Archive for the ‘social distancing’ Category

As COVID-19 rages around the globe, other infectious diseases shrink away

July 31st, 2020
Few people and no cars dot a street amidst highrises.

Enlarge / A masked pedestrian crosses an empty street at a usually busy intersection in the Central Business District on February 3, 2020, in Beijing, China. (credit: Getty | Keven Frayer)

Reports of influenza and a host of other infectious diseases have plummeted as the COVID-19 pandemic has driven people into lockdowns.

In many places, social distancing measures aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus may be smothering the spread of other infectious diseases at the same time. But, in other places, the pandemic may simply be masking disease spread, as people may avoid seeking care for more routine infections while health care systems stretched thin by the pandemic may struggle to conduct routine, surveillance, testing, and reporting.

Some of the resulting declines are dramatic. Countries across the Southern Hemisphere have reported much lower numbers of influenza than usual. Australia, for instance, began 2020 with a relatively high level of flu—reporting around 7,000 lab-confirmed cases in both January and February. But the outbreak crashed in March, with reports of only 229 cases in April, compared with nearly 19,000 in April 2019, as noted by the New Scientist.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in COVID-19, Infectious disease, influenza, lockdowns, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, social distancing | Comments (0)

After months of silence, CDC holds press briefing, issues new COVID advice

June 12th, 2020
Huge facade for CDC headquarters against a beautiful sky.

Enlarge / Signage stands outside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

As states reopen and people begin to ease back into public life, so too is the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it seems.

Today, Friday, June 12, the CDC held its first COVID-19 press conference in just over three months. Though the pandemic has ravaged much of the US in that period, the last time the country’s leading public health agency held a briefing on the crisis was March 9.

In today’s briefing, CDC Director Robert Redfield and CDC Deputy Director of Infectious Diseases Jay Butler introduced two new sets of suggestions for how members of the public can stay safe from the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, as restrictions ease.  One set of recommendations relates to prevention measures for people considering resuming normal activities, like going to the post office or a restaurant. The other is a set of “considerations” for events and mass gatherings.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in CDC, coronavirus, covid-10, Infectious disease, outbreak, physical distancing, public health, rally, redfield, SARS-CoV-2, science, social distancing, Trump, virus | Comments (0)

3 different countries, 1 result: Stay-at-home orders work

May 18th, 2020
Classes have restarted in France following the lifting of restrictions.

Enlarge / Classes have restarted in France following the lifting of restrictions. (credit: SEBASTIEN BOZON/Getty Images)

The various forms of social restrictions, from distancing to stay-at-home orders, seem like a radical departure to most of us. But faced with a pathogen that spreads through human interactions, they're an obvious potential solution to limit that spread. And a variety of epidemiological models have indicated that various combinations of these approaches should be effective.

But do they actually work in the real, messy, interconnected modern world, and against this specific pathogen? It's important to try to confirm that the models accurately project real-world results, and epidemiologists are doing exactly that. So far, the results are good: across several countries and contexts, restrictions were associated with significant drops in the spread of SARS-CoV-2. The bad news is that more severe restrictions may be necessary to keep the number of infections from increasing.

Good news from France

France was one of a number of countries that went for a lockdown, with anyone found outside their home expected to have a permit explaining why they needed to travel. The country has only just started to ease these restrictions following a period in which the total number of infected individuals has fallen. An international team of researchers has now looked at the dynamics of SARS-CoV-2's spread in the time before and after the lockdown was started on March 17.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Biology, epidemiology, pandemic, Policy, SARS-CoV-2, science, social distancing | Comments (0)

“Hell no!” States aren’t ready for Trump’s phased reopening, experts say

April 17th, 2020
US President Donald Trump departs from a news conference at the White House in Washington D.C., U.S. on Thursday, April 16, 2020. Some U.S. states and employers may be able to abandon most social distancing practices to curb the coronavirus outbreak within four weeks under guidelines the Trump administration issued to governors on Thursday.

Enlarge / US President Donald Trump departs from a news conference at the White House in Washington D.C., U.S. on Thursday, April 16, 2020. Some U.S. states and employers may be able to abandon most social distancing practices to curb the coronavirus outbreak within four weeks under guidelines the Trump administration issued to governors on Thursday. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Public health experts are offering mixed reviews of the Trump Administration’s broad, nonbinding guidelines for states to gradually lift social distancing measures currently in place to slow the pandemic spread of COVID-19.

The guidelines, unveiled Thursday, aim to avoid a second, overwhelming wave of disease by easing restrictions in three progressive phases. Each of those phases is gated, meaning that a set of criteria should be met before a state can enter a specific phase. Those gating criteria include states having two-week-long “downward trajectories” of confirmed COVID-19 cases and reports of infections with symptoms similar to COVID-19. States must also have the hospital capacity to treat all patients without “crisis care” and have a “robust” testing program.

The guidelines further lay out core “preparedness responsibilities” that each state should maintain throughout the phases. This criteria includes the ability to test all symptomatic cases and trace their contacts; to set up sentinel surveillance for asymptomatic cases; to have a sufficient supply chain of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, gowns, etc) for healthcare workers; and to have plans to protect at-risk workers and members of the public, such as healthcare workers, the elderly in living facilities, and workers and members of the public using mass transit.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in COVID-19, Infectious disease, pandemic, Policy, public health, science, social distancing, Trump | Comments (0)

How to keep your sanity when you feel like the world is going crazy

March 20th, 2020
We here at the Ars Orbiting HQ are used to working from home, but even so our feline and canine coworkers are perhaps the only ones <em>not</em> feeling socially distanced these days.

Enlarge / We here at the Ars Orbiting HQ are used to working from home, but even so our feline and canine coworkers are perhaps the only ones not feeling socially distanced these days. (credit: Getty / Aurich Lawson)

Hi there. How are you feeling today?

It's a loaded question right now. Many of us are having extraordinary feelings in response to extraordinary times. Hundreds of millions of people here in the United States and around the world are doing their best to help contain the spread of novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 by following World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control guidelines and, bluntly, staying the heck away from other people.

Even for a born introvert like yours truly, the era of prolonged, enforced social distancing is hard. Folks are either stuck at home alone, stuck at home with their families, or still having to go out into the world every day to work—either because their work is vital or their employers are being stubborn—and all the while, we're being buffeted by government warnings and endless waves of frightening news.

Read 55 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in anxiety, coronavirus, COVID-19, expert advice, mental health, science, social distancing | Comments (0)

Why is Meetup helping people organize meetings during a pandemic?

March 16th, 2020
Women friends toasting with shots at a bar

Enlarge

As America grapples with the most serious pandemic in decades, experts recommend social distancing as a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus. That means canceling events, closing schools, and working from home if possible. The fewer people who come into contact, the slower the virus will spread, and the less likely our health care system will get overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.

Yet Meetup, a website devoted to facilitating meetings among strangers, is continuing to help its users organize face-to-face meetings.

Ordinarily, that's a laudable mission. Over the last 18 years, the site has helped organize thousands of social, professional, and educational events. But in the middle of a pandemic, a website devoted to encouraging people to have face-to-face meetings seems more than a little counterproductive.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in coronavirus, COVID-19, meetup, Policy, social distancing | Comments (0)