be effective, to bring certainty to business, to maximize our chances of getting that big bounce-back recovery working Americans so desperately need, the right plan to reopen America has to be safe, of course, based on science, but also simple.

Government antibody surveillance, leading to antibody passes would create a class of zero positive elites, and an incentive for people desperate for work to get infected. I hope no one in the White House is wasting one second on such a monstrous inhuman scheme. It would be totally unacceptable to the American people, let alone Trump supporters.

Another example of technocratic hubris is the plan being pushed by former FDA head Scott Gottlieb. This is the one the establishment group seems to be coalescing around. So that alone should make you suspicious of it.

As part of a comically complicated scheme with different phases and benchmarks for different parts of the country, this plan would use mass virus testing, not antibody testing -- as Dr. Fauci puts it, to identify, isolate, contact, trace everyone who gets the virus.

But the latest data tells us that many millions of Americans have or will get the virus. The idea that the government can identify each of them, isolate them somewhere for weeks, trace all their contacts -- it's insane.

And now we know that Apple and Google are right behind it, ready to build their surveillance empires on the back of this crisis. Let's call it the Gottlieb-Apple-Google plan or "GAG" for short. It's a technocrat's dream and America's nightmare. No.

To be effective, to bring certainty to business, to maximize our chances of getting that big bounce-back recovery working Americans so desperately need, the right plan to reopen America has to be safe, of course, based on science, but also simple. That's the plan we'll present to you.

And here are the people who put it together. Stanford University Professor of Epidemiology, Dr. John Ioannidis; Stanford Associate Professor of Population Health, Eran Bendavid, and joining us live, Stanford University Professor of Medicine, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya; biophysicist and medical investor, Dr. Andrew Bogan, and entrepreneur and the founder of JetBlue, David Neeleman.

Uncertainty is a killer for business, for consumers and for workers. We need to reopen and stay open.

Here are the key elements of their plan, and we should be clear that it is intended to go into full effect, May 1st, after the current White House guidelines expire.

Step one: Get accurate data about how widespread and how deadly coronavirus really is. The statistics we're seeing right now are totally wrong. They reflect the number of tests, not the real number of infections.

To get the real number, the Stanford team has just carried out the world's first large scale community antibody sample survey right here in the Bay Area where I'm speaking to you from, Santa Clara County. It was the first in the nation to identify community transmission of coronavirus. The official statistics claim there are about 1,600 cases of coronavirus here.

Based on early indications and similar testing elsewhere, the actual number could be much, much higher. That means coronavirus is much more contagious but much less deadly than we've been told.

So, here's recommendation one: Instead of pursuing government antibody surveillance for every American, the White House should immediately commission continuous community antibody sampling nationwide, so we get a true picture of the spread of this virus.

Second step: Get accurate data about who is most vulnerable. Just saying the elderly and those with underlying health conditions is too vague. How old? Which health conditions? How severe? How much virus were they exposed to? That is a huge part of this story. That is why young people like some of our health care heroes are dying, despite being in good health.

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Don't waste time identifying, isolating and contact tracing everyone who has got the virus. The latest data shows there are multiple millions of them, and the vast majority will be fine. Instead, put the effort into tracing the medical histories of the people who so tragically died.

Unbelievably, our hospitals are not collecting that data. So, there's the second recommendation: The White House should mandate the collection and publication of what's known as, "morbidity data" -- detailed information about the health conditions of coronavirus fatalities. This is especially important.

Now, we know more about how this virus is transmitted. Early guidance was wrong and dangerous, focusing on surface transmission, hand washing, face touching and so on. We now know the virus can be passed on through airborne droplets that can be breathed in.

So it's likely that the shutdowns actually hurt the most vulnerable, infected, but asymptomatic people were sent back to multigenerational homes into close quarters with their elderly family members. We need better data on infection rates, better data on risk factors. That's what the next few weeks should be about.

Then we go to step three in this science-based plan: Reopen America all at once, not bit by bit. Quarantine and protect the truly vulnerable. If we know that millions more Americans than we thought have already had coronavirus, we don't need to shut down the economy just for a lack of ventilators to take care of the truly vulnerable.

With the information gathered in steps one and two of this plan, we can do a much better job of protecting them. Quarantine the most vulnerable -- not everyone, not even everyone over 65, just those with the specific health risks that have tragically killed thousands already. Keep them inside, give them N-95 masks and make sure no one comes within six feet of them.

Make sure local health services contact and support them, mobilize food banks to help them. Impose much tighter controls in nursing homes and continue to build our reserves of ventilators and PPE to make sure we can cope with anything that comes down the line.

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Look, it might be a while before we can fill up a football stadium, but the science-based plan we've outlined for you is simple, it is practical and it is the best way to reopen America safely, but soon.

Adapted from Steve Hilton's monologue from "The Next Revolution" on April 12, 2020.

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