If Half of Americans Did These 3 Things, We Could've Prevented the Pandemic

Study finds that doing these small things could have made a big impact—and still can.

Throughout the pandemic, it's become more or less universally known that in order to curb the spread of coronavirus, we as individuals have to take certain safety measures in our daily lives. Some mixed information was conveyed, recommendations were sometimes unclear, but for the most part, we've known all along that doing our part to end the pandemic meant doing things like social distancing, washing our hands, and wearing face coverings. Some people complied. Some people didn't. For those that have been resistant to taking such precautions, a new study may change their mind.

Scientists behind research recently published in PLOS Medicine found that "self-imposed measures" have the ability to prevent a "large epidemic" if taken by more than 50 percent of people. The measures in question? You guessed it: hand washing, mask-wearing, and social distancing. To get to that conclusion, the researchers developed a transmission model through which they could evaluate the impact of these safety methods.

washing hands

"The aim of this study was to compare the individual and combined effectiveness of self-imposed prevention measures and of short-term government-imposed social distancing in mitigating, delaying, or preventing a COVID-19 epidemic," the study says.

The results led the team to other key conclusions, as well. The authors said that when initiated early, "short-term government-imposed social distancing" can buy as much time as seven months for healthcare systems to prepare for handling an epidemic. Further, they said the peak number of cases can be reduced if people continue to practice social distancing, wash their hands regularly, and wear masks even after government mandates to do so are lifted.

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"In addition to policies on social distancing, governments and public health institutions should continuously mobilize people to adopt self-imposed measures with proven efficacy in order to successfully tackle COVID-19," the study concluded.

Based on a recent interview with CNBC, Anthony Fauci, MD, agrees that strong public health practices are a key part in containing the virus. "I think with a combination of good public health measures, a degree of global herd immunity and a good vaccine, which I do hope and feel cautiously optimistic that we will get, I think when we put all three of those together, we will get control of this, whether it's this year or next year," Fauci told CNBC on July 22. And for some less promising pandemic news, Not a Single U.S. State Is "On Track to Contain COVID," Researchers Say.

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