Physical Distancing Was Just Supposed to Buy Us Time. Was It Enough?


Physical Distancing Was Supposed to Buy Us Time. Was It Enough?

Physical (social) distancing definitely helped us get control of the coronavirus, which was spreading rapidly throughout March. But alone it wasn’t enough to bring transmission to a halt.
The new data demonstrate that physical distancing shouldn’t be relaxed unless a substantial decrease in daily cases of COVID-19 has been observed.
All but three states, which saw the slowest transmission of the coronavirus in the country, saw a huge reduction in the doubling rate of new infections.
All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub and follow our live updates page for the most recent information on the COVID-19 outbreak.

A new study from researchers at Cornell University and University of Rochester found that physical distancing (social distancing) measures stabilized the transmission of the new coronavirus (the virus that causes COVID-19).

However, it didn’t cause the number of daily reported cases of COVID-19 to decline.

Physical distancing definitely helped us get control of the new coronavirus, which was spreading rapidly throughout March. But alone it wasn’t enough to bring viral transmission to a halt.

States that were hit particularly hard — New York, New Jersey, and Michigan — saw the greatest impact from physical distancing measures.

And all but three states — North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska, which had the slowest transmission of new coronavirus in the country — saw a huge reduction in the doubling rate of new infections.

In theory, strict physical distancing could have caused infections to decrease just as fast as they had increased in March.

Though evidence is still limited on the impact of physical distancing, early data suggests that it didn’t decrease the number of COVID-19 cases reported daily.

Instead, it stabilized, or flattened, how many new infections we were seeing each day.

The new findings show that we don’t have much “wiggle room” when it comes to relaxing physical distancing measures, according to the researchers.

“If we are on the cusp of increasing cases now, then any relaxation, in the absence of other countermeasures, will presumably lead to a renewed increase in new infections with the attending threat of overwhelmed healthcare systems,” the study’s first author, Aaron Wagner, PhD, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University, told Healthline.

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