ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Dr. Jeff Harp of Highland Family Medicine said the evidence suggests social distancing, masking, and staying at home are working to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Harp said physical distancing of at least one meter (3.3 feet) is associated with a lower risk for the spread of coronaviruses according to a meta-analysis in the Lancet. Researchers examined 44 studies on the effects of nonpharmaceutical interventions on the risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 and similar infections. The risk for transmitting the viruses was lower when exposure was at one meter or more, compared with less than one meter. The risk was lower with increasing distance, so at least three feet is necessary and six feet may be better.
Masking is also working according to Dr. Harp. In the same Lancet study, mask use was associated with a 60 percent reduced risk for infection, compared with no mask use. N95 masks provided greater protection than surgical face masks, but both were protective. Eye protection was also associated with lower infection risk.
Another study suggest stay-at-home orders are helping too. JAMA Network Open just published a study examining rates of COVID-19 cases per 10,000 residents in the border counties in Iowa compared with the border counties in Illinois following a stay-at-home order that was implemented in Illinois but not in Iowa. It looked at 15 counties which are next to each other on the borders of the two states. They had similar weather, daylight, industries, etc. Illinois issued a stay-at-home order on March 21. Iowa issued a series of orders, including banning large gatherings and closing bars and restaurant dining on March 17, closing some non-essential businesses a week later, and closing all primary and secondary schools two weeks after that and closing additional businesses yet another week later. Iowa never issued a stay at home order.
The number of COVID-19 cases per 10,000 residents for the Iowa and Illinois border counties were similar before the Illinois stay-at-home order. After that, cases increased more quickly in Iowa and more slowly in Illinois. The case number increased by about 40 percent more in the Iowa counties than the Illinois counties.
Dr. Harp concluded science appears to be supporting the measures we are taking locally to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve.