Journalist lays out why prematurely ending social distancing in any state is a ‘big risk’

Journalist lays out why prematurely ending social distancing in any state is a ‘big risk’
Airman 1st Class Gloria Carrera (right), 56th Medical Group technician, sanitizes medical equipment following a COVID-19 test on a patient March 23, 2020, at the Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The 56th MDG is administering tests for Luke AFB members who have symptoms of COVID-19 to help diagnose the cases early-on. The 56th MDG is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and working closely with Arizona health officials to minimize the spread of COVID-19 at Luke AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brooke Moeder)

What President Donald Trump says or doesn’t say about the coronavirus pandemic can vary from one day to the next; at one of his news conferences this week, Trump asserted that some states are better prepared to reopen their economies than others. But journalist Caitlin Owens, in an article for Axios, lays out some of the reasons why, at this point, “reopening any state in the U.S. right now — even the ones with low caseloads — would be a big risk.”

One of the main reasons, according to Owens, is a lack of testing. As many have repeatedly pointed out, less than 1% of U.S. residents have been tested for COVID-19.

“Testing is still a big part of the problem,” Owens reports. “The number of confirmed cases almost certainly underrepresents the real number of cases. And to safely manage future outbreaks without extreme social distancing, we’ll need to be able to find and isolate people who are sick but don’t know it yet.”

Researchers at John Hopkins University in Baltimore have been reporting the number of coronavirus cases and deaths worldwide, identifying the hotspots. But Jennifer Nuzzo, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, stressed that case numbers alone aren’t the only thing to take into consideration when evaluating coronavirus.

Nuzzo told Axios, “It’s not so much about the case numbers. It’s also about whether we have the strategies or the resources in place to deal with the cases that will emerge after the measures are put in place.”

Trump has argued that states that have smaller numbers of coronavirus cases should be able to decrease social distancing sooner rather than later. Some states, the president said at a news conference on Thursday, “will be able to go literally tomorrow.” But Owens disagrees.

“Places with low caseloads can easily become hotspots if they don’t plan correctly,” the Axios journalist warns. “And no state has a plan to address the increase in coronavirus cases that looser social distancing will likely bring.”

Dr. Ashish Jha of Harvard University told Axios that although suburban and rural areas haven’t been hit as hard by coronavirus as densely populated cities, “there’s nothing that makes those places immune from coronavirus. It will just take much longer because the spread is going to be slow.”

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