Covid19* could be coming for you — take 2

Flattening the curve (by social isolation) was never about completely preventing new infections.  It was about slowing the rate of rise in new infections so hospitals wouldn’t be overwhelmed.  That was the state of play when I wrote the following post 29 March (seems like ages ago doesn’t it?)

A friend and his wife are getting 3 days of meals delivered to their room in their retirement home.  Clearly a great way to socially isolate themselves.  This will help ‘flatten the curve’.  What that means is that the peak won’t be as high, so we won’t run out of beds and respirators.

But look at the curve in this article —

Now integrate the area under the curve.  Looks like the number of cases is comparable (more actually under the flattened curve).

Add this to the extreme likelihood that covid19 will become endemic in the population (given the number of cases out there).  This means that absent a vaccine or a treatment, you will meet it sooner or later with whatever biologic resources you have.

On the positive side, the amount of research into the way virus kills is only matched by the number of therapeutic trials underway (both enormous).  The way the journals have opened up so results are widely available gratis and freely shared is impressive.

There is no question that the virus has become endemic, with no study of the presence of antibodies to the virus coming in at less than 4%, and that in Manhattan coming in at 20%.

So those unhappy about loosening restrictions have essentially shifted the goals of social isolation from slowing the rate of new infections (which has happened) to preventing new infections, something that I think is impossible.  We’re about to see if there will be a massive explosion of new cases of covid19 (which is symptomatic infection with SARS-CoV-2 rather than just the presence of its genome) or not, in the 15 or so states starting to loosen restrictions.

The studies showing antibody prevalence greater than 3 – 4% (which is essentially all of them that I’m aware of) argue that we won’t see an explosion in symptomatic infections.  That’s just about everyone’s hope (even those predicting disaster) and it’s what I think will happen.   Nothing like data to prove you right or wrong.  We’re about to find out.

As always, watch out for premature celebrations of rightness or wrongness — see

  • Actually the title is incorrect, but the first post in the series was written 5 weeks ago, when most people knew what COVID19 was, the point of these posts being communication.  The virus itself is not COVID19 which stands for the illness the virus produces.  A variety of names have been applied to the virus — Chinese flu, Wuhan virus, coronavirus2.  The correct name is SARS-CoV-2 — hardly rolls trippingly off the tongue does it?  One should also distinguish finding the genome of the virus (RNA) which implies active infection, from antibodies to the virus which imply a past infection (the difference between seeing a bear and seeing its tracks).  So the correct title is really SARS-CoV-2 is coming for you – take 2 (if you’re a pedant)
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