Pandemic Expert Calls for Focused Community Lockdowns

Dr. Yaneer Bar-Yam says the coronavirus could effectively be eliminated in four to six weeks

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A pandemic expert who helped curb the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has laid out a plan to put an end to the coronavirus in the United States. He says a focused lockdown of communities and neighborhoods could put an end to the virus in four to six weeks.

Dr. Yaneer Bar-Yam, Ph.D. is a scientist and founder of the New England Complex Systems Institute. He’s an expert in the quantitative analysis of pandemics. He worked with the chief defense advisor for President Obama. The Trump Administration also acted on a paper written by Dr. Bar-Yam that called for restricted travel from China.

Bar-Yam supports the familiar recommendation to social distance, but takes the idea further by focusing on community isolation.

“You don’t want other people to come into your community and transmit the disease and so, what you want to do is make sure that members of the community don’t go elsewhere and you don’t invite other people in,” Dr. Bar-Yam said.

In short, it would mean residents of Pacific Beach, for instance, would stay away from Carlsbad. Poway residents would isolate in their own neighborhoods, and so forth.

“If everyone would separate completely, then in two weeks, the disease would disappear. The main thing is to define those boundaries so that people know where they are. And once they know where they are, they have a sense, this is my space, this is the area I’m responsible for,” Dr. Bar-Yam said.

He says eliminating non-essential travel between those boundaries would limit the possibility of transmission. The results are so-called Green Zones, with a goal of zero positive cases within those zones.

“The key is that where you have no disease, you can start relaxing restrictions. And then you can open up and allow travel between zones that are green, and you can focus your attention on places that are red and have the disease and eradicate it there,” Dr. Bar-Yam said.

He says he recognizes the economic hardship a lockdown creates, but what we’re doing now isn’t working. And he frowns upon reopening as numbers of positive cases begin to drop and level off.

“It’s a terrible idea because the whole point is the reason it’s leveled off is you’ve done these restrictions. As soon as you open up, it’s going to increase," he said.

“If everyone takes care and recognizes their responsibilities to their own families, their own neighborhoods, then we can do things. And that’s much easier than having people take responsibility for someone over there (different area of town) that they don’t recognize," Dr. Bar Yam said.

Contact Us