I’ve been talking to folks 1:1 about this, but from a scroll through the feed today, I don’t think the general community has caught on. COVID-19 is not fucking around. If we don’t contain or dramatically slow it, we are going to run out of health care workers, hospital beds, and equipment. People are going to die for want of care. This is not a problem of the distant future: recent modeling suggests that without a significant reduction in social contact, Seattle will exhaust healthcare capacity around two weeks from now. Other regions will not be far behind.
This doesn’t mean panic. This means we need to take calm, decisive action to reduce transmission.
COVID-19 is containable. Surveillance data from China, South Korea, and Taiwan suggests their efforts are working, but the US has not implemented these kinds of aggressive measures yet. Our surveillance is limited by test shortages, and we have not performed the kind of contact tracing, isolation, and social distancing they have. I hope we get there, but before that happens, it’s up to us to do our part voluntarily–and we have to act NOW. What we do in the early days of an outbreak has an outsized impact on later trajectories.
Cancel your events. I know. Cancel them. Stay home, or away from people outdoors, as much as possible. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. Stay six feet apart. Now is not the time for bar events, for contests, for house parties, for travel. Tell your friends and neighbors to stay home too.
This means you. Even if you’re healthy, even if you’re young and likely to survive: you may unwittingly infect others, and this is about everyone’s health. Current models suggest each case infects roughly two more–and those infect four more, eight, sixteen, thirty-two–doubling every six days. Social distancing–staying home, avoiding contact, etc–reduces that ratio. It’s the key to flattening the epidemic curve, and making sure that as people get sick, there are beds, supplies, and health workers to take care of them.
For practical guidance from epidemiologists on what social distancing looks like in real life, see The Atlantic’s reporting.
When you read this reporting, keep in mind that confirmed cases are an underestimate: in the US, we suspect there could be orders of magnitude more cases going undetected. Also note that deaths lag roughly three weeks behind initial infection.
For projections of Seattle’s caseload, see the Institute for Disease Modeling’s working draft.
For a clinical retrospective of hospitalized-case outcomes in China, see this article in the Lancet.
Best wishes, everyone. Be kind & conscientious with each other. <3