Infectious disease doctor says extreme level of social distancing is necessary to fight spread of COVID-19

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The City of Memphis’s Infectious Disease Doctor and Epidemiologist Dr. Manoj Jain said Mayor Jim Strickland’s decision to stop all non-essential business by Tuesday evening was the right call.

Dr. Jain said it is what is needed right now to stop the future spread of COVID-19. He said the extreme practice of social distancing is key to slowing down the virus and even stopping new cases of infections in the Mid-South.

RELATED: Coronavirus: Shelby County, Memphis mayors order non-essential businesses to close, residents to stay home

Dr. Jain told FOX13 if over half of the population in Memphis and Shelby county practices this extreme level of social distancing, the virus will have very little chance of survival.

Monday night, the Tennessee Department of Health listed Shelby County with 93 cases second in the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 behind Davidson County, with a reported 164 confirmed cases. With a population of more than 1.4 million people in the Greater Memphis area, Mayor Strickland announced plans to activate ‘Safer at Home.’

“I really believe that this is necessary,” said Dr. Jain. “Other parts of the country are doing it and there are good reasons to do it."

Dr. Jain explained how practicing this extreme level of social distancing will reduce the further impact of COVID-19 infections.

“If we are able to control the virus at this early stage then, we will make sure it will not overwhelm our healthcare system. The peak number of cases that will happen in a month or two months down the line will be dramatically decreased,” he said.

Dr. Jain said a third of the population needs to commit to practicing social distancing to wipe out the virus.

“We take an estimate of 65 percent,” he said. “What we know is that's when we can stop the epidemic. The good news is it’s not talking about 100% of the time.”

He urged people to consider this as our only defense right now.

“We have to do it now. We don't have a vaccine. We don't have a proven treatment for this. There are no really good options for this that we have at present. If we can contain it right now as best we can, mitigate the impact of it, we will reap the benefits in the longer term,” he said.

Dr. Jain said the need for the mayors’ actions could go on for 4 to 6 weeks but said it’s still uncertain exactly how long this may last.