Our (Near) Future

The Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team has released a report modeling the possible outcomes in terms of how bad and when the COVID-19 outbreak will hit. For me, this is the key point (boldface mine):

Given that mitigation is unlikely to be a viable option without overwhelming healthcare systems, suppression is likely necessary in countries able to implement the intensive controls required. Our projections show that to be able to reduce R to close to 1 or below, a combination of case isolation, social distancing of the entire population and either household quarantine or school and university closure are required (Figure 3, Table 4). Measures are assumed to be in place for a 5-month duration. Not accounting for the potential adverse effect on ICU capacity due to absenteeism, school and university closure is predicted to be more effective in achieving suppression [than] household quarantine. All four interventions combined are predicted to have the largest effect on transmission (Table 4). Such an intensive policy is predicted to result in a reduction in critical care requirements from a peak approximately 3 weeks after the interventions are introduced and a decline thereafter while the intervention policies remain in place. While there are many uncertainties in policy effectiveness, such a combined strategy is the most likely one to ensure that critical care bed requirements would remain within surge capacity.

The way we live now is going to go on for months. The alternative scenario they model is ‘adaptive’, which is cycling between relaxation and tightening of restrictions. That keeps things under control. Either way, it’s going to be a long year. And we need a vaccine, and, if barring that, then a good prophylactic treatment.

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3 Responses to Our (Near) Future

  1. Chewbacca Jesus says:

    You’re leaving out the most effective and only proven solution.

    Vaccines and treatments, while potentially solving the problem entirely, are low probability in the 12 month time frame. The one thing that can and has worked is contact tracing + testing.

    Testing has been growing in the US with a doubling time of 2-3 days (covidtracking.com), and this probably neglects some non-published tests. Combined with cell-phone based contact tracing (i.e., we use your cell phone location data to contact trace – and please, stop with the privacy nonsense, no time for that now), and we’re in business. This is what SK and Singapore did, plus or minus, and it worked great.

    At that rate, we could be out of the woods in 2-3 months.

    And before someone chimes in with how we don’t have the manpower for this, we have several million people looking at unemployment, and even the “employed” are cooped up in their homes. You can easily do most of this via phone calls without leaving the house.

    • elkern says:

      I think it’s tool late for CJ’s plan (Test & Trace). USA responded slowly & badly; that horse it outta the barn. How many asymptomatic USAmericans are wandering around spreading it? Thousands, at least, maybe a million already? Heck, I might be one, how would I know?

  2. Silent Bob says:

    Not only is the horse out of the barn, I don’t see how we would be “out of the woods” in 2-3 months even following CJ’s plan. We are all in near-lockdown not to avoid getting the virus, but to delay when we get it so that the health system doesn’t collapse. I don’t think Singapore has actually dodged a bullet at all. The people who have not caught the virus remain highly susceptible to it. Until there is a vaccine, they better not leave the country (residents have been told to defer all travel abroad), and can not easily get into the country (there is a mandatory 2 week isolation period for anyone returning to Singapore). Better testing and tracking methods is a good idea that would ease a lot of uncertainty and provide better documentation for statistical analysis. But I only see 3 scenarios that lead any individual out the woods: a vaccine becomes available; we get sick and recover; we self-isolate until herd immunity is established in everyone else.

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