US may have to endure social distancing until 2022 if no vaccine is quickly found, scientists predict

Harvard School of Public Health's Yonatan Grad explains how his team reached the conclusion that Americans will have the potential need for social distancing measures until 2022.

Posted: Apr 15, 2020 7:10 PM
Updated: Apr 15, 2020 7:10 PM

This may be the new normal for quite a while.

The US may have to endure social distancing measures -- such as stay-at-home orders and school closures -- until 2022, researchers projected on Tuesday.

That is, unless a vaccine or better therapeutics becomes available, or we increase our critical care capacity. In other words, 2022 is one scenario of many.

That's according to researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who published their findings in the journal Science on Tuesday. Those findings directly contradict research being touted by the White House that suggests the pandemic may stop this summer.

The team at the Harvard School of Public Health used what's known about Covid-19 and other coronaviruses to create possible scenarios of the current pandemic.

"Intermittent distancing may be required into 2022 unless critical care capacity is increased substantially or a treatment or vaccine becomes available," they wrote in their report. "Even in the event of apparent elimination, SARS-CoV-2 surveillance should be maintained since a resurgence in contagion could be possible as late as 2024."

The Harvard team's projections also indicate that the virus would come roaring back fairly quickly once restrictions were lifted.

"If intermittent distancing is the approach that's chosen, it may be necessary to do it for several years, which is obviously a very long time," Dr. Marc Lipsitch, an author on the study and an epidemiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, told reporters.

Another important factor: Whether people become immune to the new coronavirus after they have been infected. That's not yet known.

Potential challenges include finding a reliable test to determine who has antibodies for the coronavirus, establishing the level of immunity conferred by previous infection and how long it lasts, and the capacity of overstretched health systems to carry out reliable, widespread antibody tests in the general population.

There's also the difficult social questions around immunity certificates, which have been floated as a possibility in the UK. Would they create a kind of two-tier society, where those who have them can return to a more normal life, while others remain locked down?

The study researchers say they are aware that such prolonged distancing, even if intermittent, would likely have "profoundly negative economic, social, and educational consequences."

They hope their research will help identify likely trajectories of the epidemic under alternative approaches, identify complementary ways to fight it, and to spur further thinking about ways to get the pandemic under control.

Though coronavirus cases in the US have been soaring, social distancing appears to be effective.

Social distancing is "one of the most powerful weapons" against COVID-19, said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"If we can just maximize that social distancing, we can limit this virus's ability," he said earlier this month.

States across the country have issued stay-at-home orders, allowing only for essential errands or tasks.

Penalties for breaking the order vary by state. In Maine, the penalty for breaking the order can be up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

In Florida, a pastor was arrested last month for continuing to hold large services and is charged with unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules, both second-degree misdemeanors.

This week, states on the East and West coasts announced they are forming their own regional pacts to work together on how to reopen after the stay-at-home orders.

New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts each plan to name a public health and economic official to a regional working group.

West Coast states of California, Washington and Oregon also announced they are joining forces in a plan to begin incremental release of stay-at-home orders.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 47432

Reported Deaths: 2687
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11546683
Lake5104242
Elkhart321144
Allen2737129
St. Joseph190866
Cass16389
Hamilton1538100
Hendricks1390100
Johnson1256118
Porter72037
Tippecanoe6948
Madison65564
Clark64044
Bartholomew58244
Howard56557
LaPorte56326
Kosciusko5354
Vanderburgh5026
Marshall4823
Jackson4693
Noble46928
LaGrange4677
Hancock44035
Boone43743
Delaware43150
Shelby42325
Floyd37144
Morgan32731
Montgomery29320
Grant29126
Clinton2882
Monroe27628
Dubois2666
White26010
Henry25815
Decatur24932
Lawrence24225
Vigo2318
Dearborn22823
Harrison21222
Warrick21229
Greene18532
Miami1822
Jennings17411
Putnam1688
DeKalb1604
Scott1607
Daviess14216
Orange13623
Wayne1366
Steuben1282
Perry1279
Franklin1248
Ripley1157
Jasper1142
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Carroll1102
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Newton9810
Starke923
Whitley905
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Huntington742
Jefferson722
Wells711
Fulton691
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Washington681
Gibson672
Knox640
Pulaski641
Clay604
Rush563
Adams501
Benton480
Owen471
Sullivan441
Brown381
Posey380
Blackford372
Spencer371
Crawford300
Fountain302
Tipton301
Switzerland260
Martin220
Parke220
Ohio140
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike100
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 56183

Reported Deaths: 2907
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin10023420
Cuyahoga7571372
Hamilton5770197
Marion273038
Lucas2700302
Pickaway218841
Summit2110206
Montgomery193126
Mahoning1818231
Butler154744
Columbiana129560
Stark1091112
Lorain99767
Trumbull92565
Warren82321
Clark7659
Delaware55315
Belmont54422
Fairfield54316
Tuscarawas54110
Medina50832
Lake49218
Licking46612
Miami45531
Portage43258
Ashtabula43144
Wood41251
Geauga40042
Clermont3946
Wayne36051
Richland3325
Allen30840
Mercer2808
Greene2489
Darke24625
Erie23622
Holmes2263
Huron2112
Madison1938
Ottawa14323
Crawford1355
Washington13120
Putnam12715
Sandusky12714
Hardin12012
Ross1183
Morrow1161
Auglaize1064
Coshocton942
Monroe8817
Jefferson872
Union821
Muskingum811
Hancock781
Hocking788
Preble731
Williams692
Clinton680
Guernsey683
Lawrence680
Shelby654
Fulton610
Ashland581
Carroll583
Logan581
Wyandot586
Brown561
Defiance503
Athens491
Knox481
Fayette460
Highland441
Champaign391
Scioto380
Van Wert340
Seneca332
Perry321
Henry290
Adams231
Paulding230
Pike230
Jackson220
Vinton222
Gallia161
Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan110
Noble110
Unassigned00
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