COVID-19: Flattening The Curve

Here’s what is meant by mitigating and flattening the curve.

COVID-19 has between a 5 and 20% hospitalization rate for severe symptoms.  If it infected as many people in the U.S. as influenza we would be looking at a minimum of 1.7 million people in need of hospitalization — and not just for a few days.

No country in the world is prepared to take on this kind of caseload quickly.

Let’s break down what we know:

  1. Anyone who’s potentially exposed needs a 14 day quarantine minimum. That’s to check and wait for symptoms to show.
  2. The median time for symptoms to develop is around 5 days, with the vast majority showing between 2 and 10.
  3. The severity of symptoms depends on many factors unique to the individual like general health, age, preexisting conditions, et cetera.  But the range is 7 to 32 days of symptoms.  So from the moment of contact to best case scenario you can expect 2 days till symptoms and 7 days of symptoms.  That’s 9 days.
  4. If you have a clinical confirmation of having contracted COVID-19, there are steps to follow to get declared “recovered”.   These include 3 days without symptoms and showing negative on 2 viral trace tests spaced a minimum of 24 hours apart.  That brings us up to a best case of 12 to 14 days from point of contact.
  5. The 5-20% with severe symptoms also have a longer duration of symptoms, stretching to 14-25 days, which means we are looking at about 1 million people who will need 3-4 weeks of medical care and resources.  That’s approximately the total number of hospital beds available in the US at full staffing.  Note that health care workers are also likely to catch this, so we won’t be at full staffing.
  6. This is also cold and flu season.  On top of that, you have chronic conditions, injuries, births, cancer, and all the other normal things that send people to the hospital.  Space might get a wee bit tight if we can’t soften the landing of this and spread it out over a longer period of time.
  7. If we can mitigate this a little, and maybe slow down the spread of contagion, hospitals will have the time they need to handle things properly.

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So wash your hands, avoid crowds, cover your coughs, and do not go to your doctor or a hospital if you think you might have contact with COVID-19.  Call or message them and they will instruct you in how to proceed.  If you have mild symptoms it might be best to stay home and wait it out — but again, call or message; do not go into a waiting room period.

80% of us who catch it will have two weeks in isolation with mild symptoms, bad cold/light flu stuff, and nothing serious.

You don’t need masks unless you’re caring for someone or there’s a life-threatening reason you need to leave the house.  Stick with a 5- or 10-pack if you must have them, but you don’t need dozens of cases each, especially if you’re not in a higher risk group.  Even in general, there’s no need to hoard supplies; it only makes it harder for everyone.  The lights will be on, the tap water will run, food can be delivered.  You’ll manage.

This isn’t the apocalypse; it’s a virus.  And in the grand scheme of human infecting viruses it’s pretty wimpy.

So be kind to others, bump elbows, don’t lick door handles, and call in your symptoms if you’re worried.

And remember:  We’re all in this together.

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Some source material:

Comics from https://xkcd.com/2278/ and https://twitter.com/SiouxsieW/status/1237275231783284736 — no copyright asserted by The Not Fake News; support independent creators like these people.  Red Green belongs to Red Green; we’re fans.

Editor’s Note:  Niall Digriz is one of our periodic guest columnists here in the Public Affairs Bureau.

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