The slogan “15 days to slow the spread” is everywhere during the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., but will two weeks really be enough to do the job?
Just a few days into the initiative, the nation’s top doctor and a key member of the coronavirus task force are already predicting the timeline will be longer.
Announced by President Donald Trump on Monday, the strict set of guidelines urges Americans to do their part to slow the spread of the virus during the next 15 days by:
- Working from home whenever possible
- Avoiding socializing in groups of more than 10 people
- Avoiding eating or drinking at bars and restaurants
- Washing hands frequently
- Staying home if feeling sick or if someone in the household has tested positive for COVID-19.
Some cities, including San Francisco, are outright requiring people to stay home except for essential needs.
The idea is to prevent the kind of deadly outbreak that has rapidly spread through Italy, said Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. surgeon general. On Thursday, Italy surpassed China to become the country with the most coronavirus-related deaths, with 3,405 people dying, most of them age 70 or older.
The U.S. is about two to three weeks behind Italy’s situation, so the hope is that taking aggressive actions now will help “flatten the curve” — or slow the infection rate to prevent many people getting sick at once and overwhelming the health care system. That's the worst-case scenario that happened in Italy.
But will 15 days be enough?
“Fifteen days is likely not going to be enough to get us all the way through,” Adams told TODAY this week. “But we really need to lean into it now so that we can bend the curve in the next 15 days and at that point, we’ll reassess.”
“I cannot see that all of a sudden next week or two weeks from now, it’s going to be over,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie on Friday when asked how long Americans would need to stay home and practice social distancing.
“I don’t think there’s a chance of that. I think it’s going to be several weeks.”
During a White House briefing Tuesday, Fauci noted it would probably also take several weeks "and maybe longer" before officials knew whether the guidelines were actually flattening the curve.
When discussing the 15-day initiative at that briefing, the president said, "We'll see what happens after that." When previously asked how long the crisis could go on, Trump said "people are talking about July, August."
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the coronavirus outbreak “could easily be a six-month crisis.”
Meanwhile, researchers advising the British government warned social restrictions designed to combat the spread of the coronavirus may have to be imposed for 18 months or "indefinitely" until a vaccine is found.
As Americans continue their part in “15 days to slow the spread,” they’re starting to turn a corner in sensing the urgency, Adams said. Health officials need everyone to pitch in to avoid spreading COVID-19 to people who are at higher risk, he added. That means staying at home as much as possible.
“We should be acting as if we have the virus so that we can protect one another,” Adams noted.