Letter: Getting the reopening just right will be tricky
When it comes to reopening the economic lockdown imposed by the need to slow the spread of the coronavirus, I’m about as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
There’s a lot of things that can go wrong. If the reopening is too slow, you’ve got that much more pain and desperation. If the reopening is too soon or too fast, and if we get careless about social distancing, then you can get a burst of new infections, overwhelmed hospitals and more funerals.
Getting the reopening just right is going to be tricky and depends on all of us maintaining the discipline to wear masks, use social distancing and not letting your guard down about being around lots of people.
Colorado Governor Polis’ safer-at-home approach to gradually reopening the economy is something of a gamble. He’s betting that Colorado citizens will exercise self-discipline as the economy gradually reopens. He’s betting that masks will be worn, social distancing will be employed, that people will avoid crowds and generally use common sense.
The problem is that common sense ain’t all that common. There are damn fools out there that endanger all of us.
This is where contact tracers will step to the forefront. According to Merriam-Webster, contact tracing is defined as “the practice of identifying and monitoring individuals who may have had contact with an infectious person, as a means of controlling the spread of a communicable disease” like COVID-19. Basically, it means being a pandemic detective, using a variety of tools to identify people who’ve been exposed. Those who’ve been exposed can be quarantined for 14 days, as well as people they closely encountered and may have infected.
By doing this, society as a whole would have fewer people be inconvenienced by quarantine, while more people could be released from lockdown, to go to work.
And lest you think this is all too Big Brotherish, contact tracing has been a standard tool for epidemiology since 1931. More recently, it has been used to get infection rates down to zero or near-zero in South Korea, Wuhan province and New Zealand.
Of course, the bigger and more robust the testing campaign, the less contact tracing needed.
If you need a job, check the websites of local and state public health agencies. Nationally, experts estimate the U.S. needs 100,000 more contract tracers.
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