Policymakers must approach this pandemic head on, with calm and humility. Calm, because a virus is not the only contagion we face. Panic is its own contagion, one that impairs judgment. Humility, because even when policymakers do not act out of panic, their best laid plans often go awry.

In that vein, policymakers must first discard laws that are preventing health professionals from responding to the pandemic.

Humility counsels policymakers not to assume in every case that they can better assess the benefits and costs of shutdowns or lockdowns than private citizens, nor that federal policymakers can do so better than states or localities. To ensure containment efforts are proportionate and do minimal damage to the American people, policymakers must base them on solid epidemiological information and commit to lifting them upon reaching prespecified targets.