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US cities, states taking aggressive actions like China's to contain virus

By LIA ZHU in San Francisco | Updated: 2020-03-10 00:28

While public health experts debate what can be learned from China's aggressive measures to suppress the coronavirus outbreak, some US states and cities are taking similar bold steps to delay the spread.

"Most experts agree that China's response slowed the spread of the virus to the rest of the world, and in that sense, bought time for other countries to prepare," said Claire Standley, assistant research professor at Center for Global Health Science and Security of Georgetown University, to China Daily.

She said scientists have already been analyzing the epidemiological data from Wuhan and other parts of China to try to determine which measures were most effective in preventing transmission.

One early paper still awaiting peer review suggested that closing intracity public transportation and canceling mass gatherings were the most effective measures, she said.

"I think it's very important we continue to look to examine the data in this way so that countries can implement evidence-based policies to contain and mitigate the epidemic," said Standley. 

She also stressed the importance of considering the impacts on individuals as well as communities when planning and implementing quarantine and isolation policies. 

China's aggressive social distancing measures included canceling sporting events, shutting theaters, extending school breaks and closing businesses.

Following the confirmation of two cases of community transmission of the disease, health officials in San Francisco announced Friday "aggressive new recommendations" for social distancing.

The city recommends people over 60, or with certain underlying health conditions, stay home as much as possible; it also recommends cutting back on the time spent in groups and canceling or postponing large gatherings.

Although the recommendations will cause inconvenience, said the city, they are necessary and worthwhile to reduce the spread of the virus and interrupt its transmission from person to person. 

Austin, Texas Mayor Steve Adler preemptively canceled South by Southwest, the city's signature music, film and technology event, in an effort to delay the spread of the disease, also known as COVID-19.

China's social distancing measures have been recognized by the advance team of the World Health Organization's China Joint Mission that visited China for two weeks early last month.

"China's bold approach to contain the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic," said the recently released report by the advance team.

The report revealed a "particularly compelling statistic" of the decline in confirmed cases of the coronavirus: On the first day of the advance team's work, there were 2,478 newly confirmed cases. On the final day of the mission, China reported 409 newly confirmed cases. "This decline in COVID-19 cases across China is real," said the report.

The team noted that much of the global community is not yet ready, either in mindset or in material resources, to implement the measures that China has employed to contain the virus.

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