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Stopping COVID-19 requires stronger social distancing actions

April 6, 2020

As the health and economic security of the nation are at risk with new COVID-19 cases diagnosed every day and our medical systems facing significant strain, a newly released white paper by MITRE offers guidance that the U.S. should put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. MITRE recommends that Americans decrease contact with others by 90% to stop or considerably slow COVID-19’s progress.

The paper recommends 14 policy actions, including:

  • Closing all schools and learning institutions nationwide.
  • Closing restaurants, bars, movie theaters and restricting access to other places of physical gathering.
  • Sealing or restricting all U.S. borders.
  • Incentivizing residents to only leave their homes for critical need.

MITRE also recommends making social distancing measures stronger, more uniform and more consistently applied to avoid a surge in COVID-19 infections. By implementing and enforcing these measures to limit contact between people, the nation can reduce infections and deaths from COVID-19 and avoid overburdening our health care system.

The paper suggests that while implementing their recommendations will not be without cost, failing to carry out social distancing measures will result in more significant long-term damage to the nation’s health and economic security.

If implemented properly, MITRE believes its recommendations will slow or stop the spread of COVID-19. Once these social distancing actions are in place and new cases slow, government leaders will be able to help the public gain a better understanding of the spread of COVID-19 and a timeline for return to normal life.

The recommendations in the white paper draw on available data and are proposed by MITRE’s clinical and epidemiological expertise.

This post was prepared by MITRE’s infectious disease analytics team, which is advised by Jay Schnitzer M.D., Ph.D, MITRE’s chief medical and chief technology officer, several of MITRE’s Senior Visiting Fellows, as well as MITRE and external experts in virology, epidemiology and infectious disease.

Authors and related areas of expertise:

Bahaa Fam, Economic Models, Machine Learning, Systems Optimization- Greystone Partners, LLC
Jennifer J. Mathieu, Ph.D., Computational Models
John H. James, Propagation Models, Epidemic Characterization & Operations Research Christopher G. Glazner, Ph.D., Complex Systems Models
Paula J. Mahoney, Computational Models and Operations Research
L. Allison Ounanian, Information Science


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