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Old 03-27-2020, 01:30 PM
Stranger On A Train is offline
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Manor Farm
Posts: 19,882
I don't want to pick on anyone in particular because there is a lot of misinformation that is being spread around even by reputable media outlets but a few things should be made clear:
  • We cannot rely upon past experience with outbreaks in living memory as guidance for what to do in this pandemic. The SARS-CoV-2 has a combination of mortality and transmissibilty in a way not seen since the poliomyelitis epidemics in the 1940s and 1950s or the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. The normal means by which to prevent community transmission--hand washing, not sharing food or utensils, et cetera--which work well enough to contain normal influenza outbreaks or lethal but mildly contagious epidemics such as Ebola are good measures to follow but are not adequate here where there is clearly untraceable community spread via aerosol vectors.
  • "Flattening the curve" is intended to prevent a glut of cases from occurring all at once, and while that is most beneficial to the at-risk populations, it requires everybody to try to prevent transmission. Given how contagious this virus is it will do very little to protect the people who will suffer critical illness if they contract the disease regardless of the current treatment, but it gives the people who can be saved with with treatment a fighting chance, and also allows time to develop and test more effective treatments for at-risk individuals and deploy widespread testing to find out who is infectious and who is immunized.
  • "Herd immunity" is a real thing but from a practical standpoint it applies mostly to endemic disease like influenza where ensuring that there aren't enough people able to spread the pathogen for it to get a serious foothold. If half of all people get a flu shot and follow good hygiene practices (and are allowed to stay home with guaranteed sick leave instead of being forced to decide between working or going hungry) then the virus just can't get to enough people to spread effectively. SARS-CoV-2 is uniquely suited to rapid, pervasive, and nearly undetectable (by signs and symptoms) spread through the population so the normal degree of herd immunity to prevent epidemic outbreak (typically estimated at 30%-50% of the population) does not apply here.
  • Relaxing isolation measures as soon as the curve starts to flatten will just ensure that the infection and mortality rates start to ramp up again. To be effective, isolation has to last through the entirely latency period (so 2-3 weeks) that the virus may be resident without apparent effects. People who are at risk should double that time at a minimum and remain vigilant until effective treatments or vaccination is available.
  • To make any realistic estimate of how many are immunized, we need mass antibody testing of a large sample of the population (at least 5% of the population across demographics for statistical reliability to an 80% or higher confidence level). This--not "reopening businesses by Easter"--should be the focus of the government in doing the most effective actions to return to a something-like-normal commerce and social environment.
  • "Keep distance to preserve our existence," should be the mantra you are saying to everyone who is dismissive or obstructive in social distancing and isolation measures. Handwashing, spraying down surfaces with disinfectant, and other hygiene measures are all good but with evidence of wide scale community transmission and apparent aerosol transmission, keeping distance is the only certain way of preventing further transmission. I'm sorry if this ruins your social life, and it is truly terrible for those who make a living in customer-facing service and support industries where it is a choice between getting a paycheck and protecting yourself, but to the maximum extent possible you need to isolate, and if you are in a public-facing job, isolate yourself from household members who can distance themselves even if they are not personally in an at-risk demographic, because you never know if they may have some unknown underlying condition or could convey the virus to someone else who is at-risk.

I've been sharing this far and wide, but for those who aren't familiar: Dr. John Campell, a teaching physician in the UK who is providing non-sensationalist, fact-based analysis of how the COVID-19 outbreak is progressing in various countries with comparison between those who took prompt distancing and isolation measures and those which haven't. I know, he's dry, he does a lot of math, and he doesn't have a cool beat in the background, but if you want the absolutely unvarnished, not-apocalyptic-but-not-sugarcoated assessment of how the pandemic is affecting people around the world, this is what you should be following.


Last edited by Stranger On A Train; 03-27-2020 at 01:31 PM.