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Johns Hopkins expert: What needs to happen before scaling back social distancing

Posted at 6:15 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 18:16:00-04

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Johns Hopkins experts couldn't give a timeline but instead highlighted four things that need to happen to decrease the threat enough so that we can safely regain some normalcy.

This was addressed during the first in a series of press briefings from experts with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Dr. Caitlin Rivers spoke about her research on a road map through the pandemic, breaking it down into four phases. She said were are in the first, community social distancing, and there are some things that need to happen to move to phase two, which is a more case-based intervention with less social distancing protocols.

First, we need to continue social distancing and see a declining number of positive cases every day for two weeks straight.

The others have to do with building up infrastructure: having enough health care capacity to treat everyone who is sick with sufficient equipment (PPEs and ventilators), having enough testing for everyone with symptoms and scaling up public health capacity to take on contact tracing.

She said the timeline depends on how fast states move.

"In order to scale up those programs, it’s a huge undertaking. There’s a lot of infrastructure to be put in place and we can’t just do that in one place. It really needs to be built up in every community and it’s really going to depend on how quickly we are able to get that rolling," said Rivers, with the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

She estimated we are still months out from complete normalcy, which will come with therapeutic interventions and a vaccination for phase three.

She said phase four is evaluating what steps need to be taken to prevent the issues we are seeing, like testing and supply shortages, preparing for the next pandemic.

In looking at data from New York City, she is confident that social distancing is working and will slow the spread of the virus. She expects to see the impact of stay at home orders on Maryland data in the next week.