It’s hard for me, a retired scientist, to understand what passes for logic in discussions of the COVID-19 virus.
In a recent letter, it was asserted that there are only three ways to stop the spread of the virus: completely isolate/quarantine the population (clearly impossible economically in the long term); produce and distribute an effective vaccine (6 to 18 months away under the most optimistic scenarios); or produce herd immunity (clearly devastating for those like myself who live with someone with immune system compromising conditions).
My reaction to this assertion, recalling statements by experts in virology and public health, was: Aren’t we forgetting something here?
Experts are saying that using masks when in public places, paying careful attention to personal hygiene — i.e., washing hands and using sanitizer, and practicing social distancing — when combined with testing and contact tracing can reduce virus cases to a low, manageable level.
We now have data showing that these practices are indeed the key until a vaccine is available.
Those countries and U.S. states that have rigorously required and/or encouraged them through education and regulations (Taiwan, South Korea, most European Union states, New York, Rhode Island) have steadily reduced overall infection rates.
Those who haven’t (Brazil, India, and the states of Florida, Texas, Arizona and, yes, Alabama) now have spiking numbers of cases with mounting ICU patients and deaths.
It is foolish to omit the single most effective containment strategy from the plan — the virus doesn’t care what you say, only what you do.
Roger L. Tanner