Five Big Mistakes We Can Make Fighting the COVID-19 Pandemic
Lifting shelter-in-place orders too soon will worsen the crisis
Look, we get it: Sheltering in place is a tremendous burden. If you’re lucky, you’re going stir crazy. The less fortunate have lost work or are struggling with mental illness. But governments do not take this strategy lightly: The best way to keep hospitals from getting overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients is to maintain social distancing. Staying at home is saving lives.
Yet some state officials, like Georgia governor Brian Kemp, are rushing to reopen their states, drawing the rebuke of even the president and business owners who are opting out. “The first and the biggest mistake we can make is ending physical distancing too early,” says Dr. Seema Yasmin, director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative. “If we rush to reopen, it could lead to the uncontrolled spread of the virus all over again.”
To be clear, the idea isn’t to stop the spread of the virus entirely—that might have been possible in the very early stages of the pandemic, by tightly quarantining those exposed to the virus to keep the pathogen from spreading around the world. But at this point, our only hope is to flatten the curve, or slow the rate of new cases. This will keep U.S. hospitals from overflowing with COVID-19 patients.
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