We are now 23 weeks since we started the shutdown of America from COVID-19. During this time, we have gone through a lot of changes, including seemingly changing the goal from the initial goal of slowing the spread the virus to expounding on the terrible escalating spread of the virus. We have shut down the economy, implemented social distancing, made it mandatory to wear face masks, and kept our public schools closed.
Now that we have done these actions for a few months, now is the time to evaluate if these measures are doing any good. When assessing these numbers, we also want to keep things in perspective. These truths are obvious:
Shutting Down the Economy and Social Distancing
There have been a lot of studies showing the benefits of social distancing. However, the data from all of them is very precarious, which is not unusual when one collects data from multiple spots around the world. Therefore, one gets more of a range within which the data supports social distancing, or what we call confidence intervals. In addition, the term social distancing seems to be different per study.
One recent study in the British Medical Journal said that “social distancing” decreased the spread of COVID 19 by 13%. This sounds rather minimal for many, and I myself would have thought that it would have decreased the spread by so much more, may be by a third, by the draconian lockdown measures that we have endured. But the study wasn’t talking about just being 6 feet away from the other person. The study defined social distancing in five different ways, and they needed at least 4 to 5 of this to be “significant”:
So you’re talking about totally shutting down the economy for who knows how long to get a potential 13% reduction in COVID 19 that may not even reach statistical significance as noted below.
However, the study said that Public transport closure didn’t make any difference at all regarding the spread, which is amazing considering the closeness that people endure in the subways. However, the time of exposure may be the factor that made these significant. Thus, just being in a room with someone for a few minutes does not appear to make a difference regarding increasing the spread of the virus, and most studies do confirm this, exhibiting about a 1% chance of spread with casual contact.
Thus, we’ll knock that one out of the data. The remaining 4 can literally be grouped in the last one: Lockdown. A lesson in statistic is fitting here. The general rule with statistics is that normal is “1”; if the risk is greater than 1, then it worsens the problem, if less than 1 it decreases the problem. The range variation is called the confidence interval line. If this line crosses over the “1”, it is probably not statistically significant. Their graph (see below) shows that the confidence intervals are pretty wide, and almost all of them cross the “1”, thus most are of questionable statistical significance:
 Islam N, et al. CCBYNC Open access
Physical distancing interventions and incidence of coronavirus disease 2019: natural experiment in 149 countries. BMJ 2020;370:m2743. doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2743
Even the authors state that their data may not be accurate due to many aspects that may vary from each of the 149 countries they evaluated. In view of the lack of significant variation from the normal “1”, one has to assume that the 13% reduction may not be statistically significant. However, what we can glean from the data and their overall 13% reduction in COVID 19 spread is that one must do rather draconian measures, i.e. lockdown the country, in order to achieve this very small rate reduction.
However, the fact that public transportation, a type of mass gathering for most of those countries, showed no difference in the spread, one would question the data from the mass gathering reductions. And indeed, these crossed the “1” line, showing there probably was no to minimal reduction in the rate of spread of the virus.
Other studies done in Singapore showed a much larger reduction in the spread when all the same draconian measures of a lockdown were evaluated, but this was a calculated predicted value based on what they “thought” the spread would be, or “calculated scenarios”. Moreover, they estimated that the asymptomatic cases were only 7.5% and used this in their calculations.
However, we know now that the incidence of asymptomatic cases is more like around 40% to 50%, depending on the age, which now places this calculated incidence reduction of 23% down to around the same 10% to 13% like the other study. Plus, even Singapore had a pretty significant incidence of COVID19 spread despite their Lockdown, as we can see on their graph below:
 Koo JR, et al. Interventions to mitigate early spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Singapore: a modelling study. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 20(6)June 2020: 678-688.
Now you need to ask yourself: is it better to have a <13% reduction in COVID 19 spread instead of the consequences of a no further lockdown: allowing your kids to go to school, you go to work in a reopened economy and bring home money to live on, you are able to go to shows or all other gatherings for social interactions with your friends, and essentially you are not locked up in your home and you can venture outside or do your normal social activities?
Remember the goal of the HHS and CDC: the goal was never to prevent the spread of the virus, which is inevitable. The goal was and still is to SLOW the spread so it would allow ICU’s to be able to meet demands for COVID 19 patients. In large cities the ICU demands have gone very high, but people can be shipped to other hospitals nearby. The ICU crisis has not materialized; the spread has been slowed, but was it the social distancing that did it, or something else?
Six Feet Social Distancing
The WHO had recommended social distancing of 3 feet. The idea of 6 feet social distancing came from the CDC based on droplet transmission data from 1897 and the 1930’s. This 6-foot rule was basically “conjured up out to nowhere,” stated Robert Dingwall of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag).
Dingwall also stated, “”We cannot sustain [social distancing measures] without causing serious damage to society, to the economy and to the physical and mental health of the population.” Social distancing is not sustainable, and it is questionable whether it does any good. For sure, there is minimal to no scientific evidence that shows that it does much at all.
In fact, there is evidence that large aerosol droplets fall rapidly down to the floor within seconds. Even with a mask, they will not travel much further than 1-2 feet. Smaller droplets disperse and travel farther, but they would disperse all around a room, regardless of the mask, making social distancing and a mask rather useless concepts.
The data here has shown that draconian measures that the countries around the world, including the U.S. have done have resulted in maybe around a 5% to 13% reduction in the spread of the virus, and these numbers are questionable due potentially not being statistically significant.
You need to ask yourself the question of whether this benefit of a slight reduction in the spread of the virus is worth the consequences resulting from a lockdown, including going to work to earn money to live on and being to go to restaurant or other social events again. My other previous blogs have shown some other startling mind provoking ideas which also should play a role in your decision. Next blog we’ll discuss further social distancing and the latest data on sending your kids to school.
 Gant J. Is there any science behind two-meter social distancing rule…? Government adviser says guidelines on keeping apart was ‘conjured out of nowhere.’ Daily Mail, Apr 25,2020. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/ news/article-8256109/Social-distancing-two-metres-apart-based-figure-says-government-adviser.html, Accessed May 21,2020.