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You Can Avoid Coronavirus With These 3 Simple Acts, Says Study

How many of these are you doing to prevent the spread of coronavirus?
Woman face mask portrait

As coronavirus cases continue climbing across the country—breaking records with new infections, hospitalizations and deaths in many states—many people are hoping that a vaccine will be here sooner rather than later to help put an end to the pandemic. However, according to one new study, we have all the tools we need to flatten the curve without any medical intervention. All we need is for about 90 percent of the population to practice three simple behaviors. 

Three Simple Behaviors

A new study, published on Tuesday in the journal PLoS Medicine, claims that the pandemic would virtually be over if everyone washed their hands regularly, wore masks, and kept their social distance from others. 

Researchers created a "transmission model," based on interaction in the Netherlands, in order to analyze the spread of the virus and how various prevention methods impacted it. According to their findings, "the impact of self-imposed measures (handwashing, mask-wearing, and social distancing) due to awareness of COVID-19 and of short-term government-imposed social distancing on the epidemic dynamics" did in fact have an impact. "A large epidemic can be prevented if the efficacy of these measures exceeds 50%," researchers wrote. 

In the case of the public slowly but eventually changing behavior, the number of cases can be reduced. However, it won't delay a peak of cases. If the government opts to shut down, but doesn't take any other "personal protective steps" it would delay but not reduce a peak of cases. 

"We estimate that short-term government-imposed social distancing that is initiated early into the epidemic can buy time (at most 7 months for a 3-month intervention) for healthcare systems to prepare for an increasing COVID-19 burden," they explain.

And, if government-imposed physical distancing was combined with disease awareness and personal steps, the height of the peak could be reduced—even after government-imposed social distancing orders were lifted.

"Moreover, the effect of combinations of self-imposed measures is additive," the researchers wrote. "In practical terms, it means that SARS-CoV-2 will not cause a large outbreak in a country where 90% of the population adopts handwashing and social distancing that are 25% efficacious." Small outbreaks will still be likely even with self-imposed social distancing, due to the fact that people cohabitate together. 

"In conclusion, we provide the first empirical basis of how stimulating the uptake of effective prevention measures, such as handwashing or mask-wearing, combined with government-imposed social distancing intervention, can be pivotal to achieving control over a COVID-19 epidemic," researchers write. "While information on the rising number of COVID-19 diagnoses reported by the media may fuel anxiety in the population, wide and intensive promotion of self-imposed measures with proven efficacy by governments or public health institutions may be a key ingredient to tackle COVID-19."

How to Stay Healthy

As for yourself: To stay healthy no matter what, get tested if you think you have COVID-19, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), wear a face mask, practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

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