RICHMOND, Va. — Even as some states move to re-open, hundreds of doctors and public health experts are urging Virginia's governor to clamp down.
The End Coronavirus Network is pushing the governor to implement stricter social distancing measures now – arguing that is the path to getting back to normal faster.
"If you take a sort of medium level of activity, then it's going to take a lot longer, right?" said Yaneer Bar-Yam, PhD, a MIT-trained physicist and complexity scientist. "But if you take strong action, then you can get back to normal in weeks."
Bar-Yam is a leader of the group EndCoronaVirus.org. It includes physicians, public health experts, business owners and citizens from across the commonwealth who wrote a letter to the governor. They argue we need to go beyond flattening the curve. Tougher measures, they argue, will crush the curve.
"This is not the time to rush back into a sort of pre-COVID normal life," said Rajesh Balkrishnan, PhD, a professor of public health science, at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. "Virginia is about lovers, and we love life, we put life paramount here first."
The group wants to scale up contact tracing, convert unused college dorms to isolation wards, and close the state's borders to all but essential travel.
"It sounds like this super extreme thing to do," said Bar-Yam. "[But] you have to a way to protect yourself from getting in new cases."
Chinese officials set up facilities where people with coronavirus and minor symptoms could get help without exposing their families. The group argues that the U.S. should do something similar.
"To isolate yourself at home, actually doesn’t make that much sense. Transmission is too high in families," said Bar-Yam.
"The sooner we can get the crisis over, the sooner we can get to Phase One and reopen," said Gov. Ralph Northam, (D-Va.) on Monday. But we’re still waiting for a response about whether he is willing to impose even harsher restrictions
Virginia's health director said Monday that the commonwealth has at least 199 coronavirus outbreaks now, 133 of them in nursing homes.