If I lived in New York City, I’d be scared that the big apple is about to go the way of Milan. I would be perfectly happy to shelter in place for a while and worry about the economic carnage later.

If I lived in Chicago or San Francisco, I would be afraid of becoming the next New York and I wouldn’t want to go to work until I had a face mask and ventilators were rolling off the assembly lines like B-29s.

That leaves 88% of the country. Is there any evidence that COVID can blow up in less densely populated areas if people observe basic precautions like washing their hands and trying to stay six feet apart? I know it can spread in the face of basic precautions, but even if Georgia cases increase 150% next week, we would hardly be overwhelmed. We’d still be much better off than New York is now.

Crisis management is about tradeoffs. I want to see my leaders think rigorously about what forms of economic activity can go on without unacceptable risk.

Take, for instance, the courts. The highest risk activity for citizens and lawyers are calendar calls and arraignments. These can gather 150 people or more in a crowded courtroom. That level of risk is needless and unacceptable. Most not guilty pleas and calendar call announcements can be made in writing. Pretrial conferences can occur by teleconference.

Some proceedings would be difficult to conduct remotely. Any kind of contested hearing should occur in court. But I have 8 calendar calls and arraignments for every contested hearing. A jury trial can occur with 22 or 24 people in a courtroom. You can spread the people out and put them six feet apart. Some jurors can sit in the audience rather than the jury box to maintain proper distance. Or the jurors can wear masks and sit in the jury box. Non jury trials rarely require more than 12 people in the court room. It’s mainly a question of splitting up calendars to avoid forcing 100 people, few of whom want to be there, to watch court.

The hot spots may need to shut down for a month or more. We in the provinces should think about how to carry on and keep America moving.

David Abbott

Call David Abbott - 404-514-5900