Social distancing may have to be turned on and off to fight COVID-19
27th March 2020
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Harvard researchers believe social distancing may need to be turned on and off through till 2022 to combat coronavirus and avoid overwhelming US healthcare system

  • Researchers write that ‘a single period of social distancing will not be sufficient’
  • According to Harvard study, social distancing may need to be turned on and off 
  • Study’s authors believe US may need to try intermittent social distancing, which means there would be periods of isolation mixed in with normal interaction 
  • First scenario would see US get to a point where healthcare resources are low, which means intermittent social distancing would need to extend into 2022
  • In the second scenario, if there are higher healthcare resources, social distancing can end in the middle of 2021
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Harvard researchers believe Americans may need to be at home much longer in order to ‘flatten the curve’ of the coronavirus spread and avoid overwhelming the US healthcare system. 

A new Harvard study, which was posted Tuesday on the preprint server MedRxiv, claims that social distancing may have to be turned off and on like a spigot for up to two years in order to combat the virus. 

In the study titled, Social distancing strategies for curbing the COVID-19 epidemic, Harvard medical researchers write that ‘a single period of social distancing will not be sufficient’.

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Harvard researchers believe Americans may need to be at home much longer in order to ‘flatten the curve’ of the coronavirus spread and avoid overwhelming the US healthcare system. New Yorkers social distancing while waiting in line at Rite Way Drugs in Manhattan 

There are two possible futures for social distancing. The first scenario (depicted) would see the US get to a point where there is low healthcare resources, which means intermittent social distancing would need to be extended into 2022

In the second scenario (pictured), if there are higher healthcare resources, social distancing can end in the middle of 2021

Instead, researchers believe that the US may need to try intermittent social distancing, which means there would be periods of isolation mixed in with normal interaction.

‘Intermittent social distancing can maintain critical care demand within current thresholds,’ the authors wrote.

The study’s authors believe this would help free up hospital beds for the critically ill.  

According to the researchers, there are two possible futures for social distancing and how it could help stop the coronavirus.

The first scenario would see the US get to a point where there is low healthcare resources, which means intermittent social distancing would need to be extended into 2022.

In the second scenario, if there are higher healthcare resources, social distancing can end in the middle of 2021. 

The study’s authors believe that there should be no more than 37.5 cases of COVID-19 per 10,000 people. Their study shows that that should be when the ‘on’ switch is turned on to begin social distancing all over again. New Yorkers wait outside a Trader Joe’s in Brooklyn 

Customers at the ShopRite on Hyland Blvd in Staten Island shop during the time of social distancing on Wednesday 

The researchers wrote that they ‘evaluated the impact of one-time social distancing efforts of varying effectiveness and duration on the peak and timing of the epidemic with and without seasonal forcing’. 

‘When transmission is not subject to seasonal forcing, one-time social distancing measures reduce the epidemic peak size.’

But, ‘under all scenarios, there was a resurgence of infection when the simulated social distancing measures were lifted’.

To break that down even further, the authors believe that there should be no more than 37.5 cases of COVID-19 per 10,000 people. 

Their study shows that that should be the ‘on’ switch to begin social distancing all over again. 

If the 37.5 number is maintained, they argue that it would keep the number of patients needing critical care at 0.89 persons for every 10,000 people.

The study was released around the same time President Donald Trump said he wants America to get back to business by Easter, suggesting some efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus outbreak will no longer be needed by then.

The study was released around the same time President Donald Trump (pictured on Wednesday) said he wants America to get back to business by Easter, suggesting some efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus outbreak will no longer be needed by then

The president, who is concerned about the economic repercussions of an extended shutdown of nonessential business, said in a television interview on Tuesday that he wanted to see businesses returning to normal by Easter, or April 12.

‘I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,’ he said.

‘The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success,’ Trump tweeted Wednesday. 

‘The real people want to get back to work ASAP. We will be stronger than ever before!’

Trump also pushed back against suggestions that he is being cavalier about the prospect of more deaths being caused by a premature of reopening of the economy. 

‘How many deaths are acceptable to me?’ Trump told reporters Wednesday evening. ‘None.’

As of Thursday there are over 83,000 cases of the virus in the US and over 1,000 deaths

The number of cases in the US has rocketed over the last two weeks

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