Does Shifting to Online Really Help Slow Down COVID-19? Studies Suggest Yes
The global coronavirus pandemic has sparked a number of changes across the world, even on our own campus with online classes starting and the vast majority of staff shifting to remote work. And with these changes have come a number of issues, whether they're technical and communication problems or even social and emotional challenges that come with distancing and isolation. The inconveniences that come with these major changes begs the question — is it even helping?
Studies suggest yes.
Experts have been comparing responses to the COVID-19 global pandemic to efforts during the 1918 Spanish flu in order to assess and predict the effectiveness of different public health measures such as closing schools and social distancing. Different studies about actions taken in 1918 have suggested that these measures can indeed help slow down the spread of infectious diseases.
A 2007 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined 43 U.S. cities over a 24-week period during the Spanish flu pandemic and found that cities that closed their schools earlier and for longer contained the spread of the influenza better than those that didn't.
In a Science Magazine interview, Nicholas Christakis, a social scientist and physician at Yale University, referenced this study and mentioned that "proactive school closures—closing schools before there’s a case there—have been shown to be one of the most powerful non-pharmaceutical interventions that we can deploy." He further said that "proactive school closing saved substantial numbers of lives."
And when making these comparisons, it's important to remember that COVID-19 is not an influenza, and there is still much we don't know about it. Additionally, times have changed significantly since 1918 -- culturally, socially, economically -- and it is has still proven difficult to predict how things will turn out. The results of the study should, therefore, be viewed as a suggestion, not an assertion.
So public health experts are still firm in the belief that social distancing is one of the most effective measures we can take to to flatten the curve and contain the spread of COVID-19. You can read our previous article on social distancing and flattening the curve to learn more.
And yes, shifting to online classes, implementing curfews and encouraging remote work is difficult, but it is important to remember that AUC is not alone in making these changes. According to CNBC, more than 200 universities across the United States have already closed and shifted to online classes. Additionally, Egypt is just one of 184 countries that have issued country-wide closures for schools and universities, with more than 1.5 billion students affected worldwide by closure policies, according to UNESCO.