Yesterday marked a record daily high of 90,446 new coronavirus cases in the US.
In response, state officials in Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts, and Texas are preparing to initiate another round of stay-at-home orders–though they’re not the only ones presiding over heavily impacted regions. Wisconsin, Georgia, Michigan, and Minnesota are reportedly experiencing outbreaks in almost all of their counties.
“These numbers confirm that we only had a small window of time to act, and unfortunately that’s not what happened in most countries,” write the authors of a recent Duke University study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE “Being able to estimate transmission rates at different phases of a disease’s spread and under different conditions helps identify the timing and type of interventions that may work best, the hospital capacity we’ll need, and other critical considerations.”
The autumn surge projected by virologists a few months back appears to be coming to fruition. A series of early missed opportunities will likely continue to influence adverse outcomes.
It’s true that COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations are going down but it’s hard to argue against criticisms of our disparate national response. This is especially true when we observe countermeasures developed by nations no longer experiencing spikes.
In a recent study, published in The Lancet Public Health, researchers reviewed the mandates implemented to suppress local transmission of coronavirus within the city of Hong Kong between late January and March 31.
In that window, the city of 7.5 million people had only 715 confirmed cases and four deaths; SARS-CoV-2’s reproduction rate did not rise during the eight-week period.
Hong Kong officials were able to avoid a complete shutdown by establishing effective surveillance techniques including contact tracing for infections among incoming travelers and their own community. They also enforced a 14-day quarantine on anyone entering from mainland China and placed a travel curfew on work commuters and students.
While many of these tactics were initiated in the US, a lot of them arrived too late. Moreover, adherence to them was uneven. The pandemic happened to arrive during a tense general election so public health pillars became political talking points.
One of the major plunders came from academicians contending that masks were only necessary for health care providers.
“We analyzed data on laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases, influenza surveillance data in outpatients of all ages, and influenza hospitalizations in children,” the authors wrote in the new paper. “Our study shows that non-pharmaceutical interventions (including border restrictions, quarantine and isolation, distancing, and changes in population behavior) were associated with the reduced transmission of COVID-19 in Hong Kong, and are also likely to have substantially reduced influenza transmission in early February 2020.”
When the herd immunity theory was still considered to be a viable way to normalcy by some leading experts in the states, shutdown easing was suggested in kind.
When a virus exists within a community for long enough a high proportion of individuals can become immune to its ensuing diseases. This ideally results in recovery rates outpacing transmission rates.
The mechanisms that facilitate this process are varied but vaccination bears the most influence on its success rate. For herd immunity to work in a given population, 78% of the members that staff it need to be protected against a pathogen.
The problem is it’s very difficult to predict disease severity in COVID-19 patients and early vaccine candidates might not be able to mimic our humoral immune response.
“A national mandate from the federal government for universal masking is more likely to achieve the greatest impact to reduce deaths in the next several months,” said Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City in a recent statement.
Taiwan has been praised by many leading virologists for its handling of early outbreaks in January. There are roughly 23 million people living on the island of Taipei, Taiwan and the last time officials reported a local case was April 12.
In fact, since the start of the pandemic, they only had 553 confirmed cases and seven deaths.
Of course, there are a lot of differences between Taiwan and the US that prevent a perfect tactical comparison but there’s also a lot to learn. Principally, that reducing coronavirus cases meaningfully doesn’t have to come at the expense of commercial markets.
There’s even evidence to suggest that opening some intuitions fully may not pose a huge risk. Masks, contact tracing, and people believing this thing is real are a huge component though.
It seems a PR failure that a country as overworked and in love with Netflix as ours branded stay at home orders an attack on liberty.
“Taiwan’s response focused on speed. Taiwanese authorities began screening passengers on direct flights from Wuhan, where the virus was first “identified, on December 31, 2019 — back when the virus was mostly the subject of rumors and limited reporting. Joshua Berlinger, who is CNN’s Hong Kong correspondent concluded.