Keep Your Distance Through 2022?

A man visits an empty Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, April 14, 2020.  Image: Drew Angerer/Getty
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A man visits an empty Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, April 14, 2020. Image: Drew Angerer/Getty

Prepare for the serious long-haul, warn Harvard researchers who say some kind of social distancing against COVID-19 may be needed through 2022,Bloomberg News reports.

One-time social distancing won't do it, according to their models. Even a 20-week stint of social distancing didn’t make a significant impact on the disease peak—it just delayed it, write Marc Lipsitch and colleagues from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Science. Recurrent outbreaks in winter will likely happen after the first, most severe wave. And more dismally, SARS-CoV-2 could resurge as late as 2024. 

What might a reopening look like in the US? The Washington Post obtained a 36-page CDC and FEMA plan that guides state and local governments through phases. It gradually reopens schools, child-care facilities, restaurants, etc. The 3-phase plan moves from preparing the public before May 1 and accelerating test kit and PPE production through May 15, followed by staged reopenings.

The Quote: “Beneath the bluster of the president saying May 1, and he’s in charge, and all the other things, there are real efforts to figure out how we could safely and actually do this,” a senior administration official told the Post.

Another Reason to Worry: Scientists from Australia and Taiwan have reported finding a strain of SARS-CoV-2 that uses a different means of binding the virus to human cells, possibly making current vaccines in development obsolete, theSouth China Morning Post reports. Some researchers are skeptical about the finding.

More Cold Water on a Rush to Reopen

Ed Yong’s latest piece in The Atlantic is your social distancing must-read.
America’s shutdown, he reminds, was a last resort after the US wasted precious weeks in February—slowed by blunders rolling out testing and “an administration that had denuded itself of scientific expertise.”
Yong brilliantly sums up the roadblocks to reopening: Ongoing problems with testing, drug shortages, hospitals needing a break, and uncertainties surrounding treatments and vaccines in the works. Antibodies, for example, don’t always work against viruses: “If you picture the coronavirus as a car, an antibody might slash its tires, or just gum up its wipers—and simple serology tests can’t tell which,” he writes. 
But beyond that, a rush to reopen also “wastes the rare opportunity to reimagine what a fairer and less vulnerable society might look like,” he says.

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