Lapsed social distancing. Mobile phone telemetry shows that Americans are starting to move around more. That’s especially true in the southeast and central areas of the country.
A month ago, communiqués from US government and media stressed the importance of sheltering at home during the first two weeks of April, identified as the turning point in the pandemic. That sort of crisis rhetoric likely mislead large swaths of the public into believing that, if they made it past the peak unscathed, they’d be relatively safe going forward — like making it through a hurricane. That’s not the case. The hope at the time was that the extended regime of commercial shutdown and social distancing would finally begin to pay dividends in the form of a marked downward trend in new infections, leading toward an end of the first wave by the end of April. That hasn’t happened: US covid infection rates — and deaths — have plateaued, but have not yet shown a marked and persistent downward trend.
Three times over the past week the IHCE has increased its body count projections. No doubt increased public mobility will accelerate as businesses start reopening. It’s likely that infection rates will go up as well.
Diagnostic testing protocols seem inappropriate. Who should get tested? Here’s what the CDC has to say:
Most people have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. They may not need to be tested. At this time, there is no treatment specifically approved for people who have COVID-19.
It usually takes a few days to get the test results back from the lab. Surely doctors aren’t waiting that long to treat a patient who’s already very ill. Since there are no covid-specific treatments to offer, test results won’t alter the course of medical care, which must focus on alleviating symptoms rather than curing the disease. Most people who meet the criteria for testing have already been running a fever, coughing, feeling short of breath and achy — too sick to get out of the chair, let alone get out of the house infecting others.
Why then test at such an advanced stage of disease progression, if making the differential diagnosis has no impact on medical treatment or disease transmission?