Isolation doesn’t work.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, says the SARS-CoV-2 virus sweeping the U.S. cannot be shut down by simply isolation or social distancing. Instead, the virus will spread until herd imminity kicks in.
“This damn virus is going to keep going until it infects everybody it possibly can,” Osterholm said Monday during a meeting with the USA Today editorial board. “It surely won’t slow down until it hits 60 to 70%” of the population. That’s the number that would create herd immunity and end the spread of the virus, he said.
Herd immunity kicks in when a majority of people have been exposed to a virus and thus built up antibodies, which — for many viruses but not all — means people cannot be reinfected.
Osterholm warned that a second wave could reappear in the fall, just as the flu disappears for the most part during hotter and more humid seasons.
“It’s the big peak that’s really going to do us in,” he said. “As much pain, suffering, death and economic disruption we’ve had, there’s been 5 to 20% of the people infected, … That’s a long ways to get to 60 to 70%.”
But the virus is most dangerous to the elderly. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in it’s latest filing on May 6, put the “provisional death count” at 44,016. The age of death breaks down like this:
0-54 — 7.8%
55-64 — 12.3%
65-74 — 21.2%
75+ — 58.6%
And because the coronavirus can be asymptomatic in as many as 50% of those infected, there are likely millions who have already had the virus but didn’t even know.
An antibody study was conducted last month in New York City and found that 1 in 5 (21.2%) of residents have already been infected with the coronavirus. There are 8.5 million people in New York City, so that would mean 1.8 million New Yorkers have had the virus.
At the time of the study, there were 16,249 deaths in the city attributed to COVID-19, which means the death rate in the city was 0.89% at the time — far lower than reports in the U.S. media.
Results of antibody survey last month in Los Angeles also found as many as 442,000 Los Angeles County residents might have already been infected with the coronavirus by early April, a number far higher than the 8,000 cases confirmed at the time. The survey suggested that the death rate from the virus could be as low as 0.18% of COVID-19 patients, which means the actual death rate in the city is far lower than reported.
Meanwhile, professor Michael Levitt, who won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2013, says the lockdowns ordered by state governors were a complete overreaction to COVID-19 and may actually backfire.
Levitt, who teaches structural biology at the Stanford School of Medicine, has been analyzing the COVID-19 outbreak from a statistical perspective ever since January, according to Unherd.com.
He says that despite all the predictions, the data show that the COVID-19 outbreak never actually grew exponentially, which means the draconian lockdown measures were most likely unnecessary.
According to UnHerd:
His observation is a simple one: that in outbreak after outbreak of this disease, a similar mathematical pattern is observable regardless of government interventions. After around a two week exponential growth of cases (and, subsequently, deaths) some kind of break kicks in, and growth starts slowing down. The curve quickly becomes “sub-exponential.”
This may seem like a technical distinction, but its implications are profound. The ‘unmitigated’ scenarios modelled by (among others) Imperial College, and which tilted governments across the world into drastic action, relied on a presumption of continued exponential growth — that with a consistent R number of significantly above 1 and a consistent death rate, very quickly the majority of the population would be infected and huge numbers of deaths would be recorded. But Professor Levitt’s point is that that hasn’t actually happened anywhere, even in countries that have been relatively lax in their responses.