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How much do travel bans help in a pandemic?

Drive-through testing
UW Medicine nurses get set to check fellow employees at a coronavirus testing station in a parking garage at University of Washington Medical Center Northwest. (UW Medicine Photo / Katie Chen)

A fresh analysis of the numbers behind the coronavirus outbreak suggests that it’s reached the point where more intensive testing and social distancing will help far more than bans on travel.

Travel restrictions have come to the fore over the past day or so: During an address on March 11, President Donald Trump announced that he was banning most travel by non-U.S. residents coming from 26 European countries, including Germany and France but not including Britain and Ireland.

Today, Trump said he’d also consider banning domestic travel to places like Washington state and California “if an area gets too hot.”

Such strategies led Trevor Bedford, an epidemiologist at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, to run the numbers for likely infections from abroad as well as from community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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