How the Nation and Businesses Will Recover from COVID-19

Former CDC Director Robert R. Redfield shares his thoughts on the long-term impact of COVID-19 on various industries, including education and healthcare.


Air Date: December 2, 2020

Moderator: Suzanne P. Clark, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Robert R. Redfield, Former Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine marks the beginning of the end of the trying pandemic. States have been increasing the number of vaccines they administer, and President Joe Biden hopes the nation can see some form of normalcy by July 4. Many businesses are already looking for plans to reopen or increase capacity.

While this news brings much optimism to the U.S., health and safety precautions still need to be taken and lessons have to be learned from the pandemic. Former CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield shared his thoughts with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation about how the country will reopen and how the pandemic has impacted the economy, education and society.

Schools Have Not Been Hot Spots for COVID-19

When the pandemic first hit, many politicians feared that public schools would be hot spots for the virus. This proved not to be true and caused social stunting for many children. However, with the vaccines being rolled out, there is hope that schools will safely reopen nationwide.

“We now have substantial data that shows that face-to-face learning can be conducted in K through 12, and particularly in the elementary and the middle schools, in a safe and responsible way,” Dr. Redfield said. “We've evaluated a number of schools and we're not seeing … cluster infections within schools and any significant way. The public health interest to kids in K through 12 is to have them in face-to-face learning for all the reasons we talked about, whether that's where they get their mental health services, where they get food substance programs … This is where they get significant socialization.”

He added that it’s healthy for children to get back in school, so long as it’s done safely and responsibly.

Different Industries Will Have to Determine if They Require Employees to Be Vaccinated

Certain industries and professions, such as healthcare workers and teachers, make it a requirement to be vaccinated in order to practice within their field. There has been some speculation that other industries may follow suit, though it would not be regulated by the CDC.

“Institutions are going to make those decisions,” Dr. Redfield said. “Since unfortunately, even though [we’ll] get control of COVID … by the third quarter of this year, the pandemic and the world's not going to be controlled for multiple years. And so we'll always have a global risk of re-introduction through susceptibles if they haven't been vaccinated.”

“It will be a decision I think each industry will make,” he continued. “There are certain industries where I think it would be important to protect their workforce and some other industries where it may be important to make sure that they protect their customers and consumers.”

Spending Money on Pandemic Preparation Can Stop Another Economic Downfall

Another pandemic or public health crisis could hit the U.S. in the future. With such significant losses in the economy, as well as a cultural setback, it would be advantageous for congressional leaders to invest in better public health systems. A robust package that has a well-researched and defined pandemic plan could save the country trillions of dollars, as well as prevent significant loss of life.

“This pandemic is going to cost this nation straight out probably about $8 trillion,” said Dr. Redfield. “The indirect costs … others would say in terms of the economy, maybe another $15 to $20 trillion. It would seem wise for us to invest a hundred million dollars that we need to invest across the nation.”

“It's time for this nation to have the public health system that not only we need, but we deserve.”



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