America’s economy must reopen. Closures and job loss due to COVID-19 have had deleterious effects in every business sector and devastated individual citizens in myriad ways.
We can only reopen when we are no longer scared. Eliminating fear lands directly on America’s inventors and innovators — a challenge they are eager to accept.
Business owners and CEOs must also recognize that innovators can neutralize our fundamental COVID fears: we are going to get it, spread it, or go crazy if we stay isolated much longer.
The United States is second only to China in the worldwide ranking of new patents, and, unlike China, we develop our own products rather than stealing intellectual property and branding it as our own. In 2019, Americans applied for nearly 58,000 patents. Our next closest competitor, Germany, had 19,000.
An international consumer tracking organization recently created a COVID innovation website identifying new COVID-related products or new applications of existing products, noting innovators’ most important traits include the ability to identify and fund new opportunities.
In other words, capitalism.
American startup Diligent Robotics created “Nurse Droid” to help hospitals safely clean areas where COVID patients are treated. Two young Seattle tech geeks created a “smart band” that alerts when you try to touch your face. Auto manufacturers revamped facilities to make ventilators. Scutworks, a California copper-product company, created anti-touch door-opening tools.
New products and applications fill a niche, but recovery needs a compressive approach in critical sectors like travel, retail, and health care.
Travel and tourism are responsible for nearly $2 trillion in economic output and nine million U.S. jobs. Air travel is key to recovery, yet fear of catching COVID on planes is helping to bankrupt airlines.
New rapid COVID tests will be available soon from researchers at MIT and device companies. Innovators at Abbott Labs already released an effective test providing results in 15 minutes for five dollars. Every U.S. air carrier should have a rapid test booth at check-in. If you are negative, you fly, and everyone on the plane is safe. Problem solved.
Nobody likes repetitiously spraying irritating disinfectants to prevent virus transmission, but an American company has a new application for an existing surgical sterilization product. MicroSURE™ is not a can of noxious chemicals, but a mechanical “kill.”
A nanotech version of flypaper armed with tiny swords, it can be safely sprayed on any surface — and people. When applied, it creates a sticky medium and spikes. When an airborne viral particle comes in contact with it, microSURE™ pierces the viral membrane and destroys it by (metaphorically) ripping off its arms and legs.
Memory Care America (MCA), a senior residential health-care provider, has used it since June in a sector where COVID ravaged vulnerable populations. After educating staff and residents on its use, MCA sprays it facility-wide every 30 days or so, and daily on employees coming in and going out. By providing an anti-virus environment, it has prevented COVID infections and costly staff turnover.
This type of product could reverse closures in institutional facilities, schools, playgrounds, restaurants — just about anywhere people congregate.
American virologists and pharmaceutical researchers have been nimble in response to the Trump administration’s call for a COVID vaccine through Operation Warp Speed. Nine pharmaceutical innovators signed a pledge this month committing to creating vaccines with haste while employing every ethical and scientific standard.
Over 40 vaccines are in clinical trials globally, with several U.S. products already in late-stage clinical trials. Most industry analysts expect vaccines to be available in limited quantities early in 2021 with wider distribution by summer.
There are also 300 therapeutics being studied in U.S. labs to treat COVID. Many are already safely used in other disease treatment protocols.
Even though no single product is a magic bullet, America is eminently qualified to lead reopening science. Although each COVID innovation inches us closer, the key is connecting innovators with Main Street as every affected industry must find unique solutions to incorporate into their own “new normal” business models.
In 2019, consumer spending was responsible for 68 percent of GDP. American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines are three of the world’s top four carriers. The dynamic economic impact of renewing consumer confidence in travel alone — just with testing and spritzing — would be monumental.
Public travel and hotel rooms must be deemed safe. Institutional settings must trap and kill the virus in its tracks. Everyone should be aware of anti-COVID preventive vaccines and therapeutics.
We are past the immediate, emergency needs of initial contagion. COVID cases are on the decline; concerns are not. It’s time to move to new ideas and product lines.
American innovators must reach out beyond their test tubes to communicate with businesses who need their help, and industries must task executives to source emerging anti-COVID measures.
We all must encourage both.
Kerri (Houston) Toloczko is a Senior Policy Fellow for Institute for Liberty, a public policy organization dedicated to limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty.