How Early And Sustained Social Distancing Helps Reduce Pandemic Risks
(3 min read)
Social distancing is currently considered one of the most effective mechanisms to control COVID-19. But what can history tell us about how well this type of nonpharmaceutical intervention works? Looking at US cities hit by the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919 – the deadliest pandemic on record – a 2007 paper funded by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals clear findings: social distancing is a good idea. Specifically, some combination of quarantines, public gathering bans and school closures were effective in reducing the duration and scale of fatalities. Importantly, the results were best when interventions were implemented early and for a sustained basis even when infection rates were falling.
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