The extent to which we will need to maintain aggressive social distancing is dependent on the capacity of our healthcare system. If we raise the capacity of the system as a whole, we will be able to handle higher caseloads. That means we will be able to reopen more sectors of the economy, and begin to loosen social distancing measures. The goal is to increase the capacity in a flexible way, so that we can handle high peaks of COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.
We will need to increase the capacity of our healthcare systems across three areas: space, equipment, and protective gear. First, healthcare mobilization must increase the number of hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients, while ensuring that our hospitals have enough beds to continue handling their typical caseload for other essential care. Second, this must be paired with increases in necessary medical supplies, like ventilators and pharmaceuticals. Third, our frontline health workers must have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to protect themselves while they protect us. A national mobilization for healthcare must include the production and delivery of adequate masks, gowns, face shields, and goggles – and a ramp up of capacity in equipment and space. Delivering PPE must be paired with delivering adequate training on its proper use, in order to be sure frontline workers are using it correctly.