Once widescale testing is available, we can go from our current national lockdown to targeted and strategic lockdowns, if testing is paired with robust contact tracing, self-isolation, and self-quarantine. The basic idea is to: 1) identify those who are sick and have them self-isolate to avoid infecting others, 2) identify people who were in close contact with the sick person through contact tracing, and 3) have those “close contacts” self-quarantine so they do not inadvertently spread the virus during the time period when they may be asymptomatic; alternatively, frequent testing of those contacts rather than quarantine may also be possible. In dense urban areas, isolation and quarantine may be challenging due to crowded living conditions. Safe, humane, and comfortable places must be made available to allow people in cities to isolate or quarantine themselves outside their homes if they so choose. A key part of this priority area is the need for mass education and compliance.
Some proposals have suggested that these policies include compulsory quarantine of contacts, involuntarily separating exposed individuals from their families by forcing them into out-of-home quarantine, and insisting that infected people move outside their homes for medical monitoring. We vehemently disagree with this approach. It violates human rights, and would not create better public health outcomes. Rather, it would create incentives to avoid getting tested, as has occurred during Ebola in West Africa. And there is no evidence that it is necessary. Unjustified policies that violate human rights are a double insult to our social fabric and our liberties, and would set a dangerous precedent.