Updated: Mar 20, 2020
New restrictions every day. Is it an overreaction?
The global sharing of information means that in the past month we have quickly generated a lot of data about the new coronavirus. By following how many cases were in each country, each day, we can create a predictive model of how fast it spreads.
Lets imagine together if every one person infects two others within two days (COVID19 is thought to be slightly more infectious than that). On the first day, there is one case; on the third day, two new cases, for a total of 3. On the fourth or fifth day, 6 new cases (each infects two people) for a total of 9. On the sixth day, 18 new cases, total 27 by the end of the week. Week 2: 72, then 171, (this is about where we are in Israel, just over), then 414. I’m not much of a math person, but if this pattern continued every two days even, then by the end of Week 3 (next week) we would see 1,000 cases. By the end of the Week 4: 33,968. And Week 5: 477,966.
Let that sink in. In 3 weeks, we would go from 500 to 500,000 sick.
This isn't theoretical. We have the real numbers from other countries to back these predictions up: “On the 23rd of January, China’s Hubei province, which contains the city of Wuhan, had 444 confirmed COVID-19 cases. A week later, by the 30th of January, it had 4,903 cases. Another week later, by the 6th of February, it had 22,112. The same story is now playing out in other countries around the world. Italy had 62 identified cases of COVID-19 on the 22nd of February. It had 888 cases by the 29th of February, and 4,636 by the 6th of March.” https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-cancel-everything/607675/
How fast the virus tears through the population (the curve of this graph) is only influenced by how many people are interacting (social separation). The countries above with slower doubling are those with strict quarantine measures for the whole population.
The other really critical thing to remember is what the healthcare capacity (open hospital beds, ventilators, etc) is, and how that interacts with these numbers. Once these beds and doctors are fully occupied by COVID19 patients, there will be no room for appendicitis, heart attacks, cancer, sepsis, causing further deaths.
The UK put the two graphs side by side. On the left is modeled various scenarios of our social separation ranging from: Tall blue curve – business as usual to Lowest light blue curve – Home quarantine and social distancing. Next to that, is how that compares to the ability of the country to cope with increased patient load. As you see, anything above essentially status quo, will not be able to access health care. The graphs look quite similar for us in Israel.
Now lets look at Israel’s infection rate numbers specifically. Compiling the data since March 3 (first recorded positive case in Israel) to now, shows that we are on track for a 2-3 day doubling rate.
This puts us squarely on track for the outcomes of Italy, Iran, and Spain, where there are field hospitals filled with non-trained personnel administering to the sick, and where doctors are traumatized by having to tell families that their loved one was not chosen to receive medical support. This is not an overstatement. It is the data-driven model of the trajectory we are on if we continue to go to work and to interact with eachother.
With these graphs we can see our future. Our governments are doing the right thing, putting lives above economics, and closing down all non-essential functions. If you are not a health care worker, or involved in supplying food, you should not be going to work.
To prevent the deaths of our friends and family, we need to shut everything down. Now.