After a couple of weeks in isolation, it is tempting to start cheating. We’ve been isolated for a while now, and we’re getting a little nutty.
Zoom isn’t cutting it. We want to see friends. We want to check on neighbors. We need our gray dyed.
It’s hard not to wonder, can’t my son visit his girlfriend ever so briefly? Can’t I have coffee with a neighbor? Can’t we meet up at the beach or take the kids to the playground?
Short answer: Absolutely not.
To understand why we all need to toe the line, and continue to stay away, and resist any temptation to cheat even the littlest bit, here’s a brief explanation of transmission dynamics from Yale epidemiologist Jonathan Smith:
“While social distancing decreases contact with members of society, it, of course, increases your contacts with group (i.e. family) members. This small and obvious fact has surprisingly profound implications. Study after study demonstrates that even if there is only a little bit of connection between groups, the epidemic trajectory isn’t much different than if there was no measure in place.
“Seemingly small social chains get large and complex with alarming speed. If your son visits his girlfriend, and you later sneak over for coffee with a neighbor, your neighbor is now connected to the infected office worker that your son’s girlfriend’s mother shook hands with. This sounds silly. It’s not. This is not a joke or a hypothetical. This is the unforgiving math of epidemics.
“In contrast to hand-washing and other personal measures, social distancing measures are not about individuals; they are about societies working in unison. These measures also take a long time to see the results. It is hard (even for me) to conceptualize how ‘one quick little get-together’ can undermine the entire framework of a public health intervention — but it does. I promise you, it does. I promise. I promise. I promise. You can’t cheat it.
“People are already itching to cheat on the social distancing precautions just a ‘little’ — a playdate, a haircut, or picking up a needless item at the store, etc. From a transmission dynamics standpoint, this very quickly recreates a highly connected social network that undermines all of the work the community has done so far.”
So, please, for all of us, for all of the work we have done so far, for our health care workers on the front lines, for those lives that have not yet been lost, and for the families who might still be spared from tragedy — stay home. Watch “Tiger King.” Make yourself a cocktail.
And don’t, under any circumstances, cheat. We are all in this together, literally.
Stay safe. Stay home. It’s that simple.
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One fine body…