Social Distancing May Be Necessary Until 2022 if No Vaccine Found: Harvard Study

Social Distancing May Be Necessary Until 2022 if No Vaccine Found: Harvard Study
A sparsely occupied Grand Central Station appears at midday in New York City on March 18, 2020. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Katabella Roberts
The United States may have to continue practicing social distancing measures until 2022 unless a vaccine for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus becomes available soon, according to researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Science on April 14, used estimates of seasonality, immunity, and cross-immunity for betacoronaviruses OC43 and HKU1 from time series data from the USA to inform a model of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus strain that causes COVID-19) transmission.

"Intermittent distancing may be required into 2022 unless critical care capacity is increased substantially or a treatment or vaccine becomes available," they wrote in their report, adding that "even in the event of apparent elimination, SARS-CoV-2 surveillance should still be maintained, as a resurgence in contagion may be possible as late as 2024."

Giving examples of South Korea and Singapore, the researchers wrote that effective distancing could reduce the strain on healthcare systems and enable contact tracing and quarantine to be feasible.

The authors noted that they are aware that "prolonged distancing, even if intermittent, is likely to have profoundly negative economic, social, and educational consequences," and the "goal in modeling such policies is not to endorse them but to identify likely trajectories of the epidemic under alternative approaches, identify complementary interventions such as expanding ICU capacity and identifying treatments to reduce ICU demand, and to spur innovative ideas to expand the list of options to bring the pandemic under long-term control."

The study comes as 613,886 cases of the CCP virus have been confirmed in the United States, while 26,047 have died from the disease, the majority of which were in the state of New York which has become the epicenter of the virus in the country.

Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN's "State of the Union" that the United States may begin relaxing stay-at-home orders as early as next month amid signs the outbreak "not only has flattened, it’s starting to turn the corner." Fauci said he is hopeful that by the end of the month, the White House CCP virus task force can "look around and say, 'OK, is there any element here that we can safely and cautiously start pulling back on.' If so, do it. If not, then just continue to hunker down."
However in an interview with CBS's "Face the Nation" earlier this month, Fauci also warned that the CCP virus will likely be seasonal until there is a vaccine, and the United States needs to "be prepared that, since it unlikely it will be completely eradicated from the planet, that as we get into next season, we may see the beginning of a resurgence."