Hold the Line

Back on March 20, 2020, Johnathan Smith, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Yale University, published “Hold the Line” on Medium. Short, simple, and accurate, he brought home the importance of social distancing in fighting the spread of this coronavirus.

Takeaways (emphasis mine):

  • “First, we are in the very infancy of this epidemic’s trajectory.”
  • “Seemingly small social chains get large and complex with alarming speed. If your son visits his girlfriend, and you later sneak over for coffee with a neighbor, your neighbor is now connected to the infected office worker that your son’s girlfriend’s mother shook hands with. This sounds silly, it’s not.”
  • “In contrast to hand-washing and other personal measures, social distancing measures are not about individuals, they are about societies working in unison. These measures also take a long time to see the results. It is hard (even for me) to conceptualize how on a population level ‘one quick little get together’ can undermine the entire framework of a public health intervention, but it does. I promise you it does. I promise. I promise. I promise. You can’t cheat it.”
  • “People are already itching to cheat on the social distancing precautions just a “little” — a playdate, a haircut, or picking up a needless item at the store, etc. From a transmission dynamics standpoint, this very quickly recreates a highly connected social network that undermines all of the work the community has done so far.”

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