Clarity Regarding the Pandemic: Millions Won’t Die because of America’s 21st Century ResponseMarch 30, 2020
Neil Ferguson of the Imperial College and I have had differing views about the Wuhan virus since it was first reported.
Ferguson took a much more alarmist view out-of-the-gate, while I was the first to state publicly (on January 23, 2020) that: “If most people with the virus do not experience devastating symptoms, then the number of known people with the devastating symptoms of the infection are the only ones who are counted. Those with mild symptoms feel better and are never counted. This means the number of infected is far higher than is now known.”
It turns out, according to recent Chinese data, a third of those infected are asymptomatic. A recent Italian study estimates that between half and three-quarters of those infected are asymptomatic.
Up until a week ago, Ferguson continued his alarmist approach by his widely reported estimates of 500,000 dead in the UK and 2 million dead in the United States.
And days after the publication of the Chinese and Italian data about the percentage of infected who are asymptomatic, Ferguson recently revised his estimate of 500,000 dead in the UK to only 20,000 dead.
But these reversing of polarity for Ferguson is misleading to lay it all on the doorstep of the potentially high percentage of asymptomatic infected.
Obviously, if half of those infected (or more) are asymptomatic, the death toll drops by half or more.
But even this does not explain the radical reduction in the estimates of the soon-to-be-dead by Ferguson.
The 15 days to stop the spread is working. Americans are listening and doing their part. Those infected will not be spreading the Wuhan virus, and those not infected will not be infected.
This is the equivalent of forcing all the planes to land during 9-11 — leaving only the planes flying that was taken over by terrorists.
While these heat maps showing cell phone travel from New York City and from Ft. Lauderdale beach after spring break. All of this travel took place after the 15 days to stop the spread was instituted. With these glaring exceptions, by all accounts, most Americans are taking the shelter in place seriously, and it is having an impact.
And shelter in place combined with a systemic expansion of our national, daily testing capacity, from less than 100 tests a day to more than 175,000 tests a day by the end of this week (more than 100,000 tests a day today, right now) the United States can further interfere with the virus’s spread.
While vaccines may or may not be ready by the fall of 2020, right now, at least three treatment regimens are being tested right now in double-blind, controlled studies to test the efficacy in patients that are sick or dying or who want to try the medicine to defeat the Wuhan virus.
These three things, in conjunction with each other, are unprecedented and uniquely being applied and achieved using 21st-century technology.
It is worth noting that the United States, in addition to massively and systemically changing its ability to accurately test to scale for our population in a matter of weeks, the Chinese, who have been dealing with the virus since (they say the end of December) but likely since November, they sent Spain more than 600,000 Wuhan virus test kits that did not accurately identify the infected. Spain sent the tests back. The Netherlands sent back 1.3 million Chinese “N-95 masks” that were defective.
Imagine testing your population, only to find out the test failed to detect those positive. The infected were sent home believing they were fine, and went about their lives, for those with mild symptoms, infecting others.
Meanwhile, literally in four weeks, Abbott Labs in the U.S. developed the first FDA-approved five-minute test that can be done on more than 20,000 machines already in place in hospitals and urgent care clinics and medical laboratories all over the United States.
The stay-in-place new social norm, combined with real-time, industrial-scale U.S. testing, plus at least three and likely six therapies against the Wuhan virus that are now being tested or soon will be among the sick and infected, all are combining to drop the U.S. death toll.
These advances and achievements all are radically reducing the estimates of those Americans who will die.
The next 21st-century technology play to stay the hand of the Wuhan virus will be the ability to test in real-time if someone has anti-bodies against the Wuhan virus.
If so, they will be able to go to work, to a movie or help sling boxes at the supermarket to stock shelves and keep the food and essential supplies moving into U.S. urban centers — without fear of either becoming sick or infecting others.
While those not infected can try and wait the months for a vaccine without being infected, the really lucky ones are those who have immunity now.
And once that capability to test for anti-bodies exists, those people can go about the business of keeping the United States operational and our supply chains up and working.
Key areas like defense and essential industries will be kept operational as more people who have antibodies — provided we can test to see who those people are and then we will know, also, how long those antibodies last, since those with antibodies should be tested regularly — to ward off fears of being “reinfected.”
These workers with antibodies will not be at risk of being sidelined. They will be able to help keep our health care, internet, digital commerce, banking, power and water, sewage and trash removal systems operational, as well as those who do maintenance for essential systems like plumbing and electrical.
While the infection numbers and death toll will rise in the coming weeks, we are also building a sizable population of those with antibodies of those who did not become sick and will not become sick because they have already been sick with the virus, and once without the virus, they will not be contagious.
We need to begin to test for antibodies to integrate those who have faced the Wuhan virus peril, and who are now operational — to put them to work in all essential services.