It's time for a task force to rescue America from the shutdown
President Donald Trump is hinting at a second task force responsible for getting Americans back to work. Appoint it now, Mr. President. Don't wait until the virus peaks. This second task force should prepare the country to reopen, with new tools to fight the virus.
The president's top epidemiologist, the esteemed Anthony Fauci, insists "the best tool we have" is "physical separation." But mandating that people stay home is costing Americans their jobs and will force businesses into bankruptcy. The nation needs an alternative strategy.
A chorus of government health officials and academics, like Harvard's Marc Lipsitch, want the shutdown continued until the virus is gone or a vaccine is developed. They're well-meaning but out of touch. No wonder. Their paychecks continue to roll in, even during a shutdown.
Meanwhile, blue-collar workers and business owners are hammered. It's possible the virus will stay with us, and become seasonal, Fauci warns. And a vaccine will take at least 18 months.
This second task force needs to cut red tape and speed approvals for new drugs, making coronavirus a treatable disease by summer. That's a real possibility, not wishful thinking.
Several drugs are already being tested on patients, including antiviral medicines. As former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb explains, the key is getting the FDA to review how patients are responding in real time, rather than waiting for the trials to end.
Since taking office, Trump has worked to speed up the FDA's bureaucratic, risk-averse and slow drug approval process. He's pushing even harder now.
Trump's under attack for pressuring the FDA to allow doctors to try hydroxychloroquine combined with the antibiotic azithromycin, although both drugs are already in use for other maladies. In a French clinical trial, the combo worked on coronavirus, but critics object that study wasn't large enough. That's a legitimate concern in ordinary times.
"The president is short-circuiting the process," protests Jeffrey Flier, former Harvard Medical School dean. The process? In a pandemic, patients can't wait.
State Rep. Tavia Galonski, D-Ohio, wants to charge Trump with "crimes against humanity" for pushing a drug that hasn't been tested for coronavirus patients. Patients think he deserves a medal.