UofL study shows social distancing slowed virus spread considerably

Despite having more than 1,400 cases of the coronavirus, a study released by the University of Louisville on Monday says social distancing measures have significantly slowed the spread of COVID-19 in Jefferson County.

The new modeling study by UofL’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences and the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, also projects the city may be able to gradually reopen by early June if even stronger containment measures, especially more extensive testing and consistent contact tracing and quarantine of all newly infected individuals, are implemented.

However, the study also warns that if strong and effective social distancing measures are pulled back too quickly, as many as 900 more people in Louisville would die and about 2,000 more would be hospitalized by August.

Dr. Seyed Karimi, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Management and System Sciences at the UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences, co-authored the report.

“We know from our modeling that decreasing the current social distancing measures without increased efforts to test, isolate, and do contact tracing can move us to an unstable path with increased hospitalization and infection trends that could be catastrophic,” he said.

Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of Metro Public Health and Wellness and the other co-author, said the study projects measures the city put in place in March averted a surge of COVID-19 patients that otherwise would have overwhelmed Louisville’s health care system. Going forward, only about 400 of Louisville’s 3,600 hospital beds will be needed for COVID-19 patients if current social distancing measures remain in place.

“This model validates the measures we have put in place to control the spread of COVID-19 in Louisville thus far,” Moyer said. “The study also serves as affirmation of our state and local efforts to slowly release restrictions.”

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