Just a couple of months ago, the outbreak of coronavirus in the US was serious, but it was not such a different picture in Europe. Now, once the most affected European nations like Italy, the United Kingdom, France and Spain have their outbreaks under control while the situation in the United States is still grim.
There is much to learn from the affected countries that managed to change things, as well as from those that were so fast and organized that they almost eradicated the virus.
Here are some tips from abroad on how Americans can move forward.
Don’t party like it’s 1999
In South Korea, celebrated for offering a model response to the virus, the reopening of nightclubs in the capital Seoul prompted an increase in cases in May. The city was forced to close all bars and clubs soon after.
The difference is that South Korea had the virus so well controlled and had such a well-oiled test and trace system that authorities were able to contact most of the affected people and contain the pool of cases.
Reopening plans have varied state by state, but overall, the United States has reopened much faster than affected countries in Europe. In the UK, for example, pubs will only start reopening on Saturday, 15 weeks after they were ordered to close and the UK curve is clearly flattening out. That can no longer be said about the curve in the US, and bars in many states have been open for a long time.
Therefore, waiting this weekend in closed places with large crowds will help prevent the spread of the virus. In many states, the number of crowds is limited to less than 100, or 50, or even 10, and some have forced the closure of bars again.
Wear that mask
But the tide is turning. Health experts now largely agree that masks are useful, especially when a virus is widespread in communities. The WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States now recommend the use of masks in public spaces.
Several studies show that the use of facial coatings is effective, but they have not yet been peer reviewed and there is simply no existing data on the success they have had in this pandemic.
Outside of Asia, Germany was one of the fastest countries to adopt mandatory mask wear across the country, while much of the world was still debating its effectiveness. There are many reasons for Germany’s success in keeping its death rate low and slowing down its infections, but at least part of its success has been attributed to the use of facial covers.
Even Trump’s most loyal supporters, including Vice President Mike Pence, are starting to wear face covers. Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday ordered most people in the state to mask themselves in public, as the state experience is one of the worst waves of infection in the country. Other states, like California, have also issued public service announcements encouraging people to use them.
Get tested if you think you should
At the start of the outbreak, it was virtually impossible to get tested in the US unless he had been hospitalized. That has changed, and while there may be obstacles, the evidence is more accessible than before.
President Trump made the discredited argument that the country should lessen the evidence to keep its case numbers low. The WHO has reiterated that testing is key to keeping the virus under control. The places that have had some of the most successful responses (South Korea, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, and Australia), among others, have been evaluated at a high rate.
The CDC’s advice is that if you have symptoms, you should call your healthcare provider and ask if a test is recommended. Even some asymptomatic people should be tested in some specific circumstances.
As cases in the Florida Peak, for example, the White House coronavirus coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, urged all Floridians who had attended mass meetings in the past four weeks to get tested, even if not have symptoms.
Quarantine when requested (and sometimes even when not)
Widespread testing goes hand in hand with effective tracking, tracking and quarantine systems.
The idea is that anyone who has come into contact with an infected person will be notified by the authorities and request quarantine, usually for 14 days. That means that if you have been infected, even if you have no symptoms, you will probably not pass it on to anyone outside your home.
The United States as a whole is struggling to have enough contact trackers to have an effective system in place, as are other countries, including the United Kingdom. CDC aimed to have 30 contact trackers for every 100,000 people in the country.
This is particularly troubling for eight states that are hotspots for Covid-19: Nevada (13), Florida (7), Arizona (5), Idaho (14), Texas (11), Tennessee (9), Georgia (2) and South Carolina (8).
If your state has not yet established an effective contact tracking system, there is no reason why you cannot request a test if you suspect that you may have come in contact with an infected person.
In the meantime, it might make sense to keep your July 4 plans modest and continue practicing social distancing until the US gets the virus under control.
CNN’s Jacqueline Howard and Natalie Croker contributed to this report.