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We need an immediate five-week national lockdown to defeat coronavirus in America

I am an MIT-trained physicist and complexity scientist who studies pandemics. I have warned about global pandemics due to increasing travel for 15 years. I recommended community-based monitoring of symptoms to stop Ebola in West Africa in 2014, and it worked. The fastest and even the only way to contain COVID-19 in the United States is a five-week national lockdown.

Closing schools, bars and movie theaters are good measures, but not enough. Our relaxed approach to social distancing is insufficient to stop the exponential growth of COVID-19. Until Americans consistently adopt strong social distancing recommendations — a lockdown — the disease will continue to spread exponentially.

During a five-week national lockdown, federal, state and local authorities would ensure that all Americans stay home except to obtain food and other essentials, access medical care or do work essential to the functioning of society. Travel would cease: We would close our borders and airports and prohibit all unnecessary travel across state and county (or town) lines within the United States. The U.S. government would have to provide aid to citizens separated from their sources of income and ensure care for vulnerable members of society.