Americans want to get back to business, but doing so safely and without in a resurgence of COVID-19, may be challenging. Knowing the mechanisms of the virus and targeting its weak spot may show the way.
Experts in computational and systems biology at the Weitzman Institute of Science in Israel have constructed a model of economic and educational re-entry so that people can reduce their risk of infection from COVID-19 while returning to work and school. They call their model 10-4, based on the fact the virus has a three-day latent period between infection and symptoms.
Professors Uri Alon, Ron Milo, and Eran Yashiv said in a New York Times opinion piece that if people work on the job for four days and then at home for 10 days, they would reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. If they do become infected on the job, they will be at isolated home for the next 10 days in contact only with family members.
This 10-4 routine also could be applicable to school children, said the authors, who would attend schools on the same schedule as their parents.
“This strategy packs another punch,” they told the Times. “It reduces the density of people at work and school, thus curtailing the transmission of the virus.”
According to the authors, Austrian schools will implement a similar program stating May 18.
Other health measures also need to be in place for a safe return, say occupational experts.
According to People Management, European nations are easing their lockdowns by allowing only small shops to open and urging workers to stay at home as much as possible. Use of protective personal equipment is mandatory and social distancing rules apply.
In a Boston Globe opinion piece, authors Simon Johnson and Retsef Levi, co-chairs of the COVID-19 Policy Alliance, wrote that in order to open the U.S. economy and keep it open, federal, state and even local officials need to be able to enforce social distancing in businesses and schools and have ways to identify the people most at risk for contracting the virus.
They pointed out that rapid testing must be available at all levels so that even people without symptoms can be screened. These strategies have helped countries like South Korea and Israel get back on economic track, said the experts.
The Israeli experts pointed out in the Times that a 10-4 routine would help the millions of people who are now unemployed by giving them at least part-time work. They recommended that the cyclical strategy be tried out in certain, restricted areas and if infections go up, the number of work days can be reduced or adjusted accordingly.
“The coronavirus is a formidable foe, but it is not unbeatable,” Alon, Yashiv and Milo wrote in the Times. “By scheduling our activities intelligently, in a way that accounts for the virus’ intrinsic dynamics, we can defeat it more rapidly and accelerate a full return to work school and other activities.”
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