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As part of pandemic preparedness, epidemiologists promote “containment strategies” designed to prevent community transmission. For coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), countries like South Korea—an example of successful containment—had a coordinated governmental response, testing on a massive scale, and prompt contact tracing and quarantine.1 The first cases of South Korea’s COVID-19 outbreak were in mid-January; by late February, South Korea was testing more than 10 000 people daily and, as a result, cases peaked on February 28. Since April 5, 2020, no more than 53 new cases daily have occurred nationwide.1
When disease outpaces containment, countries rely on “mitigation strategies.” Countries like China, Italy, Spain, and the US moved from containment to mitigation, albeit at differing paces. Mitigation relies on nonpharmaceutical interventions such as hand hygiene, travel restrictions, school closures, and social distancing. While a blunt and inconvenient tool, social distancing has proven in pandemic influenza (in both 1918 and 2009) to reduce and delay peak attack rates and mortality.2,3
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Walensky RP, del Rio C. From Mitigation to Containment of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Putting the SARS-CoV-2 Genie Back in the Bottle. JAMA. 2020;323(19):1889–1890. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.6572
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