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White House health official says social distancing isn’t ending anytime soon

Published Apr 27th, 2020 12:48PM EDT
social distancing
Image: Ajay Aggarwal/Hindustan Times/Shutterstock

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  • Dr. Deborah Birx says that social distancing will definitely have to continue into the summer months and that just because the curve is flattening doesn’t mean we can return to normalcy.
  • Birx told Meet The Press that remarks made by Mike Pence that suggested the outbreak would be “behind us” by Memorial Day shouldn’t be taken to mean we can all go back to our pre-pandemic lives.
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Social distancing is working to help curb the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus. We know this because we can see the change in infection rates in areas where the virus was spreading like wildfire prior to stay-at-home orders and social distancing mandates were issued. But how long are we going to be living in this new normal?

Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the health officials on the White House coronavirus task force, says that keeping our distance from each other is something that will need to continue for some time. We’re certainly not out of the woods yet with this pandemic, and social distancing is our best weapon against its spread as we wait for a vaccine to become available.

In an interview with Meet The Press, Dr. Birx made it clear that social distancing is something that will need to remain in place over the summer to ensure that a second wave of the pandemic doesn’t hit us will full force.

“Social distancing will be with us through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another as we move through these phases,” Dr. Birx said during the interview. She noted that the comments made recently by vice president Mike Pence that suggested that the pandemic would be “behind us” by Memorial Day shouldn’t be taken at face value.

The models the government is using to predict the spread of the virus suggest that the curve is flattening in some of the hardest-hit areas, Birx said, and that having a handle on the outbreak isn’t necessarily the same thing as it being “behind us.”

There are of course phases to any pandemic, and what the government appears to be hinting at is that the initial, widespread outbreak phase will soon be behind us. Ongoing management of the pandemic, however, is another story, and it’s clear that we’ll need to continue our social distancing measures for some time if we want to ensure that hospitals around the country can handle the number of new patients that come in.

With so many experts, scientists, organizations, and government officials offering their own takes on the status of the pandemic, it’s virtually impossible to get a clear answer across the board. Still, the data doesn’t lie, and we can see that the measures we’re taking — social distancing, working from home, etc — are indeed helping to significantly slow the viral spread.