Study Warns Some Social Distancing May Be Needed Into 2022 To Avoid Overwhelming Health Systems

The study's authors say there are many factors to take into account when projecting what the future will look like--including whether people develop long- or short-term immunity, whether the virus retreats in the summer, and whether a vaccine is developed. Meanwhile, scientists are still fine-tuning just how distant people have to be safe from exposure.

Reuters: U.S. May Need To Extend Social Distancing For Virus Until 2022, Study SaysThe United States may need to endure social distancing measures adopted during the coronavirus outbreak until 2022, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health. The study comes as more than 2,200 people died in the United States from the outbreak on Tuesday, a record, according to a Reuters tally, even as the country debated how to reopen its economy. The overall death toll in the U.S. from the virus stands at more than 28,300 as of Tuesday. (4/15)

Stat: Study Sees Need For Some Social Distancing Into 2022 To Curb CoronavirusThe authors suggest a number of factors will play a major role in the path the disease will take over the coming years — if transmission subsides in summer and resurges in winter, if there is some immunity induced by infection and how long it lasts, and whether people get any cross-protective immunity from having been infected with related human coronaviruses that cause common colds. In terms of the latter, they suggest if infection with the human coronaviruses, HKU1 and OC43, gives some protection again SARS-CoV-2, it could appear that transmission of the new virus was tapering off. (Branswell, 4/14)

CNN: Social Distancing In The US May Have To Be Endured Until 2022 If No Vaccine Is Quickly Found, Scientists, Predict"Intermittent distancing may be required into 2022 unless critical care capacity is increased substantially or a treatment or vaccine becomes available," they wrote in their report. "Even in the event of apparent elimination, SARS-CoV-2 surveillance should be maintained since a resurgence in contagion could be possible as late as 2024." The Harvard team's projections also indicate that the virus would come roaring back fairly quickly once restrictions were lifted. "If intermittent distancing is the approach that's chosen, it may be necessary to do it for several years, which is obviously a very long time," Dr. Marc Lipsitch, an author on the study and an epidemiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, told reporters. (Asmelash and Fox, 4/15)

The New York Times: Coronavirus Tests Science’s Need For Speed LimitsEarly on Feb. 1, John Inglis picked up his phone and checked Twitter, as he does most mornings. He was shocked at what fresh hell awaited. Since 2013, Dr. Inglis, executive director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press in New York, has been helping manage a website called bioRxiv, pronounced “bio archive.” The site’s goal: improve communication between scientists by allowing them to share promising findings months before their research has gone through protracted peer review and official publication. (Yan, 4/14)

The New York Times: Stay 6 Feet Apart, We’re Told. But How Far Can Air Carry Coronavirus? The rule of thumb, or rather feet, has been to stand six feet apart in public. That’s supposed to be a safe distance if a person nearby is coughing or sneezing and is infected with the novel coronavirus, spreading droplets that may carry virus particles. And scientists agree that six feet is a sensible and useful minimum distance, but, some say, farther away would be better. Six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. (Sheikh, Gorman and Chang, 4/14)

The New York Times: This 3-D Simulation Shows Why Social Distancing Is So ImportantPublic health experts and elected officials have emphasized again and again that social distancing is the best tool we have to slow the coronavirus outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages people to stay home. If you must venture out, you should stay at least six feet away from others. The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of three feet of separation. (Parshina-Kottas, Saget, Patanjali, Fleisher and Gianordoli, 4/14)

The New York Times: For Runners, Is 15 Feet The New 6 Feet For Social Distancing? It may be a good idea to give one another more than six feet of space while exercising outside during the current coronavirus pandemic, according to a compelling new study that looked at how air flows around bodies in motion. The study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal and the results need further confirmation. But they indicate that runners and brisk walkers may create a wake of air behind them that could carry exhaled respiratory droplets for 15 feet or more, meaning that the droplets could reach people walking or jogging well behind them. (Reynolds, 4/15)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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