Wuhan, China lifted its lockdown restrictions on April 8 to little enthusiasm after the insurmountable damage COVID-19 caused to the city since its Jan. 23 shutdown. Many other cities in China opened for the first time in 10 weeks, prompting large gatherings on their opening weekends. As large crowds gather again, medical experts warn that social distancing is still needed to slow the virus’s spread. Experts in the U.S. claim that the virus will continue to spread undetected and that there may be a second “wave” of infections in suburban areas in the fall if the lockdown is lifted too soon or if too many crowds gather prematurely. When the U.S. decides to lift its own lockdown restrictions, UCI students should socialize in moderation in order to avoid the potential of a second outbreak.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak reached the status of global pandemic, the international community has launched several research projects to fight the virus until a vaccine can be developed. One such project, the point-of-care test, is a diagnostic test that will detect the virus within minutes after a test is completed. Due to the virus’s estimated 11.5 day period before symptoms begin appearing, the window of time between contraction and full-blown illness leaves a lot of space for infected people to spread the virus. Other countries have developed “contact-tracing” apps that use Bluetooth to detect individuals with whom an infected person came into contact with since contracting the virus. These contact-tracing apps give the public a geographic and visual representation of their likelihood of being infected in a certain location.
Rapid detection testing and geographic virus-tracing apps are just two of the many lengths that the international community declares will help flatten the curve of the COVID-19 spread. UCI has contributed greatly by developing “bridge” ventilators to help overwhelmed medical centers provide for their patients. The UCI Health Blood Donation Center has expanded its hours to help those in need. Countless students and community members make masks for essential workers. Our collective effort to both socially distance ourselves and support those on the front lines of this pandemic are working, and we need to continue doing both.
Yes, detecting, tracking and fighting the virus are slowing its spread, flattening the curve and ultimately leading to an end of the national lockdown. However, the greater UCI community additionally must use social distancing as another tool to stop the virus well beyond the lockdown’s end. Once the lockdown ends, go out three days during the first week, rather than five days. Eat at a sitdown restaurant twice a week rather than three or four times. Visit a highly populated public space (outside of campus) as little as possible for the foreseeable future. Students don’t need to stay locked away forever, but slowly easing back into socializing as well as getting tested and tracking the virus’s projected spread will help speed up the recovery process rather than send another wave of infections through the population. As a community, we have already made an everlasting impact on many lives affected by COVID-19. Even little changes to our daily lives after the lockdown ends, especially socializing in moderation, will continue that trend towards our community’s impact and eventual recovery.
David Andrews is an Opinion Intern for the 2020 spring quarter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.