SOCIAL distancing is very important, now more than ever.
And The Washington Post may have just come up with the best way to explain it, in an article that could very well be their most read online piece right now.
The United States recorded its first case of Covid-19 on Jan 22. Following this, there were a number of cases in other parts of the country. But merely two months in, the country recorded a sudden spike in cases from 35 cases on Feb 22 to 2,179 cases on March 13 and a staggering 53,740 cases as of March 25.
(In the latest update, Johns Hopkins University said the US now has over 83,500 positive Covid-19 cases, overtaking China.)
Experts were concerned of this so-called exponential curve, citing that if the number were to double every three days, there would be almost 100 million cases in the US by May.
The Washington Post (WP), in sharing a simulation of the exponential curve, said public health experts were positive that the key to slowing the spread of the disease was by “social distancing”.
This meant limiting the public’s movement and refraining them from going to public spaces.
The WP, in its article “Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to flatten the curve” (dated March 14), produced a set of “fake disease simulitis” to demonstrate the effectiveness of “forced quarantine” versus “social distancing” in containing a disease (not particularly Covid-19).
The simulation showed that in a population of merely five individuals, it did not take long for all five to contract the disease before they eventually recover.
The same happened in a simulation with a population of 200 people, thus raising concerns that the Covid-19 (in real life) could easily spread in the US with a population of 330 million people.
A simulation with “forced quarantine” in place showed that it was unsuccessful in preventing widespread transmission of the disease.
The article quoted Leane Wen, the former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore, as saying: “Many people work in the city and live in neighbouring countries, and vice versa.
“Would people be separated from their families? How would every road be blocked? How would supplies reach residents?”
Lawrence O. Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University said: “The Truth is those kinds of lockdowns are very rare and never effective.”
Health experts, had however, encouraged people to avoid mass gatherings, to stay home and keep their distance form each other as if people are less mobile and interact less with others, the virus has minimal chance of spreading.
Another simulation on “social distancing”, where a quarter of the population continues to move about while the remaining three quarters practice social distancing turned out promising in containing the disease transmission.
The article wrote: “More social distancing keeps even more people healthy, and people can be nudged away from public places by removing their allure.”
In quoting a population health researcher and assistant professor at the Thomas Jefferson University College of Public Health, Drew Harris, the article said: “We control the desire to be in public spaces by closing down public spaces. Italy is closing all of its restaurants. China is closing everything, and we are closing things now, too.
The simulations showed that moderate social distancing would generally outperform the attempted quarantine, and extensive social distancing works best of all.
Harris further noted that the simulations were however nothing like reality since unlike simulitis, Covid-19 could claim lives.