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COVID Crisis Post 45: Stop Making Me Crazy. Listen to Science.

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

I repeat - please listen to scientists whose only motive is to save lives. Not to the politicized drivel coming from our government's mouths.

I beg of you.

I understand this lockdown has been impossibly difficult for many. And I agree, the economy cannot be shutdown forever. And you are right, the scientists are not economists. But neither are any of the government officials who are pushing to rush to restart the economy.

It DOES need to start opening, but slowly, and through a SCIENTIFIC and well-coordinated response. Otherwise, this will only result in more lives being lost and extend the economic hardship for a longer period of time.

No matter what, we will NOT be going back to "normal" anytime soon. A "new" normal is our new reality, at least until we (hopefully) have a working vaccine. We will need to continue practicing social distancing when possible. We will need to continue to wear masks. We will need to continue to wash our hands and practice good hygiene. THIS will be the new normal.

60000+ deaths in 2+ months WITH social distancing measures and other guidelines in place is scary enough. And by not extending social distancing guidelines, a mistake has been made. So unless the people of this country take it upon themselves to practice social distancing on their own, a second or third wave is likely inevitable.

I am all for using mindfulness exercises to grow as an individual. But saying to yourself, "COVID-19, you do not exist because I choose for you to not exist" is the ultimate exercise in futility. This is not a reality show where you can dictate your "reality".

Seriously, our government has stated the plan is to reopen the economy ASAP, but only once the virus is eradicated. But by then following that up by saying, vaccine or not, the country will reopen because people are tired of the shutdown and we will get back to how normal was 3 months earlier because they do not want a new normal makes my head want to explode.

And no, I do not want to hear about Remdesivir being the answer.

For one, these are PRELIMINARY results, not final, meaning data is still being collected. Second, though it is a positive sign Remdesivir decreases length of stay, I care most about decreased mortality, and so should you. And at this point, it has only demonstrated a possible survival benefit versus placebo.

But the data does look promising, hence why Dr. Fauci stated it should be green-lighted for use in severe COVID-19 cases. I am hopeful it will in fact decrease mortality, but even if it does, and this is essential to understand, IT IS NOT A CURE. People have STILL died after receiving it. As a result, it is still better to avoid getting sick and not allow death to be a part of the equation, Remdesivir or not.

I want to use a real-life example to demonstrate the challenges the country faces in reopening, and the dangers of rushing ahead.

Enter, Germany.

Germany has used an extremely scientific approach during the pandemic from the beginning. Their lockdown and reopening plans center around the reproduction numbers, Ro and Re, which help track the infectivity of the virus.

In simple terms, Ro, or the basic reproduction number, is defined as the average number of people one individual with the disease would be expected to infect at the START of an epidemic before any immunity exists. This number is determined using the earliest data possible and does NOT change.

An Ro >1 means the infection will spread exponentially, and an Ro <1 means the virus will eventually die out. In the case of COVID-19, the Ro has been estimated to be around 2.6, meaning one infected individual would be expected to infect 2.6 additional individuals in this model.

There is a ton of talk about achieving herd immunity (if possible), but what percentage of the population would need to be immune for this to occur?

Enter Ro once again.

The percentage of the population required to achieve theoretical herd immunity is calculated as 1-1/Ro. If we use an Ro value of 2.6 for COVID-19, then 62% of the population would need to be immunized, at the minimum, to prevent SUSTAINED spread of the infection. However, the Ro varies between studies with one listing an Ro close to 5, which means closer to 80% of the population would need to be vaccinated or infected to achieve herd immunity. Many experts believe aiming for the higher number is essential to be safe.

However, as the population becomes infected and (presumed) immunity develops or people die, the EFFECTIVE reproduction number, or Re, becomes more important.

The new "Ro" values published as the virus spreads actually describes Re. Re values >1 mean the virus is still spreading exponentially irrespective of developing immunity, deaths or social distancing measures, whereas Re values <1 mean the virus is fading out due to immunity, deaths, and/or social distancing measures.

Germany has been using this measure to determine when to ease restrictions. By mid-April, the Re reached 0.7 and the country started allowing parts of the country to reopen. However, as of this Monday, the Re went up to 0.96, indicating infections were on the rise again. This from a country who has taken this pandemic seriously from the start and has used science to dictate how they proceed forward.

As a result, they have urged people to limit their outings and will start reimplementing restrictions should Re become >1.

The UK is also tracking Re, as are other nations. But I have yet to hear this value being defined anywhere for us. I could not find a good explanation for this, so I am not sure if the Re is just too difficult for some reason to determine for our country. But I would like SOMETHING scientifically concrete to look at to give me some solace it is indeed safe to start reopening the country.

I am trying to use logic and good data to back up my assertions. But sometimes I feel like I want to freak out like Mugatu when he can't understand why others adore Derek Zoolander and see what seems so obvious to him:

"The man has only one look, for Christ's sake! Blue Steel? Ferrari? Le Tigra? They're the same face! Doesn't anybody notice this? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!"

I don't think Magnum is going to make an appearance this time.

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