BBJ: When will this be over? — Johns Hopkins doctor weighs in on the big question at GBC hosted webinar

By Morgan Eichensehr

April 9, 2020

It’s the question on the top of everyone’s mind these days — when will this all be over?

A group of local business leaders aimed the million-dollar question at Johns Hopkins’ Dr. Josh Sharfstein, during a web event hosted by the Greater Baltimore Committee on April 8.

Sharfstein, who is vice dean of public health practice and community engagement at the Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said there is a possibility that Maryland could see the growth in COVID-19 cases start to slow, and that the strictest safety measures could be loosened during the spring. But with no specific treatments or vaccines yet available, there is no way to know for sure when the state might be out of the woods, he explained.

“I think we need to be thinking of it as more of a process than a strict timetable,” Sharfstein said.

Most U.S. states have adopted stringent new regulations intended to “flatten the curve,” or decrease the frequency at which the coronavirus is transmitted, so that local health systems are better able to handle the number of cases present in communities at any given time. In Maryland, those measures have included the closure of all non-essential businesses throughout the state and a stay-at-home order that calls on citizens to remain isolated and avoid going out in public unless absolutely necessary.

These measures are “extraordinary” and uncomfortable, but especially as supply and testing shortages continue to prevent officials from understanding the full extent of the virus’ impact, Sharfstein said they are the only collective defense options that exist to combat the fast-moving virus.

Marylanders should not be focused on pursuing a response plan with a hard deadline, Sharfstein said, but rather an adaptive one. If coronavirus testing capacity and the ability to track and handle cases improves markedly in the coming months, Sharfstein said it may be possible to loosen up some the more restrictive social distancing regulations by summer.

In that event, state officials will also need to be vigilant about giving health care organizations enough time to recover, and free up some capacity to begin handling more typical care cases again, he said. And they will need to be especially watchful for new surges in coronavirus cases. If businesses open back up and COVID-19 cases start spiking again, it may be necessary to use the “dimmer switch” and delay a return to normalcy a little longer, he said.

In the meantime, Sharfstein encouraged local business leaders, like those who attended the virtual GBC event, to be proactive about modeling and promoting best practices when it comes to preventative measures.

“Every single one of you has a responsibility to communicate and inspire people to be involved in this,” Sharfstein said, noting it will take the efforts and buy-in of every Maryland citizen to truly slow the spread and achieve recovery.

To read the full story, visit Baltimore Business Journal’s website.

Source: Baltimore Business Journal

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