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How Long?

Updated: Dec 28, 2021

I’ve had a few questions about how long will this last. I can’t give you that answer, but I can give you an idea of what needs to occur before life, as normal, may return.

But, I want to point something out first, nothing we do today is going to make March look better. That ship sailed with government inaction, and the indifference of many in the community to change. The virus has an incubation period of 2-25 days, with the mean period being around 7-14 days. Thus, all the interactions that occurred before school closures, while play dates were still happening, while work meetings occured, still need to manifest themself as cases in our community. Then those cases will spread to close household contacts. This already seeded transmission chain is 14 to 28 days long as a minimum. So our actions today, don’t affect the outcome of March, but affect what April and May look like.

The numbers of infected people inside the USA will skyrocket in the coming weeks. Again, a factor of testing, but also viral spread. Testing capacity is improving, the might of US research labs has begun to be unleashed. I’ve even read that some universities are paying graduate students to process samples. There are still some kinks, and the guidelines for testing are still restrictive, but I have hope that in a week or two we will be able to test anyone with symptoms.

So, expect March to end somewhat catastrophically in case numbers in the USA. 10s of thousands, in reality, probably 100s of thousands of infected people. The saving grace, out of the 4200 infected as of today, only 12 are in critical condition. This may mean we have been good at protecting the most vulnerable in our population. But, please keep in mind, only 73 people have recovered. This is a long debilitating disease.

So March will be terrible, probably early to mid April as well. Then the actions of today, will start taking effect. Transmission chains should have been broken and numbers of new infections should drop. Testing capacity should have increased dramatically. So by mid-April we should be able to breath, a little bit.

But, the fundamentals for the outbreak to continue will still exist. A population that is naive to the virus, a virus that is widely distributed throughout society (the world), and no means of developing immunity in the population without natural infection. If we let our guard down at the end of April, the outbreak will resume, only this time faster, as the virus is much more widespread.

I really don’t see a path that will change this, life is going to look much different for many months.

It’s a guess, but:

  • Plan on your kids being home for the entire month of April. Most likely longer.

  • Work will be done remotely, wherever possible, for months.

  • Travel, especially international travel, will be affected for the rest of the year

Things that may change the trajectory of the outbreak

  • seasonality. Will warmer temps slow this down? What happens next year?

  • testing capacity. If we can test everyone, we can get ahead of it’s spread and stamp it out of existence.

  • a new drug or treatment.

  • or we decide to isolate the susceptible, and let this thing run it’s course through the remainder of the population.

My hope is that testing will be the answer. Testing on a massive scale, literally millions of tests per week. No country has that testing capacity, but, if testing was regarded as a strategic priority for the nation, we could be there in a few months.

Prepare, don’t panic. Information is the key.

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