It’s been almost seven weeks since social distancing began to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Health experts say it’s working. Wearing a mask, hand hygiene and keeping a six-foot distance are three key parts of flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases. Experts say we shouldn’t lose sight of what works.
“I think social distancing has probably saved more than 10,000 lives,” said Summer Johnson Mcgee, Ph.D., dean of the School of Health Sciences at the University of New Haven. “I think it is the primary tool to fight the coronavirus.”
NBC Connecticut asked how social distancing would play a role, especially at a place like the beach.
“If we see a flooding of beaches and parks as the weather warms up, I think local officials and the governor won’t have any choice but to order those places to be closed," she said.
Sleeping Giant is one of several parks closed at times to help enforce social distancing. As the state begins to reopen, socially distant activities will be important because cases will continue to spread.
“They’re maintaining the six to eight feet distance, they’re not running in to each other, epidemiologically it’s reasonably safe,” said Saad Omer Ph.D., director of Yale University’s Institute for Global Health.
But before we get back out in warmer weather, Omer said there needs to be a health system in place to reopen.
“The way to open it safely is to ramp up testing and contact tracing, and early isolation and quarantine at the whole level,” said Omer.
Even then, we’ll still need extra precautions like increased handwashing and possibly wearing masks.
“When it comes to masks, they’re helpful, they’re modestly helpful, but at the population level if everyone is wearing one the benefits can add up,” said Omer.
So, what could we see when we do reopen?
“I think that the future of large public venues, whether that’s outdoor spaces or indoor spaces like movie theaters – I think those should be the very last spaces to reopen,” said McGee.
She added that smaller essential businesses and restaurants should open first, getting people back to work and figuring out how to social distance inside.
“I think what we just went through was a tsunami. Can we find a way to make those next waves smaller?”