The number of cries to reduce restrictions and re-start our economy grow louder each hour, it seems. Yes, we are tired of our movements being restricted and from being unable to earn our livings. All of us have experienced the pain of this pandemic.
I will defend (and encourage) your right to assemble and protest under normal conditions, but we are in a state of emergency, declared by both our president and our governor. In those instances, it is reasonable and responsible to impose some restrictions. While you have the right to assemble you do not have the right to endanger my health or anyone's. It is selfish to think your rights greater than others'.
Governor Cooper has heard those voices and says he is considering easing restrictions, but he hasn't told us what benchmarks must be met before he does. It would be foolhardy of him to just throw open the doors and tell us to resume our normal lives.
I started thinking what would be reasonable and measurable standards to begin relaxing restrictions? Here's what I came up with.
First, everyone agrees we need more testing. We have currently completed only 80,000 COVID-19 tests in North Carolina. We've tested less than 1 percent of our 10 million population and really don't know how widespread this virus is, because so few have been tested. It is certainly greater than we are reporting but we need more data. Step one is that we must increase completed COVID-19 tests to a minimum of 1,500 per day. To accomplish this means we need more test kits than we currently have and far more completions, but it is the only way for us to accurately know what we are facing.
Secondly, the doubling rate of reported cases must decline from the current rate of every 12 days. We should not relax restrictions until a doubling rate of at least every 15 days is achieved for a period of two weeks. If achieved, we will know the spread has slowed.
Next, COVID-19 hospitalizations must be held below 550 for 14 consecutive days. Currently we are told there are fewer than 500, so this leaves a little room for increase while also ensuring our hospitals will not be overwhelmed.
The first three benchmarks measure hard numbers. The next two relate to our behaviors.
We need to require masks be worn when out in public. Of course, if you are eating or drinking the mask can be removed, with your face recovered when not so doing. This will restrict the spread of coronavirus...more your spreading it to me than catching it from me. Cloth masks will work if more acceptable versions aren't available. It is recommended that rubber gloves be worn. Frequent handwashing and sanitizing of surfaces is essential, as this virus lives on surfaces.
Currently we have restrictions of no more than 10 people gathered in one spot. As a baby step we would ease that to the lesser of 50 people or 40 percent of the number recommended by the local Fire Marshall. This will prohibit most church services, entertainment and sports events and even many office environments, but let's begin here and see how it works.
These relaxations will be measured for a three-week period beginning May 1. If we achieve the above criteria we would recommend even more relaxation. On the other hand, if the numbers aren't met be prepared to restore some tighter restrictions, understanding this is a process that will take some months to safely return to more normal circumstances.
That's what I would do if I were governor. The bottom line is that we can ease into a more normal existence if each plays his or her part to ensure care and act responsibility. If not, the blame for tighter controls will not be on our governor or local leaders. It will rest squarely on our own behaviors.
Publisher's note: Tom Campbell is former assistant North Carolina State Treasurer and is creator/host of NC SPIN
, a weekly statewide television discussion of NC issues that airs on UNC-TV main channel Fridays at 7:30pm, Sundays 12:30pm and UNC North Carolina Channel Fridays at 10:00pm, Saturdays at 4:00pm and Sundays at 10:00am
. Contact Tom at NC Spin.