Covid-19: Why You Really Can't 'Visit Just One Friend'
Reprinted by permission from Futurity News because Skagit County just experienced a spike in confirmed cases of Covid-19!
After weeks of social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic, you might ask: What could be the harm of visiting just one friend? A new website shows the answer.
Unfortunately, that visit could potentially undo the goal of social distancing, which is to give the COVID-19 virus fewer opportunities to spread.
According to the website, which researchers at the University of Washington set up, easing the social distancing rules so that each household could have contact with just one or two others would reconnect most households in a community, providing conduits through which the COVID-19 virus could spread.
The site—which launched on April 3 and has the apt title “Can’t I please just visit one friend?”—is the creation of a team led by Steven Goodreau, professor of anthropology, and Martina Morris, professor emerita of sociology and statistics. Goodreau and Morris are network epidemiologists, who study how social connections influence the spread of infectious agents.
The COVID-19 virus can spread through many types of social interactions—from kissing and hugging to simply being in the same room—which is why health officials recommend rigorous social distancing measures like staying home, washing hands frequently, wearing face masks, and keeping six feet from others during essential trips to grocery stores, pharmacies, and medical appointments.
“There have been lots of discussions and articles about using social distancing to do things like ‘flatten the curve,'” says Goodreau. “We wanted to illustrate these principles at a community level, to help people visualize how even seemingly simple connections aren’t so simple.”
“Can’t I please just visit one friend?” starts out by visualizing the effectiveness of these social distancing measures on a hypothetical community of 200 households. The researchers adjust the social connections in this community to demonstrate the effects of social distancing.
|No social distancing. (Credit: Steven Goodreau, Martina Morris/U. of Washington)|
With no social distancing, social connections ensure that every household is directly or indirectly connected with every other household in the community, creating one giant cluster.
|Essential workers only. (Credit: Steven Goodreau, Martina Morris/U. of Washington)|
|If each household can visit “just one friend.” (Credit: Steven Goodreau, Martina Morris/U. of Washington)|
“We purposefully keep this quite simple to get the basic idea across to people,” says Morris. “It shows why connections can spread more than we realize, and much more than our instincts might tell us.”
The team’s website shows additional scenarios, which they created using R, a programming language. One simulation shows how an average of two optional social connections per household reconnects more than 90% of households in the community.
Each of these connections is an opportunity for the virus to spread.
“With COVID-19, many types of connections can transmit the virus,” says Morris. “What we show is that you don’t need super-spreaders to create network connectivity for transmission; visiting just one friend is equally effective for connecting a community into one large cluster.”
By forgoing that visit with just one friend, people can help their neighbors both nearby and across town, and they will be helped in return, Morris adds.
Author: James Urton
Source: University of Washington
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Posted by Dave Wenning