After five months of dealing with lockdowns and restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, it sometimes seems as though the end will never come. Since early March, the United States has experienced increasingly intense levels of lockdowns and restrictions, along with advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on masks, hand washing, and other ways to prevent transmission of the virus.
After initial optimism that the virus could fade away on its own, it now seems clear that the world will be dealing with COVID-19 for longer than we ever expected. Many wonder when this will all be over, especially with an important presidential election not too far away.
Under Control by November?
Top infectious disease expert and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci believes it’s possible for the United States to gain control over the pandemic by November, assuming appropriate action is taken now. He is calling for widespread use of face masks and other “fundamental tenets of infection control” in the hope that these can help us reach manageable infection levels by Election Day.
Dr. Fauci also notes that more extended shutdowns may not be necessary, provided that all Americans participate in the few recommended actions to help slow the rate of infection.
Tenets of Control
Despite the continued rise of new cases across the US, Dr. Fauci still believes following recommended infection control guidelines could be enough to stem the rising tide, even without additional widespread shutdowns.
These infection control guidelines should sound familiar at this point—they include such common recommendations as wearing cloth face masks, practicing social distancing, staying away from large crowds, and frequent and thorough handwashing.
The problem, Dr. Fauci and other experts caution, is that these guidelines need to be consistently followed by the entire population in order to be effective. Just a few weak links in the chain can cause continued spread of the virus and ruin control efforts.
More Rapid Testing Needed
Another dilemma in controlling the virus is the availability of tests and the speed at which results come back. Widespread delays in receiving testing results has made contact tracing difficult. Contact tracing is an important part of controlling new outbreaks; by identifying the people who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, it is possible to quickly contain a potential new outbreak. Once contacted, potentially exposed individuals can get tested and self-quarantine, preventing the virus from spreading further.
If these measures are place, perhaps the spread of this illness can be under control by November. Implementing these measures will require greater coordination and commitment from all states and the federal government, however. Time will tell if we are up to the task.