How Much Longer Do We Have to Live Like This?
The most honest, direct answer from experts is ‘we really don’t know’
After announcing an “initial 15-day period” of social distancing on March 16, President Donald Trump told the nation on Monday that he’s “extending our guidelines to April 30 to slow the spread” of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. The extension is exactly what many infectious disease experts expected or advocated for.
In op-eds and interviews, experts such as Aaron Carroll, MD, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University, and Marc Lipsitch, DPhil, director of Harvard University’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, have warned that lifting restrictions too early could undo any progress made in trying to slow the disease. Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb has suggested it might be late summer before the nation can start “coming back to some element of our normal lives.”
But there’s still confusion over what people can and can’t do during this 30-day extension — and after it ends. When Trump announced the initial 15-day period, his advice wasn’t overly specific: “We’re asking everyone to work at home, if possible, postpone unnecessary travel, and limit social gatherings to no more than 10 people.” He also sounded hopeful that the slowdown wouldn’t last long. “We’ll see what happens after that,” he said on March 16. “If we do this right, our country — and the world, frankly — but our country can be rolling again pretty quickly.”
It’s clear now the world won’t get rolling again pretty quickly — projections about the viruses’ peak vary by state and extend to mid-May. There are signs that social distancing is helping some areas slow the spread. But it’s less clear what day-to-day life will be like for a while. Elemental spoke with two infectious disease experts to get a better sense of this next phase of bunkering down and social distancing.
Until you can be sure you’ve had no symptoms 14 days from any interactions with the last person who might have been sick … you can’t be sure you aren’t part of an infection chain.