US May Require a 'Comprehensive Shutdown'

Now could be our last chance at proper COVID-19 response: John M. Barry
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 15, 2020 1:57 PM CDT
US May Require a 'Comprehensive Shutdown'
A sign is posted at a closed entrance to the beach in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, Fla., on July 3.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

If you think the current state of the coronavirus pandemic is bad, just wait. "If we don't get the growth of this pandemic under control now, in a few months … we could face a disaster that dwarfs the situation today," according to historian John M. Barry. An expert on the influenza pandemic of 1918, Barry argues drastic measures are needed, including a possible "comprehensive shutdown … in much of the country." Writing at the New York Times, Barry notes "social distancing, masks, hand washing and self-quarantine remain crucial." But "the virus is already too widely disseminated for these actions to quickly bend the curve downward." After all, the US has "the highest growth rate of new cases in the world." Florida reported more than 15,000 cases on Sunday. The same day, Germany, which has four times the population, recorded 159 cases, per Reuters.

We need to get "down to the levels of European countries" in order "to reopen schools in the safest way, which may be impossible in some instances, and to get the economy fully back on track," Barry writes. At the very least, that means limiting gatherings and shutting down sources of large-scale spread. But "that may prove insufficient; a comprehensive April-like shutdown may be required," Barry writes. "This could be on a county-by-county basis, but half-measures" will only result in unnecessary deaths. He notes the US failed to meet the goals of public health experts, including that shutdowns continue until a steep decline in new cases was achieved, before many states reopened. "Had we done it right the first time, we'd be operating at near 100% now … and tens of thousands of Americans would not have died." "This is our second chance," he warns. "We won't get a third." (More coronavirus stories.)

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