Across US States social distancing measures played a major role in slowing the spread of COVID-19 this spring, researchers have reported. Between March 10 and March 25, all 50 American states and the District of Columbia adopted at least one form of social distancing. These restrictions prevented 621,000 cases of COVID-19 across the United States within three weeks of being implemented, the researchers estimated. In addition, after a state enacted social distancing, its rate of deaths related to COVID-19 dropped, on average, after one week.
This is an article in National Geographic and not a scientific paper but it shows with graphs and a lot of references that social distancing isn’t a new idea and it saved thousands of American lives during the last great pandemic in 1918.
The paper projects that the US may have to endure social distancing measures — such as stay-at-home orders and school closures — until 2022, unless critical care capacity is increased substantially or treatment or vaccine becomes available. Another round of the virus is possible once social distancing measures are lifted. Even in the event of apparent elimination, SARS-CoV-2 surveillance should be maintained since a resurgence in contagion could be possible as late as 2024.
In this pre-print a team from Harvard using mathematical model found that one-time interventions will be insufficient to maintain COVID-19 prevalence within the critical care capacity of the United States. Seasonal variation in transmission will facilitate epidemic control during the summer months but could lead to an intense resurgence in the autumn. Intermittent distancing measures can maintain control of the epidemic, but without other interventions, these measures may be necessary into 2022.
Link to article: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.22.20041079v1