Distinguished UAlbany professor provides insight on effectiveness of social measures during COVID-19 pandemic

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EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. (NEWS10) Doctor David Holtgrave is the Dean and a distinguished professor for UAlbany’s School of Public Health. According to the University, his internationally-recognized research focuses on complex public health challenges including the relationships between social factors, infectious disease rates and health risk behavior. He also previously worked at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doctor Holtgrave said if you take a look at the other countries across the world who have already seen the worst of this pandemic, we can get a feel for how things will pan out here.

“I take some hope from what’s happened in China and South Korea. For a period of some weeks, fairly intensive physical distancing was done, really aggressive testing, which we’re now finally seeing ramp up in the U.S., contact tracing among everyone who may have been exposed from each person who tested positive and then even creative things like how we triage,” said Doctor Holtgrave.

Doctor Holtgrave said after a few weeks under those intense measures those countries started to see cases slow down, so he truly believes that if we keep the pressure and make the sacrifices now, together we could make a major difference.

“In South Korea and China, the number of tests per day continues to be at a high level, but the number of cases per day has really dropped. So that means they’re still looking, but they’re not finding the cases anymore and that really gives us cause for hope,” he said.

“There’s many mathematical models out there that make different predictions about how long this will last from a few weeks to a year and a half. I think one of the lessons we’ve learned from those many different models is the more intensively we intervene right now at this point of the epidemic, the shorter you can make it and the more you can flatten out that curve,” said Doctor Holtgrave.  

He said for those who are staying at home, doing the right thing and abiding by the recommendations, he suggests trying to stick to a schedule to maintain some normalcy. If you’re working from home, keep your hours the same. If you had plans to gather with friends or family, keep those plans, but carry them out virtually through FaceTime or over the phone. 

“If you normally work from 8:30 to 5, if you can, do your work at home from 8:30 to 5. Even socially as well, if every Friday people gather for a pizza after they get done with work, you can still have the pizza party, just not in person. They can make one in their house, they can get on FaceTime or something like that and interact in the same ways,” he said.

“I tend to like to use physical distancing instead of social distancing because we’re really just talking about moving ourselves apart in physical space, but as a society, right now, we really need each other almost more than ever and need to be really connected,” said Doctor Holtgrave.

“I think the more we can do in terms of physical distancing, staying at home and so on, literally every day matters I think at this point,” he said.

He said there are still many studies looking into how long the virus lives on different surfaces and in the air. He has been following this study.

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