A study released by Harvard University on Tuesday suggests that intermittent and prolonged social distancing could be needed into 2022 to mitigate COVID-19 in the United States.
The study says that in the absence of a vaccine or treatment, contact tracing, quarantining and isolation are the primary methods of limiting the spread of the virus. But the study suggests that these methods may be impractical for some places until the number of cases significantly decline.
“In the absence of such interventions, surveillance and intermittent distancing (or sustained distancing if it is highly effective) may need to be maintained into 2022, which would present a substantial social and economic burden,” the study said.
Harvard researchers said that they project that recurrent wintertime outbreaks will likely continue.
In order to keep critical care facilities below capacity, the study suggests that social distancing measures will need to be in place 25% to 75% of the time between now and 2022.
One thing that is unknown is whether those who come down with the virus remain immune from the coronavirus for long. Last week, South Korea reported that more than 50 patients tested positive for coronavirus after being cleared of the virus.
Harvard researchers said that serological studies are urgently needed to determine immunity among those infected.
“Our Pandemic Summer. It won’t be like summers of the past,” Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said. “But am optimistic that if we do our job right, we can get through well. No baseball games. But yes iced coffee with a friend.”
Jha said the idea of things returning to normal will take time, even if sections of the economy reopen.
“If there is a way for greater engagement between public health and business, I think that’s how we get out of this,” Jha said. “If it becomes us versus you guys, we all lose. We have both a horrible number of deaths and a wrecked economy.”
To read the full study, click here.