Why a top Harvard doctor is calling for a 'national quarantine' to stem the effects of the coronavirus pandemic
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
- On Tuesday, Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, called for a two-week "national quarantine" amid the coronavirus pandemic.
- That would mean closing everything to the public apart from essential services, namely grocery stores and pharmacies, and having people stay at home as much as possible.
- Ideally, taking the drastic step now could prevent longer-lasting isolation policies and lead to fewer deaths.
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Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, is calling for the US to have a "national quarantine.""We can either have a national quarantine now, two weeks, get a grip on where things are, and then reassess," Jha said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "Or we can not, wait another week, and when things look really terrible, be forced into it."
The US is confronting a rise in cases related to the coronavirus pandemic, with hospitals already facing shortages of supplies and staff.By some estimates, millions of Americans sickened by coronavirus might need a stay in the hospital. The projected volume of patients is beyond the scope of what some hospitals and health systems would be able to handle.
The penalty to waiting even another week to make that call could mean a longer time in isolation and more deaths.The way he sees it, those are the only options. "Those are really our two choices: Get ahead of it, or wait until we're even further behind," Jha said.
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What a 'national quarantine' might look like
A national quarantine would be similar to the decision Italy and other European countries have made.Over the past few weeks Italy quickly became one of the epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic. The country has taken drastic steps, such as locking down the country. Essential services have stayed open, like grocery stores and pharmacies, but public gatherings aren't permissible, and restaurants and bars have been shut down.
In the parts of the country hardest hit by the coronavirus, clinicians are facing a shortage of medical supplies and hospital beds. Doctors are being forced to make tough decisions about whom to treat.San Francisco that have enacted "shelter in place" policies.
The tough decisions come as researchers are starting to get a better sense of just how widespread the impact of the coronavirus pandemic could be.Researchers with the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team modeled a number of different scenarios of how the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic might play out. In the absence of pharmaceutical treatments or a preventive vaccine for the virus, and without any social distancing measures that could slow its spread, they anticipate 81% of the populations in the UK and US will get infected.
"It's going to be really hard and economically very tough," Jha said. "But the alternative is economically even more devastating."
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