Avoiding Another Lockdown: Is Mitigating the Virus Even Possible?

coronavirus, pandemic, epidemic, lockdown, covid-19

Coronavirus cases are surging around the world. The frightening thing is that many of the new waves of global surges come from “unknown origins.” In cities like Melbourne and Hong Kong, these resurgences are pushing cities back into lockdown.

“You can hardly contain the outbreak because you have no idea where they will come out next,” said Yang Gonghuan, former deputy director general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “When there’s more cases where the origins are unknown, it adds to the difficulty for containment.”

With a recent resurgence, Hong Kong, China has shut down schools, bars, gyms, and beaches. Only four people can gather together at a time, and there is a $645 fine for not wearing a mask on public transport. 

Melbourne, Australia is also under a six-week lockdown. Of the new infections, 51 percent are of unknown origin. The lockdown even consisted of keeping 3,000 residents of public housing towers from leaving their apartment for a period of days. 

Tokyo, Japan is in a similar situation, with cases of unknown origin at 53 percent. 

Wearing face masks

There is some evidence that if most Americans wear masks, it will be just as good as going back into lockdown in mitigating the virus. Even President Trump has changed his tune on wearing masks of late. 

Even if masks reduce transmission by 30 percent, that adds up over time to create exponential decay in the amount of cases. 

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) ran a simulation to see the impact that mask wearing would make. They predict that by November 1, 80,000 more people will die from COVID-19. However, if 95 percent of Americans wear masks, that number could go down by around 34,000. 

Ali Mokdad of IHME estimates that as of now, about 40 percent of Americans are wearing masks, while in some COVID-19 hotspots, the percentage is closer to 20 percent.  

But wearing a mask isn’t the only thing you can do. Experts recommend that in addition to wearing a mask, people should avoid eating indoors at restaurants and bars, avoid crowded situations, keep socially distant, and wash and sanitize their hands often. In Japan, government health officials advise people to avoid “the three C’s”: closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded spaces, and close-contact settings. 

Around the world, the largest clusters of people being infected at one time took place in indoor spaces like nursing homes, churches, food-processing plants, schools, shopping centers, worker dormitories, prisons, and ships. 

What about the economy?

Wealth management strategists maintain that our country cannot afford to go into lockdown again because the economy could not take it. However, in reality there would be a breaking point at which we would have to do so if cases continue to rise.

At the same time, the economic crash has arguably affected more people than the coronavirus has. The University of Chicago predicts that 40 percent of lost jobs will not return at all. 

Still, there must be a balance between protecting people’s health and protecting the economy– something which is at this point seems difficult to strike.

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