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From 1990 through 2010 I was the lead evaluator of HIV/AIDS Special Projects of National Significance for the US Department of Health and Human Services as well local projects funded through states, counties, and foundations. In total, I got to visit and know more than 400 health care and social services agencies in 35 states. The HIV/AIDS experience strongly informs a much better approach to the COVID-19 pandemic response and re-opening the economy than is currently being offered by the White House.

The plan briefly outlined here should work well. It answers a number of needs including training more than 100,000 unemployed and underemployed workers and will improve the outcomes of the COVID-19 services. It is also relatively resource-neutral because salaries will be offset by future income tax revenues and decreased unemployment insurance benefits while providing career advancement and job opportunities to a large number of individuals selected to represent the communities from which they originate. It should help cut health disparities.

After hiring, it is my belief that the labor force can be trained to test for COVID-19 and track cases. The testing may require individuals trained and possibly licensed in a relevant healthcare discipline but those requirements could be waived on an interim (or permanent) basis. Training should not take much time as initially a small set of skills need to be developed. See this source for information on the licensure-training waiver for emergencies on a state-by-state basis: waiver rules.

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