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Quarantining cities isn’t needed. But a fast, coordinated response to covid-19 is essential.

Scott Gottlieb, M.D.
 

By Scott Gottlieb and Caitlin M. Rivers (Original source The Washington Post)

“Dramatic measures have been taken over the past week to fight the coronavirus epidemic in the United States. President Trump’s announcement of a ban on most flights from Europe, except for the United Kingdom, on Wednesday night came at about the same time the National Basketball Association suspended the rest of the basketball season. In New York on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) dispatched the state’s National Guard to New Rochelle, amid a major coronavirus outbreak, to enforce new rules closing large gathering places, such as places of worship and social halls, within a one mile ‘containment zone.’

No doubt similar steps will be taken elsewhere in the next days and weeks. The most appropriate are those, such as the cancellation of large indoor gatherings, that encourage social distancing. They will help mitigate the spread of covid-19, slowing it down and allowing medical facilities to deal with the sickest among us without being overwhelmed.

What is not needed in the United States: draconian use of the geographic quarantine, also known as a ‘cordon sanitaire’ or just a ‘cordon.’ Movement restrictions have been employed in large parts of China, and on Tuesday the Italian government placed the entire country on a lockdown, followed on Wednesday by an announcement that all stores except pharmacies and food markets would be closed. Italy now has more than 10,000 diagnosed cases, and its hospitals, especially in the north, are on the brink of collapse.

The United States isn’t in that dire state yet, and with the proper use of well-coordinated mitigation measures across the country, we can prevent that outcome. In any case, such cordons are blunt instruments that don’t do anything to achieve the necessary social distancing for the people trapped inside them.

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