Health expert on what needs to happen before states lift social distancing orders

Posted at 9:01 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-11 19:59:14-04

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This week, China ended its lockdown of Wuhan, where coronavirus first emerged, after more than 10 weeks.

For U.S. citizens and people living in countries that are also under stay-at-home orders, there’s an eagerness to come out of lockdown soon.

But Johns Hopkins Health Security expert Dr. Tom Inglesby says four things need to happen before life in the U.S. can get back to normal.

Inglesby, speaking to Scientific American earlier this month, says any state that’s considering relaxing social distancing should have a demonstrated downward trend in cases two weeks prior.

More data is also needed so that governors and other state leaders can see how they compare with others in the region.

He says states also need extensive diagnostic testing capability, so that anyone who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms can get a test and have same-day results.

Each state must also have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) so its doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are ready for a potential rise in patients.

That said, hospitals must need to have more capacity to care for the sick, Inglesby said.

Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at the university's Bloomberg School of Public Health, says the final element is the capacity for a state to do very rapid case finding. That includes isolation, contact tracing and case management.

It's also what officials and health care workers have been doing very intensely in Asia the last few months. Those conditions could make it safer for states to begin relaxing social distancing.

Lifting all these measures can't be done at once, and states will have to relax restrictions one at a time to see if certain steps are controlling the outbreak,