What’s our plan, Mr. President?

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SUMMARY:Yes, but what about our plan for the coronavirus? Layoffs are horrible, but kudos to Airbnb for handling them as well as possible. People are increasingly ignoring distancing measures. Dr. Fauci as sex symbol.


What’s our plan, Mr. President?

Trump at a Honeywell facility manufacturing protective masks for the coronavirus disease pandemic, in Phoenix, May 5, 2020.

REUTERS/Tom Brenner


President Trump says we’re moving into the next phase of our coronavirus response — reopening. He’s acknowledging that the death counts will be much higher than he thought only a few weeks ago. He’s urging Americans to view themselves as “warriors” and return to their lives.

Trump’s motivation for reopening the economy is obvious: Our lives have been upended by the coronavirus, and our economy has been destroyed. The “cure” may not be worse than the disease, but it’s terrible.

The president’s logic is also understandable. We cannot stay “locked down” forever. On our current trajectory, it would take us months if not years to crush the virus the way South Korea, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Austria, and other countries have. So continuing with the status quo indefinitely is not really an option.

But giving up on the coronavirus and focusing just on the economy is appalling, especially considering how well other countries like South Korea and Germany have dealt with this crisis.

After all, there’s a lot more we could be doing. As Derek Thompson explains in The Atlantic, only a couple of months ago, South Korea and the US had the same number of cases and deaths. Now, thanks to an aggressive and competent government response, South Korea has reduced new cases of the virus to a trickle, while the US death toll is 72,000 and climbing.

We know what the president’s economic plan is: Reopen the country.

But it is fair to also ask what hiscoronavirusplan is.

There are really only two options.

  • Double down.Ramp up the aggressive response that has worked in South Korea and elsewhere: Continue to build testing, contact-tracing, and isolation capacity. Order companies to make more personal protection equipment and healthcare capacity. Give funding to states and municipalities. Form partnerships with other countries. Do whatever else can be done to reduce deaths and sickness and control the spread.
  • Hope for the best.Hope we get a treatment or vaccine or reach “herd immunity” before too many more people die.

Trump appears to be pursuing the second option.

What’s particularly frustrating and mystifying about this is that the president doesn’t have to choose. He could have his cake and eat it, too. He has nearly unlimited resources. He could cautiously reopen the countryanddouble down on mitigation and control measures.

After all, the choice here is not the coronavirus OR the economy — it’s both.

Our economy won’t repair itself until we all feel safe eating out, traveling, attending events, and socializing in groups again. And it won’t be a government mandate that makes us feel safe. It will be seeing the number of infections and deaths continuing to drop.

So let’s hope the president does more than just hope for the best.


Airbnb shows the right way to conduct layoffs during the pandemic

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky.

REUTERS/Mike Segar


Tuesday’s news that Airbnb is laying off 25% of its 7,500 employees is sad and not at all surprising, given how the pandemic has devastated the travel industry.

But as Shana Lebowitz reports in Insider, how Airbnb is carrying out the layoffs should be a model for other struggling companies.

Executives usually screw up this process, spreading fear by letting news of layoffs dribble out in advance, callously firing people in large groups, and not bothering to explain the strategic reason for layoffs.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky did everything right, Lebowitz concludes. Chesky’s memo explained the strategic reasoning behind the layoffs, prepared those being laid off for one-on-one meetings with managers, offered generous severance, benefits, and career counseling, and, perhaps most important, treated those losing their jobs with compassion.

“I am truly sorry. Please know this is not your fault,” Chesky wrote. “The world will never stop seeking the qualities and talents that you brought to Airbnb … that helped make Airbnb. I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing them with us.”

You can read Chesky’s whole memo here.—DP

Disclosure: Axel Springer, Insider Inc.’s parent company, is an investor in Airbnb, and Airbnb is a major investor in Atlas Obscura, a company David Plotz used to run.


People are increasingly ignoring coronavirus restrictions, and that’s alarming



Taylor Borden/Business Insider


Everywhere you look there are signs of rising noncompliance with our social-distancing guidelines.

In one Miami Beach park, police verbally warned more than 7,000 people about mask-wearing, prompting authorities to shut the just opened park back down. A guard at a Family Dollar was shot dead by a customer when he tried to enforce Michigan’s mandatory mask policy. The Wisconsin Supreme Court looks likely to throw out the state’s stay-at-home order, with one justice calling it “the very definition of tyranny.” Even Trump and Vice President Pence have been modeling noncompliance by declining to wear face masks in places where they’re recommended or required.

What a pickle! It’s possible to create a virtuous cycle with restrictive public-health measures, as we’ve seen in countries such as Korea and New Zealand: Clear government communication, strict controls, and competence persuade people to comply with restrictive orders. The public then sees the crisis abate, appreciates the strict measures, and trusts the government to guide the reopening.

Instead, we’ve put ourselves in a vicious cycle. Unclear leadership, ambiguous rules, and government incompetence cast doubt on the control measures. Physical distancing can only suppress the epidemic if the vast majority of us practice it, and the vast majority will practice it only if they support it and think it’s a legitimate recommendation from trusted authorities. But if the authorities themselves don’t practice it, or label it tyranny as in Wisconsin, or are too heavy handed as in Miami, compliance will wane, and the disease will rise.

That’s the direction we’re heading. And what’s unsettling is that once the public’s trust is lost, the government will have a tough time regaining it. If we botched this first effort so badly, will enough of us follow government restrictions if the disease keeps flaring up?


Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in the hospital

Not for COVID-19. It’s for a benign gallbladder condition. The 87-year-old Supreme Court Justice still called into today’s oral argument and still asked questions.


The hero of a best-selling 1991 erotic novel was based on … Anthony Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during the daily coronavirus task-force briefing at the White House on April 22, 2020.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images


The rare bit of delight in a dark time: Sally Quinn revealed to the Washingtonian that the hero of her best-selling soft-core 1991 novel “Happy Endings” was modeled on Fauci. She’d met the NIH scientist at a DC dinner party and found him “brilliant, and compassionate, and kind, and decent, and honest. All of those things — and sexy.”

The Fauci alter ego, “Michael Lanzner,” wins the heart of a sexy former first lady, which does set the mind spinning.

Oh, and we’ve got the title for your sequel, Sally Quinn: “Flattening the Curve.”


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Thank you for reading! Please let us know what you think. If we think other readers will enjoy your note, we’ll publish it!henry@insider.comanddavid@insider.com

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