DETROIT – A study by the Harvard School of Public Health is causing alarm after researchers suggested Americans may need to continue some social distancing measures until 2022.
That could include intermittent stay-at-home orders and school closures.
Researchers caution that’s one of the worst case scenarios and could be altered dramatically if an effective treatment is found or a vaccine becomes available.
How are we doing when it comes to flattening the curve and how close are we to loosening any restrictions?
University of Michigan researchers presented two curves that showed the significant difference between aggressive social distancing and less aggressive measures. They said the steps Michigan has taken are making a big difference, but that doesn’t mean we can let up now.
Update, April 15, 3 p.m. -- Michigan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases up to 28,059; Death toll now at 1,921
Dr. Vikas Parekh cautioned new cases still need to drop more and stay low for a sustained period, or the curve could begin to climb again if aggressive measures are stopped.
“We know if you ease up too soon before you hit that point, then your risk of having what we call a second wave of infection is quite high,” Parekh said.
The goal of keeping everyone isolated from each other is to give the virus nowhere to go, which is especially important in the case of people who don’t realize they’re infected. A lesson learned from the 1918 H1N1 pandemic that killed an estimated 17 million to 50 million people worldwide.
“We know there that cities that sort of backed off on social distancing too early experienced the second wave and often a very large second wave of actions that lead to unnecessary death," Parekh said. "So, you know, we just don’t want to repeat some of those errors.”
Parekh said some of the key things that need to be in place to loosen restrictions are a sustained low level of new infections and widely available rapid testing to allow us to quickly identify and isolate new cases.
We also need to be able to do contact tracing on those new cases to identify the people they’ve exposed and quarantine those individuals, just like we were at the beginning of this outbreak.
New cases being brought in from other states if restrictions are lifted is another major concern. In Singapore and Hong Kong, for example, had some reintroduction of the virus after travel was reopened.