COVID-19 – About the curve

This started as a Facebook post. I decided to repeat it on the platforms I had. The next podcast episode will also contain a COVID-19 PSA from the good people at Blubrry who run the service.

Please, please PLEASE get your COVID-19 information from legitimate places. We are lucky to have Siouxsie Wiles here in NZ and she has been tireless in the last few weeks.

The government information is here: https://covid19.govt.nz/

And if you have been wondering what the difference is between social distancing and quarantining the Washington Post has an excellent piece. It’s long and I’ll show you some main points in case you don’t read it all.

Before we even start on that many of you will be resigned to catching this at some point, being crook for two weeks, then kissing it goodbye. The stats are telling you that. Unless you’re older, or you have a compromised immunity system. Then it’s different. See this chart from ourworldindata.org – over 60 the chances dying from this are not trivial. You can improve the chances of people surviving this by simply taking it seriously and following the excellent guidelines from Siouxsie, and from our government. Because they are listening to the experts.

The Washington Post piece is here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/world/corona-simulator/

And Siouxsie’s starter piece is here – https://thespinoff.co.nz/…/the-world-is-on-fire-my…/ .She posts regularly here https://twitter.com/SiouxsieW cometh the hour, cometh the magenta-haired Microbiologist

Finally – here’s a brief tl;dr on the WaPo bit to tell you why becoming a hermit for a while actually makes a difference. It’s about the way infections spread. As you’d expect, if everyone carries on a usual most people get the bug but the overall immunity (as people get better) means some are lucky enough not to get it and the people who caught it died or recovered with some immunity of their own. This happened with the flu after WWI – that pandemic killed many more people than the war itself. The problem then was like the COVID-19 problem now – many people were getting it for the first time. 100 years later, we have vaccines and some level of herd immunity to the flu. It still kills people, but not at the clip it used to. The Washington Post runs the simulation in real-time and it’s amazing to watch – this picture shows the ‘everyone acts normal’ outcome – as the curve rises Siouxsie points out that hospitals may become overwhelmed and need to turn sick people away. This is happening in Italy now. Reducing your contact is about preventing that.

So what if you just shut all the sick people in a pen instead? This was tried in Hubei province and it failed, as health experts predicted – simply because you can’t create a seal tight enough to stop a virus in a population.

Given that gloomy outcome, why would the less intrusive act of asking everyone to stay home work? Because if enough people do it the individuals have a chance to stop being infectious between times of contact. A screenshot doesn’t do it justice – you should go click on the article.

Last bit now – viruses go viral. Busy humans in crowded places can pass viruses as quickly as they can like videos of cats playing pianos. ‘Virus’ is a very old word. As I write this there are 28 confirmed cases and we are waiting on an announcement. When that muscle car next to you at the lights screams 100 meters into the distance (before slowing down for the next set of lights) the alarming thing is not the speed (he probably got to 50kmh in that time) but the acceleration (he did it in 2 seconds). So let’s look at the acceleration of COVID-19 around the world. The acceleration here is the number of days it takes for the cases to double. So the lower the number, the higher the acceleration. (this again from the ourworldindata site).

Many of those countries are experiencing some terrible problems right now. Some (in particular China and South Korea have managed to decelerate the spread (38 days and 17 days respectively). That is saving lives. And where are we on this chart?

Four days – still a little early to tell perhaps, still very small numbers, but with the sociability and urge to travel of kiwis we know that unless that number of days rises we’re going to have problems. The solution is easy – do what Siouxsie tells you. The problem is, everyone needs to do it.

That car at the lights? – imagine the next set of lights is at least three months away and the car’s top speed is, well, sort of infinite. Now make sure you have soap and some kai in the house. But don’t go crazy – the supply chains are just fine. Then read some of this good stuff and think about this unusual moment when staying in and watching Netflix = doing the best for your gran.

Just announced – the new total is 39 – that takes it closer to doubling in 2 days. Again – small numbers and just one day – but that puts it among the fastest rates in the world. That rate (doubling twice a day from 40 today) would infect 1.3 million kiwis in a month. That’s what these precautions are about.

One comment

  1. A balanced cautionary summary. And great work by Siouxsie Wiles informing the public. Here’s hoping people pay attention.

Leave a Reply to Lyndon Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.