Scientists who have fought pandemic describe difficult measures needed to defend the United States against a fast-moving pathogen.
Terrifying though the coronavirus may be, it can be turned back. China, South Korea, SIngapore and Taiwan have demonstrated that, with furious efforts, the contagion can be brought to heel. Whether they can keep it suppressed remains to be seen But for the United States to repeat their successes will take extraordinary levels of coordination and money from the country's leaders, and extraordinary levels of trust and cooperation from citizens. It will also require international partnerships in an interconnected world.
There is a chance to stop coronavirus. This contagion has a weakness.
"You need to identify and stop discrete outbreaks, and then do rigorous contact tracing." Dr. Heymann said. (Dr. David L.Heymann, who chairs an expert panel advising the World Health Organization on emergencies).
Americans (we) must be persuaded to stay home, they said, and a system put in place to isolate the infected and care for them outside the home. Travel restrictions hould be extended, they said; productions of masks and ventilators must be accelerated, and testing problems must be resolved.
But tactics like forced isolations, school closing and pervasive GPS tracking of patients brought more divided reactions. It was not at all clear that a nation so fundamentally committed to individual liberty and distrustful of government could learn to adapt to many of these measures, especially those that smack of state compulsion.
What follows are the recommandations offered by the experts interviewed by The Times.
1. Scientists must be heard
*** Many experts, some of whom are international civil servants, declined to speak on the record for fear of offending the president. But they were united in the opinion that politicians must be step aside and let scientists both lead the effort to contain the virus and explain to Americans what must be done.
*** Above all, the experts said, briefings should focus on saving lives and making sure that average wage earners survive the coming hard times - not n the stock market, the tourism industry or the president's health. There is no time left to point fingers and assign blame.
"We need to focus on the enemy, and that's the virus."
2. Stop transmission between cities
The next priority, experts said, is extreme social distancing.
If it were possible to wave a magic wand and make all Americans freeze in place for 14 days while sitting six feet apart, epidemiologist say, the whole epidemic would sputter to a halt. The virus would die out on every contaminated surface and, because almost everyone shows symptoms within two weeks, it would be evident who was infected.... The crisis would be over. Obviously, there is no magic wand, and no 300 million tests. But the goal of lockdown and social distancing is to approximate such a total freeze. To attempt that, experts said, travel and human interaction must be reduced to a minimum.
Ex: China shut down Wuhan - the epicenter of the nation's outbreak - and restricted movement in much of the country on Jan 23, when the country had a mere 500 cases and 17 deaths. Its rapid action had an important effect: with the virus mostly isolated in on province, the rest of China was able to save Wuhan. There is no guarantee that the virus won't roar back as the Chinese economy restarts. But the lessons is that relatively unaffected regions of the United States will be needed to help rescue overwhelmed cities like Newyork and Seattle. Keeping these areas at least somewhat free of the coronavirus means enacting strict measures, and quickly.
3. Stop transmission within cities
Within cities, there are dangerous hot spots: One restaurant, one gym, one hospital,. even one taxi may be more contaminated identical others nearby because someone had a coughing fit inside.
Each day's delay in stopping human contact, experts said, creates more hot spots, none of which can be identified until about a week later, when the people infected there start falling ill. To stop the explosion, municipal activity must be curtailed. Still, some Americans must stay on jobs: doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers; police officers and firefighters; the technicians who maintain the electrical grid and gas and phone lines.
Its an intimidating picture. But the weaker the freeze, the more people die in overburdened hospitals - and the longer it ultimately takes for the economy to restart.
People in lockdown adapt. In Wuhan, apartment complexes submit group orders for food, medicine, diapers and other essentials. Shipments are assembled at grocery warehouses or government pantries and dropped off.
Everyone who is infected in South Korea goes into isolation in government shelters, and phones and credit card data are used to trace their prior movements and find their contacts. Where they walked before they fell ill is broadcast to the cellphone of everyone who was nearby.
(to be continue)
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