What Comes Next Depends on Readiness

Although Trump said the nation has passed the peak of new cases, health experts cautioned that from a scientific perspective that won’t be clear until there is a consistent decline in the number of new cases — which is not true now nationally or in many large states.

“We are at the plateau of the curve in many states,” said Dr. Ricardo Izurieta, an infectious disease specialist at the University of South Florida. “We have to make sure we see a decline in cases before we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.” Even after the peak, many people are susceptible. “The only way to stop the spread of the disease is to reduce human contact,” Chernak said. “The good news is having people stay home is working, but it’s been brutal on people and on society and on the economy.”

Before allowing people to gather in groups, more testing needs to be done, people who are infected need to be quarantined, and their contacts must be tracked down and isolated for two weeks, she said, but added: “We don’t seem to have a national strategy to achieve this.”
“Before any public health interventions are relaxed, we better be ready to test every single person for COVID,” MacDonald said.

In addition, she said, city and county health departments lack staffing to contact people who have been near those who are infected to get them to isolate. The tools “needed to lift up the social distancing we do not have ready to go,” MacDonald said.