As the number of coronavirus infections in the United States continues to climb past 4.5 million, researchers are scrambling to figure out how we are going to effectively flatten the curve. On Wednesday, scholars at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security released a new detailed report suggesting how the federal, state and local governments can get control of the deadly pandemic.
“Unlike many countries in the world, the United States is not currently on course to get control of this epidemic,” they pointed out in the report. “It is time to reset.” The report included 10 recommendations that will help the US get back to baseline. Here are the most important takeaways you need to know about.
Universal Mask Mandates
Non-pharmaceutical measures, which include universal mask use, need to be tightened up in the United States, similar to other countries who are flattening their curves. According to the report, it is the responsibility of state, local and federal leaders to mandate non-medical mask use in public.
Testing and contact tracing needs to be improved, the report states. This included identifying ways the federal government can work with states and commercial labs to identify challenges in quickly returning tests and to work out a more efficient way to process them.
Stay at Home Orders
In places where transmission is worsening, the report urges that stay-at-home orders should be reinstated. “In those jurisdictions where hospitalizations and diagnostic test positivity are rising, but where there are still no signs of hospital crisis or rising deaths, governors or local executives should re-close high-risk activities and settings,” they say. “In jurisdictions (eg, either whole states or individual counties or cities) where healthcare systems are in crisis or approaching it, or deaths are steadily rising, governors should reinstitute stay-at-home orders until numbers improve for at least 2 weeks.”
Social distancing is another key non-pharmaceutical measure that needs to be the norm, the report explains.
Limit Indoor Gatherings
The report also calls for state, local and federal leaders to limit large indoor gatherings, “capping them at no more than 10 people in places where there is substantial community transmission, and perhaps 25 in places where the epidemic is under better control.”
Leaders at all levels should also “speak in unison in support of these core public health approaches to controlling this disease.” They explain, “Consistency of messaging will play an important role in overcoming the misinformation and ideological differences that are contributing to inconsistent implementation of public health guidance. Political and scientific leaders should work closely together, as they have in other countries that have successfully controlled their epidemics, both in the development of policy and also in its communication and guidance to the public.”
Pay More Attention to Positivity Rate
The report points out that more emphasis needs to be put on the testing positivity rate, which can predict future hospitalizations and death surges. “States should stop high risk activities and settings in areas that have rising test positivity, but no signs of crisis in hospitals or rising deaths,” they explain.
Vaccine Development and Education
While a vaccine will be a game changer as it will “dramatically change the course of the response and offer the opportunity to enhance protection of those most vulnerable individuals,” there is work to be done at the community level before one is available. “With misinformation and vaccine hesitancy remaining prominent issues affecting public health, vaccination campaigns will not be successful if they are not executed with sensitivity to the current climate around trust of public institutions and if they do not incorporate multidisciplinary expertise in decision-making groups,” the report says. As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 37 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.