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We Need a New Social Contract for the Coronavirus

Everyone wants to get back to work, school and together again as soon as possible. On Friday, the Trump administration announced it wants to do that in phases and allow each governor to make the decision when and how to reopen. Even then, the virus will continue to lurk in people who are unaware they are carrying and spreading it to others who will become ill with Covid-19.

We need to face this fact: Returning to our old reality will be a slow and frustrating process that will take many months and require deep wells of patience. We will not be fully free until we have a vaccine. So how will we navigate this perilous terrain?

A team of infectious disease epidemiologists led by Dr. Gerardo Chowell of Georgia State University has calculated that we must reduce our social contacts by 65 percent from what they were before the virus started spreading. By doing this, they believe, we will reach the point at which each existing infection causes less than one new infection. This is what epidemiologists call R (for reproduction) below one. Only then will the number of infections begin to fall, and we can get the epidemic under control.

Achieving this degree of social protection will require a new clause in our social contract that will mean fewer contacts with others and wearing protective gear. Just as we obey the most basic laws in order to protect all of us, everyone needs to accept responsibility for not only their circle of friends, family and colleagues, but for the wider community. Our collective behavior will be the primary determinant of whether we can keep this virus in check. We each hold the health of our neighbors in our hands.

Read entire article at The New York Times