You’re Going to Need Masks a Long Time
Whether people can go back out to resume daily activities will depend on their individual risk of infection.
While some states say they will work together to determine how and when to ease social distancing standards to restart the economy, Chernak said a more national plan will be needed, especially given Americans’ desire to travel within the country.
“Without aggressive testing and contact tracing, people will still be at risk when going out,” she said. Social gatherings will be limited to a few people, and wearing masks in public will likely remain necessary.
She said major changes will be necessary for nursing home operations to reduce the spread of disease because the elderly are at the highest risk of complications from COVID-19.
Miller said it’s likely another surge of COVID-19 cases could occur after social distancing measures are loosened.
“How big that will depend on how long you wait from a public health perspective [to relax preventative measures]. The longer you wait is better, but the economy is worse off.”
The experts pointed to the 1918 pandemic of flu, which infected a quarter of the world’s population and killed 50 million people. Months after the first surge, there were several spikes in cases, with the second surge being the deadliest.
“If we pull off the public health measures too early, the virus is still circulating and can infect more people,” said Dr. Howard Markel, professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan. “We want that circulation to be among as few people as possible. So when new cases do erupt, the public health departments can test and isolate people.”
The Harvard researchers, in their article this week in the journal Science, said their model suggested that a resurgence of the virus “could occur as late as 2025 even after a prolonged period of apparent elimination.”