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Without mass testing or tracing contacts of infected, experts say social distancing requirements shouldn't be lifted

If lifted after a surge, there's a worry another surge could happen.

DENVER — As people begin to wonder when the social distancing requirements can be lifted and businesses can re-open, experts around the country published a report that says a road map to reopening must include mass testing and the ability to trace contacts of people infected. 

“We can do a better job of flattening the curve and eliminating cases if we head off transmission when there is a positive case," said Dr. Mark McClellan, the director of the Margolis Center for Health Policy at Duke University. "So that’s why this test and trace capacity is so important for the future." 

In a report published by Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson, they explained four things that need to happen before things re-open:

  • Cases need to have sustained reduction for two weeks.
  • Healthcare systems need to be prepared.
  • Contacts of people infected should be traced.
  • Mass testing must be available.

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“Without these additional steps in place there is a real risk of another surge," said McClellan. "Even though people have seen a huge impact of COVID-19 on their lives and their loved ones, people they know, most people have still never been exposed to COVID-19, they do not have immunity.”

In Colorado's latest models, they assume social distancing requirements as indefinite, and the state says "future reports will evaluate the potential impacts of relaxing social distancing." 

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Dr. McClellan said the only way we can know when our nation can re-open is if we answer how first. 

“That doesn’t mean we have to stay where we are today," he said. "These other steps can help us lead lives that are more normal that involve more interaction while still keeping this very serious virus under control.”

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