BY: EKREM KAYA
With most of the world under the threat of the coronavirus epidemic, many countries have declared national quarantines and encouraged social distancing. How exactly does social distancing help the situation? Even before that what exactly is social distancing.
Here are the three elements of social distancing:
The U.S. has now been under quarantine for almost a month, has over 553,822 confirmed cases and this number is only continuing to grow.
Currently the data suggests that the growth of COVID-19 is exponential. Exponential growth means that the rate of the spread of the coronavirus only increases as time passes. This is explained by the fact that every infected individual is capable of infecting more than one person. In fact, looking at the numbers, we can say that each sick person infects ~3 others every 5 days (assuming people are asymptomatic for 5 days), after three generations there would be 27 infected people. See our infographic below for a visual description.
According to this piece of early COVID-19 research, the number of cases doubled every 6 days in the city of Wuhan. This indicates an exponential growth rate and is now clear as a similar pattern has continued on the global scale. For example, on March 31st, the number of global new cases was 57,610 and on April 5th, the number of new cases was 82,061. As you can see with each day the number of cases grew exponentially.
The United States has become more serious in social distancing and it has proven effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19. State officials have warned citizens to take quarantine seriously and avoid non essential contact with others. On April 9th the number of new cases in the U.S. was 31,709 and five days later on April 14th the number of new cases was 29,308. Looking at these numbers we can see that the rate of spread has actually decreased.
Here is an infographic that mathematically explains how social distancing helps in flattening the curve:
By limiting the amount of people an individual can infect, social distancing reduces the rate of infection. The main reason behind applying this procedure is to not overload hospitals and run out of internal care units. There is a limited number of ICUs at any given time so by preventing everyone from getting sick at the same time, social distancing attempts to make sure that those who do immediately need intensive care can have access to it. In a sense, social distancing is making the pandemic last longer in order to maintain available ICUs for those in critical condition. If the government had allowed everyone to go out and get sick, most of the population would build immunity and recover and the pandemic would go away. However, this would result in great losses of life as those who would need intensive care would not have access to it with the increased number of cases.
So, continue to stay inside, listen to authorities, and take this seriously. The more of us that participate in social distancing, the better care our most vulnerable can get.