From sledgehammer to scalpel: Scientists say a ‘moonshot effort’ is needed to end social distancing and this pandemic

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Earthrise, as seen from Apollo 8, Dec 1968 (photo credit: astronaut William Anders).

Scientists say a moonshot effort is needed to end social distancing and this pandemic.

‘. . . [N]ow, largely, Americans are doing something right: social distancing.

‘The outright lockdowns of movement in some cities, as well as the less severe policies in place across the country, can slow the spread of the pandemic. And per at least one poll, people are, by and large, complying.

‘Frustratingly, though, we must be patient in our isolation. . . . It’s important to recognize it could be months until it’s safe to lift social distancing restrictions. And the timeline might vary depending on where you live and when the virus strikes the hardest.

‘We need social distancing because it slows the spread of the disease to manageable levels. When that happens, we can move to a more sustainable mitigation strategy. But we’ll need to be careful. . . .

Know this: Ceaseless social distancing is not the only way to end this outbreak. . . . It’s just that the current orders of social distancing would need to be replaced by a comprehensive, extremely ambitious plan.

Epidemiologists and pandemic experts have been telling me about what it would take to end social distancing safely while fighting the spread of Covid-19.

It isn’t easy. It will require an immense amount of leadership, coordination, and more sacrifice. It would take a sort of moonshot-level effort.

But the tactics they outline aren’t unfamiliar. They’re textbook epidemiology—they just need to be scaled up to a level never really seen before.

‘“We really do need a Manhattan Project effort to get this stuff in place in really a two- or three-month period,” Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, says. . . .

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