Can we quantify the success of social distancing? Yes! Is it worth it? Yes!

Countries across the world are implementing social distancing. While it is common sense that distancing would decrease the rate of community spread of COVID-19, given the significant societal consequences, we should ask how “worth it” this approach is.

While any modeling efforts have significant assumptions, most importantly, the basic reproduction number (R0), we can still try to appreciate the order of magnitude effect such interventions will have.

(Note: the basic reproduction number (R0) refers to how Infectious a disease is: the higher the number, the more individuals will be infected from an infected individual).

Using the small population of Singapore, estimates of COVID-19 spread after 80 days were made both with and without social distancing measures enacted.

Importantly, “social distancing” was defined as isolating Infected individuals plus their family (for 14 days), closing schools, and implementing workplace distancing (defined as 50% of the population working from home for two weeks).

The take away? Impressive results of limiting virus spread from social distancing!

In one assumption with a low rate of viral transmission (1.5 people infected from one infected individual), enacting social distancing resulted in two orders of magnitude difference in the number of infected individuals after 80 days.

Those two orders of magnitude were the difference between roughly 2,000 and over 200,000 infected individuals.

In another scenario with a higher rate of viral transmission (2.5 people infected from one infected individual), the difference was roughly one order of magnitude. This difference came out to roughly 250,000 vs over 1.2 million infections by day 80.

While there are many assumptions made in these models, this data suggests a remarkable effect size. Furthermore, the social distancing intervention of this study did not include shelter in place (as we are practicing in California and much of the country).

We think the study is very promising, particularly considering we are following an even more conservative approach in the United States.

Thank you to everybody following shelter in place in this difficult time. This data should make us hopeful for a positive result from our sacrifice!


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