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Strict limits on movement outside your home may be necessary until the fall of 2021: study

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David Cay Johnston
David Cay Johnston

A broad coronavirus lockdown looks increasingly likely as American and British officials embrace studies on the spread of COVIC-19. New York City could be on a lockdown by Friday; San Francisco already is.

The hard part: strict limits on movement outside the home may be necessary until the fall of 2021.

The prospect of more than a year of sheltering in place grows from epidemiological studies, especially modeling by the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London. Both the White House and No. 10 Downing have cited and embraced that study.

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The British study, published Monday, projects that 2.2 million Americans will die if limits on movement are not imposed. That’s in the range that DCReport cited last week in analyzing official estimates on infection and death rates. Two days later major news organizations began issuing articles confirming what we were the first to report.

The United Kingdom should expect higher infection and death rates than he United States because its populace is much more closely bunched. The study projects wide variations in localized American infection rates because of huge variations in  population density.

The study concludes that the only way to tamp down the number of deaths is to keep people at a distance from one another, mostly be requiring people to stay inside their homes and quarantining families when any member has been exposed to the virus.

The study authors wrote that for any distancing policy to be “effective at reducing transmission” of the disease it “will need to be maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more) – given that we predict that transmission will quickly rebound if interventions are relaxed.”

Even if a vaccine can be developed, tested and rapidly deployed the time period would be months, and likely more than a year, not weeks.

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A successful strategy to mitigate and suppress COVID-19 would cause a quick drop in the number of reported new cases, perhaps to near zero. However, thinking this is a success would be disastrous if officials bow to public demands to be allowed to roam freely, return to work and travel.

“We predict that transmission will quickly rebound if interventions  [to restrict movements outside the home] are relaxed,” they wrote.

The problem would be resurgent “stealth transmission” of COVID-19. People who appear healthy and may never develop significant illness can easily and unknowingly infect others.

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“Stealth transmissions will continue to present a major challenge to the containment of this outbreak going forward,” warned Jeffrey Shaman, a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University Mailman School

A lockdown lasting months would pose enormous challenges just in keeping people fed, delivering medications to those with chronic conditions and supplying electricity, the defining technology of modern life. It would also likely cause serious mental health issues among portions of the otherwise mentally healthy populace.

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The British researchers project virtually no deaths for those infected who are under age 40. But death rates escalate quickly for people who are older.  The study projects that among infected forty-somethings one in 167 will die. Among the infected who are 80 or older the virus will kill one in 11.

 

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