New research from MD Anderson shows it does. The study found that putting social distancing policies into practice in the U.S. and internationally corresponded with reductions in spread of the coronavirus. These results suggest that practicing social distancing is an effective public health tool to reduce the spread of the disease.
Practicing social distancing includes maintaining a 6-foot distance from those who are not part of your household, whenever possible, and wearing a mask when in public. It can also include avoiding non-essential travel and activities, and minimizing interactions in indoor spaces.
“We realize that cancer patients are highly vulnerable to COVID-19, so it is important to us to understand whether the safety measures we have are effective and could benefit our patients,” says Raghu Kalluri, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the research study, which was published today in the journal PLOS ONE.
“From our data-driven analysis, it became clear that practicing social distancing can have a huge impact,” Kalluri adds. “For our patients and their family members, it’s a reminder that taking simple steps like practicing social distancing and staying home when possible can go a long way to protecting against COVID-19 infections, particularly for those at highest risk.”
Social distancing policies prevented more than 1.5 million COVID-19 cases in two weeks
Based on their analysis, Kalluri and his colleagues estimate that national social distancing policies in 46 countries prevented more than 1.5 million cases of COVID-19 in a two-week period. That’s a 65% reduction in new cases.
In the U.S., the researchers analyzed the spread of SARS-CoV-2 across each of the 50 states, looking at cases before and after social distancing policies went into effect. Three states did not have social distancing policies in place
States with social distancing policies saw significant reductions in spread of the virus after the policies went into effect, compared to states without policies over a similar time period. Two of the states without policies had the smallest changes in transmission of all 50 states.
The researchers also looked at the effects of social distancing globally. They were able to collect data from 46 countries with national social distancing policies, 14 with regional policies and 76 with no policies.
Similar to the U.S. analysis, they found that countries with national policies had greater reductions in spread of the coronavirus after putting the policies in place.
Social distancing reduces mobility that can cause COVID-19 spread
The researchers also found, both in the U.S. and globally, that social distancing policies led to a decrease in community mobility. This is a measurement of the movement trends of residents between various locations, such as home, work and retail shops.
There was a strong correlation between lower community mobility and reduced spread of the coronavirus, suggesting that it is important for individuals to practice social distancing in order to see transmission rates drop.
“Our study shows clearly that practicing social distancing can really reduce the spread of the coronavirus,” says Kalluri. “It’s important for each individual to know that these measures can have a tremendous impact, and we hope this data provides evidence to encourage everyone to continue practicing social distancing so that together we can help control the spread of COVID-19 infections.”