A few weeks ago, everyone was talking about the “peak” of the epidemic. Now, not so much. Places are reopening and it feels like everything is going back to normal. Does this mean we’re past the peak?

Infection and Spread

A: A lot of modelers stopped talking about the peak of the epidemic as our thinking about how to do good longer-term outbreak control matured. It also became more and more clear to those of us who study epidemics that at least in some places, we are not able to zip up social distancing enough to make it work well–or it was ending too early.

We will likely see a second wave of the epidemic–that is, case counts going back up again–as places begin to reopen. This might feel like a scene from the classic Bill Murray film Groundhog Day: another shutdown, new social distancing orders, and everyone talking about ventilators again.

To help visual and interactive learners (like me–Malia here) learn why this is the case, I designed a game! Fiddle with the little dots and learn why social distancing works, why it’s important to have the same closed set of contacts over time with clear agreements among the members, and why opening too early is the worst idea. You can use this for your kids’ end-of-year science projects too. I made it with kids in mind, and even wrote a list of experiments they can try.

Especially relevant here is experiment #4: when can we lift social distancing?

Spoiler alert: if you lift social distancing as soon as the peak ends, the number of cases goes right back up to an even higher peak.

University of Wisconsin-Madison article


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