Thursday, November 19, 2020

We know how to beat the pandemic, we just won't do it, writes former CDC director, who favors strategic shutdowns

The coronavirus is getting worse and will likely last through much of 2021, especially since widespread distribution of a vaccine is probably many months away. "Until then, we need a one-two punch to knock the virus down and then keep it down," Thomas R. Frieden writes for The Atlantic. Frieden is the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Until we control the virus, he writes, we can't get the economy back on track.

Frieden advocates strategic, well-timed shutdowns. Many don't believe shutdowns work, but that's because many parts of the country shut down too soon and for too long in the spring, he writes: "By the time covid-19 came to areas that hadn’t yet needed to close, people were tired of waiting and resisted continued restrictions. An effective closure needs to be nuanced, specific, and tightened and loosened based on real-time data about where the virus is spreading."

Governments at all levels should mandate mask-wearing in all indoor public places and require businesses to limit capacity or, where necessary, reduce hours or temporarily close, Frieden writes: "Comprehensive action is particularly important for places where covid-19 spreads explosively, including meatpacking, agricultural, and other workplaces where distancing is difficult, as well as for congregate housing, including nursing homes, homeless shelters, and correctional facilities. In addition to universal mask wearing, these regulations should include installing physical barriers such as plexiglass shields, upgrading ventilation systems, and increasing space between people." But governments can't bear all the burden, he cautions, saying individuals must choose less-risky actions, especially with the holiday season coming up.

The U.S. is also failing to effectively test, trace and isolate the infected. "Outbreaks can be stopped, but only by quick, expert work—and cooperation with public-health measures, which is difficult to secure in an environment of misinformation and mistrust, Frieden writes. "Of the many failures of the outgoing administration’s handling of covid-19, the most destructive has been its failure to communicate honestly and directly from the start." Read more here.

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