"Evaluating the effectiveness of social distancing interventions: delaying the epidemic or flattening the curve?"
In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared coronavirus disease a pandemic. We used a mathematical model to investigate the effectiveness of social distancing interventions in a mid-sized city. Interventions reduced contacts of adults >60 years of age, adults 20–59 years of age, and children <19 years of age for 6 weeks. Our results suggest interventions started earlier in the epidemic delay the epidemic curve and interventions started later flatten the epidemic curve. We noted that, while social distancing interventions were in place, most new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths were averted, even with modest reductions in contact among adults. However, when interventions ended, the epidemic rebounded. Our models suggest that social distancing can provide crucial time to increase healthcare capacity but must occur in conjunction with testing and contact tracing of all suspected cases to mitigate virus transmission.