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The week’s big question: Should America lock down again?

There is now solid evidence that at least one coronavirus vaccine will be ready for deployment within months, and likely several of them. This means that every infection avoided between now and the time when people can get vaccinated will be avoided permanently.

If we had any sense, America would have locked itself down two months ago. Prior experience in China and now Europe for the second time shows that once the epidemic is this out of control, lockdowns are the only way to slow the spread enough that it can be controlled with more fine-grained measures.

Alas, there is little chance that the federal government is going to do what would be necessary to maintain a full shutdown. Many businesses would need support to keep from going out of business, while workers at those businesses would need help as well, either through boosted unemployment or paying their employer to keep them on staff.

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That said, even a partial, semi-voluntary lockdown could achieve a lot. A recent paper demonstrated that a large percentage of infections are coming from indoor superspreader events at restaurants, bars, churches, and so on. Further evidence suggests that many more infections are coming from private indoor gatherings where people are sloppy about precautions or expanding their social circle. If states and cities simply shut down indoor dining and church services (as Philadelphia recently did), people stop doing in-person socializing outside of their direct household, and wear masks whenever they are out in public, we could at least slow the rate of infection.

I know as well as anyone that it’s exhausting. But there really is light at the end of the tunnel now. Endure another month of quarantine, and the life you save might be your own.