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The Clock Is Ticking

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

I am in the shelter in place camp. I am also in the camp of thinking we cannot stay sheltered in place for long. I am also in the camp of thinking we must treat this as a regional problem, not a national problem. I am also in the camp of thinking we need the White House to form an articulable plan to help the 50 states reopen.


When I was in campaign management, we had a date certain -- the same date every campaign uses, i.e., the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. From there, we worked our way back.

When would the ads start? How much would they cost? What would be the mail plan? Where would the ads go? How much? When would we start door to door? How many houses did we need to hit? What about phone banking? How many volunteers versus how many paid staff?

If there were a primary, there'd be a mini-campaign inside the big campaign. The goal was to win in November, but you had to win the primary, too. How many donors did we need? What kind of money did we need? How many phone calls needed to be made each day?

Some staffer was assigned to go county by county to figure out how many precincts were in each county, how many votes were needed per county, who we had in each county, who we needed in each county and how many volunteers we could get in each county. Working backward from Election Day, we would hammer out a written plan to keep everyone focused and on track. We had daily and weekly metrics of things that needed to be done. If the metrics of one day could not be met, they rolled over. If they kept rolling over, we would have to assess logjams, impracticalities, reassignment of resources, etc.

It is now April 17, 2020. Assume the President wants to get the country reopened by May 15, 2020. We need to treat this like a campaign.


In just under 30 days, we need to know, among other things, county-by-county data on the virus, its spread, hospitalization rates and deaths; the number of masks needed beyond those already in production; the number of tests that could be ramped up with government help; the number of rapid tests that can be produced and an assessment of their accuracy; what laws and regulations we will need; and what we know that we do not know.

What counties are stable enough now that, if they had the antibody tests and rapid testing capabilities and masks, their citizens could leave the house to go out within their counties? What parts of the country might we be able to reopen on May 1 as test cases?

The President should lead with a basic policy point: The country must open where possible on May 15. Create a plan to help the governors and states reopen. Then, let the economic and health care policy experts design parameters and needs.

We cannot open the whole country by May 15. It's possible we can only open very little on May 1. But set the date, Mr. President. Then get the economics and health care experts to find an appropriate balance.

All the public needs right now is a plan, which they will know is contingent on variables. Then turn the White House press briefings into daily briefings addressing whether we are hitting the metrics to meet the campaign goals -- and if not, why. Let the American people know, and provide reasonable expectations of a timeline. Get the country gearing up to open again.


We are one nation of 50 pretty unique states, with 3,143 counties, parishes and equivalent regions. There are 41,702 zip codes in the United States. They are not all the same, and one-size-fits-all planning will not work for them. Setting out objective criteria each one must meet, the resources and testing they must have, and the rules necessary for reopening are critical now.

Give Americans a timeline, goals and criteria, and let us all get invested in reopening.

To find out more about Erick Erickson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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