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Curfews help reduce the number of opportunities and activities where people gather in groups, limiting their chances of contracting or transmitting the coronavirus. Westend61/Getty Images
  • Since September, coronavirus infections have been on the rise.
  • Many local and state governments have begun to institute curfews to help stem the spread of the virus.
  • Curfews are intended to reduce nonessential interactions with people outside your household.
  • The goal is to reduce opportunities for disease transmission without totally closing down all businesses.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indicators of the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, have been on the rise since September.

Except for a slight decrease during the week before Thanksgiving, when it’s likely that more healthy people were getting tested before holiday gatherings, the percentage of positive tests has been increasing.

The percentages of people seeking medical care for influenza-like illnesses and COVID-19-like illnesses, as well as COVID-19-associated hospitalizations, have gone up as well.

In addition, the percentage of deaths due to PIC — pneumonia, influenza, and COVID-19 — has been trending upward since October.

One of the things that local and state governments are beginning to do to help stem the increasing spread of COVID-19 is to institute curfews.

According to Sharona Hoffman, JD, LLM, a professor at Case Western Reserve University’s schools of law and medicine, and the co-director of their Law-Medicine Center, curfews vary by locality.

For example, in her state of Ohio, residents must stay home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

There are some exceptions, she said, such as seeking medical care or going to work.

In addition, in other locations, certain businesses — such as bars, restaurants, and gyms — must close at 10 p.m.

Some places are also doing alcohol curfews, she said, where the sale of alcohol is banned after a particular time.

Brian Labus, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the purpose of these overnight stay-at-home orders is to reduce nonessential interactions between people from different households.

If people are staying home and not socializing with people outside their household, they drastically reduce their chances of catching or spreading disease,” Labus said.

“Curfews typically require people to stay home in the late night and early morning hours,” he explained, “when people tend to participate in nonessential social gatherings that often result in less compliance with social distancing guidance and mask mandates.”

The purpose of curfews, Labus said, is to reduce disease transmission while not completely disrupting people’s lives or instituting a community-wide lockdown.

“Curfews allow us to maintain most of our normal activities (going to work or school, shopping for food, doctor visits, etc.) while reducing the unnecessary interaction between people,” he explained.

Labus added that during these curfews, “people can still leave their houses, but not to gather with people from other households.”

One question that’s been asked is whether curfews are a waste of time if people can still go out earlier in the day and do the same things.

Karin Michels, ScD, PhD, professor and chair of the department of epidemiology at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, doesn’t think so.

“We are in an extraordinary situation, and all measures taken to reduce this pandemic are made to protect their health and the health of others,” she said.

“People still work in their home office during the day,” Michels said. “And while they might go out during earlier evening hours, they would have less time to socialize and less time to consume alcohol.”

Curfews “reduce the number of opportunities and activities where people gather in groups and get them home with only members of their household,” she explained.

Moreover, Michels added, if alcohol isn’t served after certain hours, people will consume less alcohol.

“Having consumed alcohol makes it less likely that people will maintain social distancing,” she said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the best way to protect yourself is to avoid exposure by staying home.

When you do go out, the Mayo Clinic suggests continuing to follow recommended practices, such as mask wearing, physical distancing, and hand hygiene.

The Mayo Clinic says that you should avoid anyone who is sick or has COVID-19 symptoms, and also avoid large events and gatherings of people.

If you are sick, remain isolated at home for the sake of others.

In addition, make it a habit to check into what safety practices are being followed in places where you’re going. For example, are staff members wearing masks and regularly disinfecting surfaces?

If you don’t feel confident that a business is taking your safety seriously, the Mayo Clinic recommends not visiting that particular establishment.