Sunday, November 29, 2020

What If the Curve Cannot Be Flattened

What if everything we've been trying in order to "flatten the curve," to contain or defeat COVID-19 has been pointless and ineffective because the virus behaves in ways that other viruses have not? As an example, contact tracing works wonderfully well with viruses that are passed through intimate, sexual contact with other people. But what if COVID-19 cannot be traced that way?

What I'm asking is how do you track and control a virus that doesn't cause symptoms for several days after contracting it... and what if 86% of those who do get it never have any symptoms? How do you corral that? And the only contact needed between a host and a new victim can occur at a distance of a few feet... or even by touching something a host has sneezed or coughed on hours, or even days, earlier?

If you're wondering about the 86% figure, that's been known since April and was published in the peer-reviewed professional journal, Science, in May 2020. It's the reason we cannot contain the virus; no one believes they're sick (no symptoms at all!) and so unknowingly pass it on. We can scan everyone entering a building with a fever scanner and make them wear masks, but it's too little too late. This virus isn't going away unless, as we have with influenza, convince enough people to take the vaccine when it becomes available that it fades into the background. Indeed, we may end up needing new vaccines for new strains of it just as we do with influenza each year.

The good news is that at least 2 unusually effective vaccines are on the horizon. On this Thanksgiving weekend, I hereby thank those that have worked so diligently on the vaccine and those who cut through the red tape to make it possible.