08.28.2020

There is a path out of America’s COVID-19 mess—if we choose to take it

There is a path out of America’s COVID-19 mess—if we choose to take it Photo Courtesy National Geographic

What America wants is a way out. COVID-19 has killed 175,000 people in the United States, more than the number of Americans who died in every military conflict since the Korean War—combined. Thirty million are out of work, with many at risk of losing their homes. Millions of students can’t attend school while many who do face risks and quarantine.

After six months of the worst public health crisis in a century, health experts across the country say the U.S. is perfectly capable of mounting a comeback if it embraces reality and taps its potential for ingenuity.

First, we must knuckle down and accomplish the obvious: Continue social distancing and strive for universal mask use. Close high-risk spaces, such as churches, bars, and casinos. Spend time outdoors. Limit crowds. Wash our hands. Build up contact tracing. Do that, and the U.S. could go from 40,000 new infections a day to "the number of new cases you could count on your fingers and toes," Andy Slavitt, President Barack Obama’s former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, tells National Geographic.

“There’s no big secret—it’s not highly mysterious,” Slavitt says. “You can break the back of this thing if you do that." With concerted effort, we could get there in six weeks, he adds.

“As long as you have any member of society, any demographic group, who's not seriously trying to get to the end game of suppressing this, it will continue to smolder and smolder and smolder,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health during a webcast on August 5.

For the full story, visit NationalGeographic.com/Science.