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The Coronavirus Fight From Social Distance to Shelter in Place

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The first phase in the fight against the coronavirus was containment -- efforts to keep it from entering or spreading in a community. In many places, the task has shifted to mitigation -- slowing the spread once the virus is established within a population. Mitigation means adjusting old-fashioned approaches like quarantines or travel barriers, turning to newer tools such as “social distancing” and even adopting a tool from other sorts of disasters called “shelter in place.” The World Health Organization is calling for such “non-pharmaceutical methods” to be used at a scale never before seen to fight a pathogen moving at “astonishing speed.” Here’s a look at some of what mitigation means.

Reducing human contact means reducing the chances for the virus to be spread from one person to another and thereby from one community to another. Social distancing is an approach to doing that while stopping short of a full-scale quarantine. For example, in China, about 280 million students across the country from the elementary to university level have been at home for weeks watching their teachers live-stream classes, interacting online and submitting homework via apps. Nightclubs livestream DJ sets on social media for at-home dancers, who can comment and even leave a tip. Tech companies are rolling out contactless delivery, even using self-driving vehicles, to spare customers direct contact with human couriers. Large public gatherings were banned in many countries, including parades, theater performances and sporting events. Schools and universities closed; bars and restaurants in some cities closed or were restricted to deliveries or faced curfews. Employers were encouraged to have as many workers tele-commute as possible.