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Newell: When will we know if social distancing, shelter-in-place is working?

The more successful containment is, the longer the event lasts

Newell Normand
March 23, 2020 - 4:41 pm

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, expects Americans to be stuck inside for at least the next several weeks as efforts to “flatten the curve” ramp up, and says he can’t foresee that this is going to be over in a week or two. So how and when do we know if all the social distancing and sheltering-in-place is having the desired effects? Newell asked Dr. Joe Kanter, Louisiana’s Assistant State Health Official, onto the show Monday morning to discuss.

“A lot of people have this expectation that in 10 days or so, this event will begin to reveal itself in a more profound way, and we’ll find ourselves on the backside of the curve and in recovery… your thoughts?” Newell asked.

“Dr. Fauci is a real voice of clarity in all of this, I try to watch everything that he says because he’s so good at explaining these things and giving good advice,” Kanter said. “He’s looking at this from a national perspective, and we have outbreaks occurring at different rates across the country. We’re a couple weeks behind Seattle, for example. So in aggregate, it’s going to take the country a month or two to see the effects of what we’re doing. But I don’t think that’s accurate for New Orleans. We’re farther along here than most in the country, and I would expect us to get information on how effective we’re being sooner than the country at large. A case that will get reported as positive today might have been swabbed five days ago, and the patient might have been symptomatic three days prior to that, and the patient’s exposure could have been as long as fourteen days before that. So there’s a lag time from an intervention that hits now and the time when you see the results coming in.”

“So you think that we may hit the peak in two or three weeks?” Newell continued.

 “I really couldn’t say,” Kanter answered. “Time will tell. One of the effects of successfully flattening the curve is that the peak comes later. That would be welcome news for us, but it’s hard to project. People want to know when this is going to be over, but we can’t answer that right now.”

“I get that question a lot - people wanting to know if they’re in this for two months, one month - the angst and anxiety is growing,” Newell said. “It’s a question I have difficulty getting my head around. Do you have any thought about when we come out of this and say the coast is clear?”

“I think we’ll have a general consensus when things are at least flattening, if not getting better,” Kanter said. “Right now it’s clear things are getting worse, and I don’t even think we are in the roughest part of this yet - that will come when the hospitals are at or above capacity. That hasn’t happened yet, but it’s coming, no question. All the measures that we’re doing now, that’s the end intention, to prevent this massive surge of sick patients hitting our hospitals, and we’re still a week or two away from being in the middle of that.”

“It seems that the personal protective equipment shortage is hitting a level of crisis here and across the country, any thoughts on that?”

“Couldn’t agree more,” came the answer. “I spent time in one of the ERs this weekend talking with colleagues and nurses. Healthcare workers and everyone working in the hospitals are putting themselves on the front lines in a frightening pandemic, working very long hours. There’s actually long lines just to get into the hospitals, because every single person is getting their temperature checked whether they’re an employee or not. So they’re going to work and being asked to do so without all the equipment they need, and being asked to conserve and ration what they do have. That’s not a great place to be. But they’re all going to keep showing up to work, because that’s who they are. I can’t tell you how in awe I am of these people, they are honest-to-god heroes. Now would be a great time, if you know someone that works in a hospital, reach out to them and let them know you love and support them. Do whatever you can do to let them know their efforts are appreciated.”

Hear the entire interview in the audio player below.

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