Just a few months ago, an outbreak of coronavirus in the U.S. was serious, but it wasn’t that much of a different picture in Europe. Now, once-affected European nations such as Italy, Britain, France and Spain, their outbursts are under control, while the situation in the US is still bleak.
A lot can be learned from the countries that were under the influence that managed to turn things around, as well as those that were so fast and organized that they all just eradicated the virus.
Here are some tips from abroad on how Americans can thrive.
Don’t have fun like in 1999
In South Korea, celebrated for providing a response to the virus, the reopening of nightclubs in the Seoul capital has led to a sharp rise in cases in May. The city was soon forced to close all cafes and clubs.
The difference is that South Korea had the virus so well controlled and had such a well-oiled system of testing and tracing that authorities were able to get in touch with most of the affected people and contain a set of cases.
Reopening plans varied from state to state, but on the whole, America reopened much faster than countries in Europe. For example, in the UK, pubs may reopen on Saturday, 15 weeks after they have been ordered to close and since the curve in the UK is clearly leveling off. You can’t say that anymore about the curve in the US, and the bars in many states have been open for a long time.
So going to a weekend of closed spaces with big crowds this weekend will no doubt help prevent the spread of the virus. In many states, the number of crowds is limited to below 100, 50, or even 10, and some forced booths have closed again.
Wear that mask
But the tide is turning. Health experts mostly agree that masks are useful, especially when the virus is prevalent in communities. The WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommend the use of masks in public spaces.
Several studies show that wearing face wraps is effective, but they have yet to be reviewed and there is simply no existing data on how successful they have been in this pandemic.
Outside of Asia, Germany was one of the fastest countries to accept mandatory wearing of masks across the country, while much of the world was still debating its effectiveness. There are many reasons for Germany’s success in keeping death rates low and slowing infections, but at least part of the success has been attributed to wearing face wraps.
Even Trump’s most loyal supporters, including Vice President Mike Pence, are starting to wear face blankets. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday ordered most people in the state to disguise themselves publicly, as the state’s experience is one of the worst increases in the number of those infected in the country. Other states, such as California, have also published announcements of public services that encourage people to wear them.
Ask yourself if you think you should
At the beginning of the epidemic, it was almost impossible to get tested in the U.S. unless you were hospitalized. That has changed, and although there may be obstacles, tests are more affordable than they used to be.
President Trump has made a denied argument that the country should reduce testing to reduce the number of cases. The WHO reiterated that testing is key to keeping the virus under control. The places that had the most successful responses – among others, South Korea, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand and Australia – were tested at high speed.
The advice to the CDC is that if you have symptoms, you should call your healthcare provider and ask if he or she advises testing. Even some asymptomatic people should be tested in some specific circumstances.
As is the case in Florida, for example, White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx has called on all Floridans who have been to mass gatherings in the past four weeks to get tested, even if they show no symptoms.
Quarantine when required (and sometimes even when not)
Widespread testing goes hand in hand with effective trace, trace and quarantine systems.
The idea is that anyone who has come into recent contact with an infected person will be notified by the authorities and request quarantine, usually within 14 days. This means that if you are infected, even if you have no symptoms, you are unlikely to transmit it to anyone outside your home.
The U.S. as a whole is struggling to find enough contact trackers to establish an effective system, as are some other countries, including the UK. The CDC aimed to have 30 contact trackers for every 100,000 people in the country.
This is especially true of the eight states that are hotspots for Covid-19: Nevada (13), Florida (7), Arizona (5), Idaho (14), Texas (11), Tennessee (9), Georgia (2) and South Carolina (8).
If your state has not yet established an effective contact tracking system, there is no reason not to request a test if you suspect you may have come into contact with an infected person.
In the meantime, modest plans for July 4 could make sense and continue to practice social distancing until the U.S. checks the virus.
CNN’s Jacqueline Howard and Natalie Croker contributed to this report.
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