As everyone and their mother should know by now, the USA is not containing the coronavirus epidemic very well so far. 12 days ago, I wrote an article explaining why the coronavirus was shutting everything down and why we all needed to self-isolate. Unfortunately, much of America did not listen. (Surprising, I know.) Between our cowboy mentality (which is still part of US culture), distrust of authority, distrust of science, and conspiracy-obsessed president (even before he was elected), we had an approximately 100% chance of failure. The good thing is that many of us have been strictly self-isolating, but many have not. Furthermore, we just don’t have ideal systems in place to contain this virus.
I knew China, South Korea, and some other places had stricter policies in place — and being enforced — than we in the US have had, but I hadn’t spent a lot of time investigating them comprehensively. (Side note: I’m sure a big part of the reason was that I knew some of what they have been doing — if not most of it — had no shot or close to no shot of being implemented in the US.) Well, I just happened to listen to a video interview of a former Harvard Medical School professor, the guy who set up the cancer and AIDS labs there, Dr. William Haseltine, who was just the chair of the US–China Health Summit in China. He shared a number of things they did — and are still doing — in China. Aside from being interesting, I thought they might be useful to share with a broader audience, so I’m running down a short list of them in this article. You can watch the full interview for more commentary on the topic — just be forewarned that it’s a bit depressing.
In short, Dr. William Haseltine noted that even in the places in the US doing the most, “we’re not doing even a fraction of what China did to control its epidemic.”
1. Hotel isolation: Anybody in contact with someone known to be infected is put into mandatory quarantine in an isolated hotel room for up to 14 days from time of contact.
Dr. William Haseltine notes that this is what we should be doing in the US. We aren’t. My estimate is that there’s a 99% chance we won’t, even though we should.
He also relayed the story of an American who flew from Frankfurt to Shanghai and was 2 days later told to go downstairs in the hotel with his wife. For the following 11 days, they were isolated in separate hotel rooms and not even allowed to open the door. The people serving them food at their door? They were wearing hazmat suits.
2. Regional breakpoints: Anybody who goes from one region of China to another is supposed to self-isolate for up to 14 days.
Side notes from a Floridian: Anyone coming to Florida for spring break should have been sent home, or quarantined once here. (Didn’t happen.) Anyone coming to Florida now, especially from New York, needs to be seriously quarantined and locked down, like the did in China. (Won’t happen. And the governor’s demand that New Yorkers stay in their hotel rooms for 14 days is likely going to be ignored more than not. Ugh.)
3. Enter China, go into house arrest: Anyone coming home to China from outside the country has to stay in their home, not even opening the door to go outside. Again, they just have food delivered to them.
Of course, we won’t do this in the US unless something dramatically changes quick.
4. Temperature reports via app: Everyone in China now has an app on their phones for reporting temperatures. If you have been in contact with someone who’s infected, you have to take your temperature at least twice a day and report it on the app.
This seems like something Americans could and would do. Maybe. But who would develop and provide the app? Many people don’t trust either government or big corporations at all and won’t engage. This is not China.
So, in short, we cannot expect to flatten the curve as China has done, because we aren’t taking “even a fraction” of the testing and quarantine actions China has been taking for months.
A wrenching video from a NYC hospital at the center of the #COVID19 pandemic, in which an ER doctor describes shortages of ventilators and masks and says she doesn't care if she gets in trouble for her appeal. The blunt truth: NYC is becoming Wuhan. https://t.co/oaDWAHNyhh
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) March 26, 2020
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