We Still Don’t Know What Works Best to Slow the Spread Of COVID-19
By Gideon Meyerowitz-Kahn and Gavin Yamey
February 8, 2023 7:00 AM EST
Meyerowitz-Katz is an epidemiologist from the University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia
Yamey is a physician and professor of global health and public policy at Duke University, where he directs the Center for Policy Impact in Global Health.
Since those first, bleak days of the early pandemic, we’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the steps taken at the start of the crisis, when governments and their public health advisers were making emergency decisions armed with very little data and information on an entirely new illness. This was the era before we had developed the powerful vaccines and medicines that have transformed the outlook for COVID-19. While there is certainly evidence that these early community mitigation strategies, which scientists call “non-pharmaceutical interventions” (NPIs), reduced the spread of the virus, what might surprise you is how little effort there has been to fully assess their impact.
Because of a lack of research on NPIs, we still can’t answer important questions like: which government measures had the greatest and the least impact? How did the sequencing and timing of these NPIs affect their effectiveness? Which measures caused more harm than benefit? We need answers to these questions so we can prepare for the next pandemic, armed with better knowledge.
When it comes to NPIs, every angry person online has a strong belief that if only we had spent more time promoting mask wearing, been more like Sweden with its government-sponsored healthcare and incredibly generous paid sick leave provisions, or done something, anything, better than we did, we could have averted the mass death, disability, and orphanhood that COVID-19 caused. However, given the lack of data, it’s remarkably hard to know exactly how we could have used NPIs more effectively.
Read the article here:
Our new piece in @TIME looks at the many unanswered questions of COVID-19, and how it often feels like we still don’t have much information about the best way to deal with pandemics
The main thing here is that everyone and their mother has a strong, certain opinion on everything from school closures to workplace signage, but the reality is that we really don’t know much about the trade-offs for any of these things
Some people say every lockdown was murder, some say we should’ve gone harder, but either way it’s more opinion than fact And that’s quite a big problem
Also, forgot to tag @GYamey, my brilliant co-author!