NEW LONDON COUNTY, CT — If severe control measures including strict social distancing are not put in place, coronavirus infections could top 33,000 in New London County by mid-May — 12 percent or more of the population.
That's the conclusion of Columbia University researchers as reported by the New York Times, which compiled maps showing the estimated spread of the virus in every county in America under varying scenarios for control measures.
Under the best-case scenario, including strict imposition of measures like closing schools, banning mass gatherings, and testing and quarantining sick people and their contacts, we have seen the peak of infection, with less than 100 cases.
But even in a scenario falling somewhere between these two extremes, the number of infections could top 1,800 by the middle of June, about 0.7 percent of the population, the researchers concluded.
Across Connecticut, control measures have already been implemented on the state and local level. Gov. Ned Lamont's "Stay Safe, Stay Home" executive order went into effect Monday night. When he signed the order, he expressed his concern over the impact social distancing would have on day-to-day business in the Nutmeg State.
"At this critical time it is essential that everyone just stay home so we can contain the spread of this virus while keeping essential services running," Lamont said. "I know that this will be disruptive to many and will bring many daily activities to a halt, but the only way we will be able to mitigate the impacts of this public health emergency is to take measures like this."
But social distancing in the U.S. isn't as easy as telling everyone to stay home, said Mary Travis Bassett, director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University.
"The United States has particular vulnerabilities that make it possible that we'll have the worse coronavirus epidemic of all," Bassett said, citing the country's health, economic and social inequalities.
"These inequalities... mean that we are both more susceptible and more likely to have people who are not going to follow the public health advice of social distancing, hand-washing and seeking prompt medical care because they risk their livelihood," Bassett said.
She added that many low-wage workers in the health care sector can't afford to miss a day of pay or take a sick day.
"The infusion of financial support to people who are no longer working is absolutely critical," Bassett said, "People are not going to stay home and not feed their families."
Schools are closed and may remain closed past the planned April 20 date, according to the governor. The "Stay Safe, Stay Home" order directs all non-essential businesses and not-for-profit entities in Connecticut to prohibit all in-person functions as strictly as possible. Non-essential public community gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason are canceled.