'We can virtually eliminate the virus any time we decide to.' Andy Slavitt explains how
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The U.S. is an outlier among developed nations in our handling of the coronavirus pandemic. While other countries have gone through rough outbreaks, none have the sustained growth in cases that the U.S. is seeing. Rather than try to control the outbreak so we can somewhat resume normal life, Americans seem to have decided to continue with normal life during a pandemic that's already killed close to 150,000 Americans and given at least a million more long-term health problems. From conspiracy theories to partisan bickering to "the gov't can't tell me what to do" individualism, the U.S. is a hot mess on the pandemic front, and the coronavirus is thriving off of our disunity.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Other countries have proven that it is possible to get a hold of this thing and keep it from running rampant. As former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Senior Adviser to the Bipartisan Policy Center Andy Slavitt explains, we could nip the pandemic in the bud in a matter of weeks if we can just agree to do it.

Slavitt wrote on Twitter:


"COVID Update July 26: We can virtually eliminate the virus any time we decide to. We can be back to a reasonably normal existence: schools, travel, job growth, safer nursing homes & other settings. And we could do it in a matter of weeks. If we want to."

He pointed out that New Zealand managed to completely eliminate the virus with its decisive, unified approach. And for those who would say that's easier to do on an island, he also pointed to Germany, which had an outbreak for a bit, but got it under control.

He also pointed to Italy, France, and Spain, who had it bad around the same time we did, but managed to get their outbreaks under control, as most developed nations—and even many less developed nations—have.

"But don't tell me the U.S. can't take action if we want to," he wrote. "And we can't face the families of 150,000 people who didn't have to die & tell them this had to happen. And I think it's why our national political leaders won't go near these families & the grieving process."

Then he offered the good news: "We are always 4-6 weeks from being able to do what countries around the world have done."

But we have to go all in, or as he says, "throw the kitchen sink at COVID-19 in the U.S." None of this half-ass shut down, let people do whatever they feel like business. Slavitt defines the kitchen sink as:

1. Start with universal mask wearing. We didn't do this in Mar-April and let's chalk it up to faulty instructions. But we know better now.

2. Keep the bars & restaurants & churches & transit closed. All hot spots.

3. Prohibit interstate travel.

4. Prohibit travel into the country (no one will let us into their country so that shouldn't be hard).

5. Have hotels set up to allow people with symptoms to isolate from their families at no cost.

6. Instead of 50% lockdown (which is what we did in March in April), let's say it's a 90% lockdown.


Naturally, that would mean things would be tight and tough for a few weeks. We'd need the government to help bridge the financial gap. But we could do it.

As Slavitt pointed out, "Our grandparents who lived through a decade long depression, a 6 year world war, or whatever hardship they faced in their country would tell us we would make it."

Slavitt explained how we could even form "friend & family bubbles" like the NBA has successfully done.

At first, cases and deaths would continue to rise and people would continue to die, because there's always a lag.

And because of that, the "COVID truthers would have a field day, tweeting every day the same routine" about how the lockdown wasn't working and the government is fascist and the numbers are skewed. "But if someone took Trump's phone, it would help," he added.

Then, after a few weeks, the R value—the rate at which the infection reproduces—of the virus would drop drastically. "If you have 60,000 cases in your community, in 50 days, it would drop to 58. 6000 becomes 6. 600 becomes 1."

This is the exponential math that is a hallmark of epidemiology. The idea isn't to get to zero, but to get cases down low enough to be able to implement the testing, contact tracing, and isolating that keeps spread low even during a reopening—but which can only be done when numbers are low enough. The U.S. in general has not had numbers low enough to do that since the beginning of the pandemic because we were too slow and too all over the place to take the necessary steps toward that goal.

With fewer cases, we wouldn't need to do as much testing, which would allow our testing capacity to build to a level where we could actually test everyone we need to.

We could also catch up on PPE production, and keep the mental health crises that go along with an uncontrolled pandemic limited to a couple of months instead of the ongoing nightmare we're in right now.

As Larry Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped find the cure for smallpox, points out, we are smarter than this virus. "If it was just our science and the goodwill of American people, absent bad governance, we would have defeated it already. I don't mean we would have eradicated it, but we would have been much further along into kicking it into the dustbin of history."

Slavitt pointed out that even in countries that are now seeing an uptick in cases after having gotten numbers very low, the recent daily peaks are in the hundreds, not the tens of thousands that we're seeing in the U.S.

Think about what that would mean for us. For our medical workers. For the scientists trying to get a vaccine safely on the market. We've already started to get used to social distancing norms during the pandemic, but if we could get the virus under control, those measures would be a lot more effective.

Yes, it would mean 6 to 8 weeks of disruption. But in the big scheme of things, that's not that long. And we're already suffering through months of disruption anyway because we took a haphazard, disunified approach, which is harming us economically, emotionally, and epidemiologically.

And since we don't know yet if a vaccine will be the be all end all for this pandemic, we have to figure out how to manage without one for now.

Of course, as Slavitt points out, "The major objection to all this? People who think this infringes on their 'rights.'"

But we all give up some "rights" simply by living in a civilized society. There are rule and laws we all have to follow. We can't just do whatever we want—not when what we want to do puts others in harm's way. And during a pandemic, public health measures are designed to protect people, in the same way that food handling regulations and road safety laws do.

What about herd immunity? We don't know enough about how immunity with this virus works yet. Also, any attempt at reaching herd immunity means a mass number of casualties—not only hundreds of thousands of deaths, but millions upon millions of chronically ill people. Not ideal, especially when we actually can get this thing under control with a serious short-term strategy.

We all saw the Florida and Texas and Arizona outbreaks coming as governors tossed aside public health advice and citizens flaunted their "freedom" to gather in crowds, not wear a mask, and not do what needed to be done.

The thing is, it will all have to be done anyway, eventually. "We will do this. Theres is no other way," Slavitt wrote. "The question is when. The question is who will convince us. The question is the leadership it takes."

Really, it boils down to what it has always boiled down to—listening to the majority of epidemiologists who have prepared their whole careers for this moment and taking decisive, unified action that lines up with the science. The more we keep pretending that the virus isn't real, or isn't that bad, or is some kind of hoax or conspiracy that the entire world is somehow in on, the longer we're going to suffer.

Let's hit the reset button here—shut down for 6 weeks, pay everyone to stay home, and get our numbers down to a manageable level so we can keep them there. Let's be proactive instead of reactive. Let's stop being the world's poster child for what not to do in a pandemic. We may not be able to lead the world in a crisis at this point, but we could at least attempt not to embarrass ourselves any further.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

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Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

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All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.