How Cancellations, Quarantines Save Lives Amid The Coronavirus Pandemic

Commuters Navigate Mass Transit During Rush Hour Amid Coronavirus Threat

Postponements and cancellations have become so widespread in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that it's become more noteworthy if something is happening as previously scheduled.

As the viral outbreak has spread across every continent on the globe but Antarctica, officials have gathered reams of data regarding the novel coronavirus's typical path through a society.

Health officials over the past several weeks have alternatively issued grave warnings about the unprecedented potential of the virus and cautioned against overreaction to it, noting that 80 percent of cases are considered mild and do not warrant hospitalization.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said it's possible that millions of Americans will get exposed to the novel coronavirus over the next 12 months, with one Harvard epidemiologist saying it's "plausible" that 20 to 60 percent of adults will be infected with the virus before the outbreak is over.

But as disconcerting as it is to have sporting events and concerts called off due to a pandemic, experts agree that slowing the spread of the virus is the best way to limit severe cases and save lives.

As of Friday morning, there were more than 120,000 reported COVID-19 cases worldwide and over 5,000 deaths so far.

What epidemiologists fear most is a situation like the one in Italy, where the healthcare system has become overwhelmed by coronavirus patients (not to mention sick doctors and nurses, many of whom are still working despite their symptoms). More than 1,000 deaths have been reported against Italy's 15,000 infections.

One projection stated that between 160 million and 214 million people in the U.S. could be infected with the novel coronavirus over the next year.

But experts say the U.S. healthcare system, which has about 925,000 staffed hospital beds and even less equipment to fight respiratory illnesses, can still handle the outbreak as long as communities adopt protective measures.

Chief among those measures are social distancing tactics like canceling mass gatherings, working from home, closing schools, avoiding crowds and self-quarantines for people who have symptoms or have a known nexus to the disease.

Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy Michael Osterholm told the Joe Rogan Experience podcast recently that trying to stop a disease that transmits like the coronavirus does amounts to "trying to stop the wind."

The "flattening the curve" strategy theorizes that if total cases cannot be reduced, an epidemic can be fought by slowing the rate at which people get infected, thereby preserving the integrity of the healthcare system.

"That means my mom and your mom will have a hospital bed if they need it," Emily Landon, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Chicago, told Vox.

Young and healthy people are rarely at risk of being hospitalized or dying due to COVID-19, but they could potentially transmit the disease to more vulnerable people.

"Right now there's always a doctor available when you need one, but that may not be the case if we're not careful," Landon added.

COVID-19 is spreading in America with new cases reported each day. If in a few months, Americans look back on this time and think the virus wasn't worth the worry, that may well mean the country did precisely what it needed to do.

Photo: Getty Images

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