There are a number of people talking about lifting the social distancing restrictions based on a specific calendar date, rather than according to the science of when it is safe to do so. Time periods as short as two weeks have been floated, which is wildly insufficient based on the current measures that have been taken. The idea is that this would help the economy, but all that would do is cause the health care system to collapse under the weight of COVID-19 cases. Tanking the health care industry, representing almost 20% of the United States’ GDP, will in no way save the economy.
According to Catherine Herzog, epidemiologist and disease ecologist, two weeks of isolation is insufficient to combat COVID-19, even if we perfectly self-quarantined and nobody came into contact with anyone outside of their homes during that time. “[After two weeks] some folks may just start showing symptoms then, and if we all start moving around again it will spread. We need to stop transmission more completely than that so it will take longer.” Each time we lift restrictions, she noted, new epidemics and outbreaks will ensue, as COVID-19 spreads newly through previously uninfected communities.
Without sufficient testing available — and it isn’t, even for many people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms but not severely enough to require hospitalization — the safest option from a public health perspective would be an immediate and country-wide shelter-in-place order, or lockdown.