Days of Change

Natural Selection | August 3, 2020

For those keeping score, we are entering Month 6 of COVID-19 lockdown. In New York, it’s been pretty oppressive the whole time. Last month, almost every other state has been forced by media pressure to start their own lockdowns. It took months, but New York’s slow growth in cases has pushed it down to 4th most cases in the US, behind California, Florida and Texas. These 4 states are the most populous. This means that in any group of people in the US, a similar percentage will have (or had) COVID-19. That’s why it’s a pandemic.

A lot has been made of the idea of herd immunity. The fear mongers want to tell everyone that since we aren’t anywhere near 60% of the population having COVID-19, people will drop dead all over the place if we don’t mask up and lock down. This is absurd. California made a strong effort to lock down before they had as many cases as New York and it didn’t work. Here’s why.

Think of herd immunity like microwaving a frozen burrito. The heating energy tends to heat the outside while the inside stays frozen. It takes much longer to heat the center of the burrito and it usually involves super-heating the outside to do it. In herd immunity, it is very easy to infect a population with no natural immunity to a disease. However, as the population develops antibodies, the virus starts running out of carriers and the last part of the population (the center of the burrito) will be the hardest to infect. Also, the people who get a virus like this first tend to have the most interactions per day. While 60% is “effective immunity,” even 30% (which NYC has) will greatly reduce the number of new infections. Masks and social distancing make no difference with this method.

Should we self isolate “just in case” anyway? It’s looking less and less effective or likely to prevent infections or deaths. New strains of the virus may be more infections, but less deadly. This makes sense from a “survival of the fittest” model. If a disease is deadly, it has trouble replicating because people die before spreading it much and people tend to run away from the infected or lock them away. The common cold is near universal and has a minuscule fatality rate. It is the perfect virus and it has been around for thousands of years.

Social activity doesn’t just spread diseases, it helps to stop them. This article explains that the restriction of movement in other countries will be the cause of millions of deaths from AIDS, TB and Malaria that have been controlled through the easy access to medical care and drugs interrupted by a relatively mundane flu virus.

My observation now is that states (and some countries) will see resurgences of COVID-19 based on how few people have natural immunity. Those places like NYC who had a massive COVID-19 infection rate will likely see future cases and deaths drop to zero long before other places who thought they “beat” the disease with ad-hoc solutions created at the last minute.


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