Editorial: The numbers make it clear -- social distancing protects people and saves lives

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Posted3/24/2020 1:00 AM

Sometimes, the numbers speak for themselves -- and loudly.

When it comes to COVID-19, a chart released Monday by Advocate Aurora Health vividly shows why the social distancing efforts under way in Illinois and throughout the United States are so important. The chart, based on a variety of research studies, shows the potential chances for infecting others based on an infected person's normal interactions compared to his or her interactions with half as many people -- that is, 50% less exposure to others -- or just one-fourth as many -- thus, 75% less exposure. Without limits, a person could infect more than 400 people within 30 days. Cutting down interactions dramatically can reduce the infection numbers to fewer than three.


As of March 18, the Centers for Disease Control website listed 170,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease worldwide with about 7,000 deaths. That's a death rate of about 4%, though the figures in the U.S. are considerably less severe - about 400 deaths among 33,404 cases as of Monday for a fatality rate of a little over 1%. But the CDC notes the rate climbs to 10% to 27% for victims 85 years old or over and 3% to 11% for those 65 years old or over.

With each passing day that we find ourselves holed up at home or unable to do normal activities at work, shopping or gathering with friends, it may be natural to wonder about the value of all this isolation. The infection statistics provide a clear answer. Social distancing limits the spread of this disease, and it saves lives.

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