No one yet knows how long social isolation and social distancing will remain a fact of life in the US and around the globe. But, Helen Branswell reports for Stat News that public health experts believe it could be many more months. We should be prepared for our lives to be disrupted well into 2021, and this is particularly true for older adults who are at high risk if they get COVID-19.
By the middle of this month, the number of daily novel coronavirus cases should stop increasing in many parts of the US. I suppose that that’s the good news. The less good news is that we will still need to continue isolating and distancing ourselves from others, so most businesses will not be able to reopen. If not, we are likely to see a new rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.
President Trump, for his part, is saying that we should continue to engage in social distancing and isolation until the end of this month. But, life is not likely to be normal in May.
One public health expert, Tom Frieden, explains that we should be focused on the data, not the date. The better we are at containing the virus, the sooner we will be able to relaunch businesses safely. To be successful at containing the virus, we need to be doing a lot more testing. We need to be able to see where the virus is spreading. We also need to be able to trace and monitor people who have been in contact with people who have COVID-19.
People need to know that they have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 so they can self-isolate. Otherwise, they are likely to spread the virus.
To move out of this lockdown period, we need a much stronger public health infrastructure. We need a lot more hospital beds. We need a lot more personal protective equipment.
When restrictions are lifted, it will not happen all at once. It needs to happen slowly to minimize the risks. And, when it happens, there will still be risk. To protect themselves, older adults, in particular, will need to continue to practice social distancing.
Mass gatherings, be they at sports events or church, are likely not to be advisable until we have a vaccine and most people are vaccinated against COVID-19. Unfortunately, we probably will not see a vaccine until some time in 2021.
Right now, the short-term goal is to reduce the number of new cases, flattening and then shrinking the curve.
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