Looking for the Goldilocks Lockdown

by Chris Spencer

Virginia has an opportunity to show the rest of the nation how to reopen and prepare for the next waves of COVID-19.

We needed widespread mandatory restrictions in March to (a) flatten the curve to give the health system a chance to manage it and (b) impress upon people the seriousness of the situation. That worked. Everyone recognizes that the rules have to be lifted. The question is when and how. We need to find what one might call the Goldilocks zones: not too hot, not too cold, just right. Why zones? Because no one approach is going to be right for every business and for every part of the state.

Who decides? Certainly not talking TV heads or Twitter. Certainly not government alone. Certainly not each business and each citizen. We are all in this together and we have to get out of it together.

How do we decide? By working together.

The solution is for invested parties — those who have a stake in the outcome — to work together on at least an initial plan. Government has an interest in the general welfare. Business owners have an interest in the welfare of the business and of their customers, most of whom are repeat. Customers have an interest in their own safety. Doctors have an interest in managing a virus that will be with us for a long time and whose mutations will follow.

Let’s get  together to come up with plans. The restaurant association can meet with the health department to come up with guidelines that fit each kind of business. Small restaurants with a few close tables can let a group in at a time or just do carryout. Restaurants with outdoor seating can open those areas with fewer tables because the virus doesn’t spread as easily outside. Those with indoor seating can space tables out farther. People can make reservations for lunch as well as dinner so that restaurants can manage the flow and customers can know they will not be crowded. There are apps for that already.

Get the hair salon groups together with the appropriate agency. Most salons require appointments already. Figure out best practice guidelines for spacing and sanitizing. Put them in place and let people open up. (Hurry. We’re all getting shaggy.)

Include the doctors if they want to participate. We know a lot more about the virus now than we did. The doctors also know what we don’t know. A program could be structured in a way that helps them research and learn so that we are prepared to act even more wisely next time.

Include mediators and facilitators if you want. They can keep the conversation focused on the goal of success. They have time on their hands and would love to help.

Keep people informed so they know government cares and wants to help.

No one group has all the answers. A cooperative approach will find the Goldilocks zones. And if things need to be tweaked, we will have in place a system for tweaking it. And we can stop this finger pointing, get back to work, and get ready for the next waves of this virus and its successors when (not if) they come.

Chris Spencer, an attorney, lives in Richmond.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


4 responses to “Looking for the Goldilocks Lockdown”

  1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Excellent and very practical suggestions all. I gather Texas is far ahead of the curve here, and surely are some others. There strategy and tactics are well worth understanding, watching, and perhaps imitating as well.

    Spenser’s big point is huge. Government alone cannot or should not unilaterally make decisions that ruins, severely impacts, or threatens citizens lives and freedoms. Government transparency, and citizen input and buy-in, and participation is critical. This is not an earthquake. It’s a longer term slow rolling event, one that is highly intrusive in many variant, intimate ways to many people’s personal lives, so must be treated as such.

  2. djrippert Avatar

    The only good thing about being a citizen in a land governed by a backwards set of political hacks is that you never have to be the first to do anything. From racial desegregation to the decriminalization of marijuana, Virginia can be counted upon to be the last or nearly the last to act. So is the case with ending the COVID-19 lockdown. Lessons from better run, faster acting governments abound. Outside the US South Korea and Germany bear examination. They have hair dressers, restaurants, bars, parks, golf courses and almost every other business found in Virginia. How are they solving the reopening problem? Georgia is planning to reopen as are South Carolina and Texas. How are they approaching the problem? At the pace Northam is building out our COVID-19 testing regime we may have 49 states and the District of Columbia to emulate before the Best State for Business manages to reopen.

    That Stephen Moret chap seems like a pretty sharp guy. What’s he doing? I have to guess that we won’t have a lot of money for economic development grants over the near to mid term. So, what’s he and his team going to do? I have an idea – economic redevelopment. Namely, getting Virginia’s economy up and running again. Air fares are cheap right now. Get Mr Moret a first class ticket to Germany and task him with figuring out how the Germans are opening up their economy. The Germans are a sensible people … at least of late. What options are they considering for barber shops and why did they pick their ultimate direction? We can send one of his lieutenants on a similar fact finding trip to South Korea. Atlanta, Austin and even Annapolis might end up on the near term “ahead of us now tour” as well.

    Spenser’s ideas make sense but sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and a bunch of Virginia bar owners seems like a formula for endless debate and gridlock. Pulling together some options from the many many places that will be ahead of us in reopening and picking one seems like a much quicker way to an answer.

  3. Why don’t we have those conversations on day 10 of the 14 days our president says are the rules for opening up the economy? https://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/#criteria

  4. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Loudoun County Public Schools is considering possible options for opening next year. One of the choices is to extend distance learning from August into the fall. There are so many big decisions ahead. I hope the leaders get it right.


Leave a Reply