US COPD Coalition

NIH Director Stresses the Importance of Social Distancing and Prevention to “Flatten the Curve”


Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was interviewed recently by The Atlantic, and he warned of the exponential growth in the number of coronavirus cases the United States can expect to see in the coming days and weeks if “draconian measures” are not taken to prevent the spread of the virus. “If you look at the curve of new cases being diagnosed over the course of the last month, just look at the curve of what happened in Italy, and then look at our curve in the U.S., and you say if you go back eight days from today, they had about the same number of cases that we have today—that is, slightly over 2,000. And then if we follow that same track, then eight days from [March 22], we would be having the same kind of incredible crisis that they are facing.”

In his interview in The Atlantic, Dr. Collins stressed, however, that the United States does not necessarily have to suffer the same fate as Italy. “Now we have a chance to change that, by applying the most draconian measures on social distancing to try to limit the spread of coronavirus from person to person. But we will not succeed at changing the course from that exponential curve unless there is full national engagement in those commitments to try to reduce spread. …I think we as a nation have to get into a place of not just thinking about ourselves, but thinking about everybody else around us, and particularly the most vulnerable people—those who are older and those people with chronic diseases. Young people may have a relatively low risk of serious illness, kids seem to have a very low risk, but if you want to avoid what could be the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, then it is incumbent on all of us to severely limit our social interactions. We need to ask the question about every interaction we have, and whether it is necessary or not. I’m going to speak very strongly about that. Obviously, people do have to get food in the house and do other absolutely essential things, but beyond that, we should be volunteering to engage in the most stringent kind of isolation.”

Read the full interview with Dr. Collins here.