‘We’re going to be in a lot of trouble’ if we roll back coronavirus restrictions: Johns Hopkins doctor

Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida are taking steps to restart their local economies with plans in place to roll back restrictions meant to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

But Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit medical director Dr. Brian Garibaldi told Yahoo Finance’s The Ticker this week that he’s “really worried” about reopening the economy too soon because of how it could interfere with “our ability to try to limit the spread of this infection.”

“We have a long way to go before we can start thinking about getting back to business as usual,” Garibaldi said. “If we’re not careful about how we stage relaxing some of these restrictions that have led to a slowing of the infection rate, we’re going to be in a lot of trouble.” 

He added: “We’re going to be right back to the panic that we had a month ago when we were talking about running out of ventilators, running out of hospital beds. Those conditions don’t change. If we go back to business as usual, we’re going to be right back where we were in that panic state a month ago.”

Plans to reopen local economies 

The plans to reopen businesses vary across state lines. For example, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has started to reopen some beaches in his state, while Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced plans to reopen businesses including gyms, tattoo parlors, and hair salons as early as Friday. 

In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster revised the list of closings he ordered earlier this month, allowing retail shops ranging from clothing stores to furniture stores to flea markets to reopen this week. And in Tennessee, the state’s stay-at-home order is set to expire April 30. 

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, FLORIDA – APRIL 19: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced Thursday that Duval County’s beaches would open from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. and from 5 p.m. until 7p.m. after a decrease in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Garibaldi rebukes these decisions. “I have colleagues that work down in [those areas] and I think they’ve been taxed. They’ve been stressed. We’re all worried about what capacity we’re going to be able to handle in terms of new infections if we go back to business as usual too soon.” 

A model used by the White House from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington recently issued a state-by-state analysis of when states could consider easing social distancing and found South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia should not open until June 8, June 14, and June 22 respectively. 

The need for a vaccine 

Many health experts warn we won’t be able to return to business as usual until we have a vaccine that’s proven effective against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which could be more than a year away. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as well as many others in the medical field, say that in the best-case scenario, a vaccine won’t be ready for another 12 to 18 months.  

“I think it’s going to be unlikely we can get back to where we were in January until we have a vaccine. All of these trials that are ongoing in therapeutics is really a Band-Aid,” Garibaldi said. “We need a vaccine… We have a long way to go before we can start thinking about getting back to business as usual.”

Seana Smith is the anchor for The Ticker.  Follow her on Twitter @SeanaNSmith


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