Close this search box.
Close this search box.

A Radical Testing Solution to Reopen the Economy—Now

‘We have the potential to end this thing in two weeks and get everyone out of their homes and back at work,’ says Laurence Kotlikoff, professor of economics at Boston University. Here’s his plan.

As the country begins to seriously discuss how best to get the economy moving again by reopening businesses, the wild card remains the potential for re-igniting COVID-19 outbreaks. While there has been a great deal of progress made in slowing the progress of the virus in the nation’s big hotspots, the question of what happens when social distancing is reduced remains unknown.

Laurence Kotlikoff, professor of economics at Boston University, thinks he has a solution: test groups of Americans for COVID-19, not just individuals.

“We have the potential to end this thing in two weeks and get everyone out of their homes and back at work,” says Laurence Kotlikoff, professor of economics at Boston University. “The key is to mandate that every single American is tested in large groups at once, and then to isolate infected people from those who aren’t.”

It’s a message Kotlikoff has been disseminating globally in making the case for an innovative group coronavirus testing process he developed with his brother Michael, a professor of Molecular Biology and provost of Cornell University. His prediction for recovery hinges on how federal and state governments respond to the pandemic.

Three Other Plans for Reopening The Economy: 

Group testing is a vastly more efficient process than individual testing, explains Kotlikoff, who outlines an aggressive testing and response program aimed at combatting infection. By swabbing the mouths of 1,000 people at once—grouped, perhaps, by voting districts—the tests can be pooled for a single aggregate view of the findings.

Each group would be tested twice. If the entire group isn’t infected, they’re good to go and can return to normal life. If one person in the group is infected, the second swab of each person would be tested to identify who is infected.

“We could test the entire U.S. population in a single day and then quarantine all the infected individuals immediately at hospitals, homes, hotels, community centers and the like to stop the spread,” Kotliokoff says. “Obviously, for it to work, we need strict compliance, oversight and medical monitoring.”

People found to be free of infection would be given a green ID badge or bracelet to wear at all times, allowing them to return to work, he suggests. “My hope is for daily testing, preferably by the military, on a household-by-household basis at election polling places and other local venues. Will this be costly? Yes, but nowhere near the costs of a business shutdown lasting months and months.

“If the government takes our advice—and we’re receiving lots of positive comments—I predict a V-shaped recovery, with the diagonals coming so close together it looks like an I,” he says.

Kotlikoff is calling on CEOs to help get the message out and press for aggressive action. “If the government dithers and doesn’t set this up, or people think the idea of requiring green bracelets is ridiculous, then we’ll just keep plodding along,” he says, adding that the private sector has the power to make a difference on a global scale.

“If we do things right here, then companies across the world will follow our lead, including those in emerging economies suffering the most. We can get the entire world back to business in two months, six at the most if we have a really bad depression.”


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.