5 Ways to Save Lives During the Pandemic

White House briefing Tue, 31 March 2020.

Estimated number of Americans killed by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.Source: White House briefing Tue, 31 March 2020.

We have 30 days to intensify social distancing, saving up to a million Americans

“Now is the time, whenever you are having an effect, not to take your foot off the accelerator and on the break, but just to press it down on the accelerator. ” He is talking about social distancing to mitigate the deadly SARS-Cov-2 pandemic over the next 30 days. According to the top scientist leading America’s fight against the pandemic, social distancing is proven to work in slowing down the transmission of the virus and save lives. 

In fact, the pandemic is projected to kill more than 1 million Americans if we continue what we are doing now. We need better social distancing by more Americans more widely across the country. Each of us has the power to change the course of history if we put pressure on local governments to take unpopular but effective measures. More effective social distancing will give us the best chance to flatten the curve of the pandemic and save up to a million lives. 

Following are just five examples of enhanced measures that will help save lives because they intensify social distancing. But you will not, as of now, hear any of them being recommended even by the Centers for Disease Control.

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  1. Required use of masks or mask-like covering of mouth and nose for everyone leaving their home at all times.
  2. Suspension of virtually all public transportation, taxi services, and Uber/Lyft operation within a city; limits to gas station operations; and suspension of travel in and out of the city.
  3. Separation of everyone who tests positive for SARS-Cov-2 from their homes, asking them to spend 14 days in a staffed health facility set up to house patients testing positive but with no symptoms or symptoms not requiring hospitalization.
  4. Temperature checks, using infrared thermometers, every time people enter a grocery store or other public space or their residential community; and asking those with elevated temperature (e.g. >100 deg. F) to report for testing instead of returning home or entering a public space.
  5. A strictly enforced night curfew  (e.g. 11 pm – 7 am), with trips outside the home only for purposes of performing essential work related to the pandemic or maintenance of critical infrastructure.

Each of these measures may seem to conflict with some political right or ideal Americans may hold dear. Each also may have devastating effects on local economies and levels of public anxiety. But during the pandemic, you will be surprised by the lengths ordinary people will go to help protect their families, their neighbors, and their communities. Evolution has equipped human brains with the ability to express altruism and willingness to come to a fellow human’s aid. That is part of our biology.Reciprocal altruism—coming to another’s aid with an expectation that others will be altruistic and help those in need—makes human communities possible and holds societies together in the first place.

Local government officials should not fear politically unpopular measures. If they do, they underestimate the resilience and capacities of their communities and the American people as a whole.

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