Ricky Sandler, Chief Executive Officer of Eminence Capital, issued the below Open Letter outlining his views of the best path forward to returning Americans back to their normal lives as quickly and as safely as possible. The views expressed in the letter have been endorsed by small business owners, entrepreneurs, chief executive officers, mothers, doctors and scientists, among others. Join us in raising our voices by co-signing below.
What is America’s virus strategy:
Get rid of the virus and hope we develop a vaccine?
Protect the vulnerable and know that herd immunity and / or a vaccine will get us to the other side?
Nearly every country has been able to flatten the curve and/or taken steps to get the virus under reasonable control. This is critical so as to protect its hospitals from being overrun, thereby saving lives because they have the capacity and the capability to treat virus victims in addition to the rest of the community who need access to medical care.
Once that has been established, there are two clear, but diametrically opposed strategies each nation can choose to take towards one day getting to a place where even older and vulnerable individuals can eat at a restaurant comfortably.
Path A: On one hand, we can attempt to strictly distance and massively alter the quality of life for most Americans for extended periods of time in hopes of keeping the overall infection rate across the nation from going much higher than the 3-10% it probably is today until some uncertain day in the future where we develop a vaccine that works 100% of the time.
Plan B: We protect the vulnerable population and then allow and even encourage the rest of the population to get back to normal life. Those citizens that are comfortable can go back to life as we know it with no restrictions. Citizens that don’t yet feel comfortable are free to wear masks and gloves to the grocery store and continue to shelter in place. Individuals protect themselves and their families if they are worried. Businesses and institutions protect their employees including the vulnerable the best way possible. With the widespread testing that should be available soon, we can know if it’s safe to visit friends and family who are vulnerable or fearful. With proper coordination, I can even envision a popular recording artist hosting a virus relief concert where young and healthy people go and hopefully get the virus, develop immunity and the antibodies and potentially donate blood to be used as a treatment or a prophylactic.
In choosing between these paths, it is important as a nation to understand that in large part we do need to pick one strategy or the other quickly. A country not sure what its strategy is will produce a very sub optimal outcome. And a country that lets partisan politics get in the way of such an important decision risks the worst-case outcome. In my mind, the choice is obvious and clearly Plan B for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it is the path least likely to lead to civil unrest. Path A is the path some politicians, some scientists and some physicians are advocating for, yet it is fraught with so many obvious risks and dire consequences.
An effective vaccine scaled to produce 100’s of millions of vaccines is a long way away and may not be able to account for the virus mutating. Also, there is a significant societal cost in lost lives, lost quality of life and permanently lost productive capacity of our economy in trying to get to this uncertain point. How many elective procedures and regular screening protocols are delayed or eliminated as a result of shelter in place and distancing fears and what lives does that cost?
At a minimum we all need to have this debate because we must make a choice and at a maximum, we need to quickly shift the strategy for Plan B. And to be clear, Plan B is just that, a plan. A phased, yet quick strategy to open up so we continue to protect hospitals and front-line workers.
Nelson Mandela said it best: May your choices reflect your hope not your fears.
Chief Executive Officer