Friday, March 27, 2020

Infection models

This is old news, as the Chinese and Koreans won't shut up about it, but the lesson has not been learned in many places.  The model of having groups self-quarantine in multi-generational family units doesn't work well.  That's because the olds stay home, with the less-olds, but the youths run free, refusing to self-isolate, and thus hoovering up all the virus that's around, and come home every night to infect grandpa.  Infection is starting to appear to require long-term multiple instances of close-contact transmission, which is exactly what the youths are doing to the olds.

This model is the cheapened version of what the West has come up with to try to replicate Asian success without having to spend money on testing.  The successful Asian model is to test, test, test, and remove any infected people into extremely strict quarantine.  It's like a fisherman's net, you keep testing until you've removed all the sick fish, and the fish that remain are uninfected, and can't harm each other.

Of course, the proper response depends on local social conditions.  Italy has strong family bonds and tends to keep the olds at home, but Italians are the world's natural anarchists, refuse to obey laws and thus refuse to self-isolate, so the Italian response was a total disaster.  Other places, perhaps the Netherlands and Sweden, which are more likely to separate the olds into care facilities, may be able to get away with the 'herd immunity' strategy, as long as they strictly isolate the care facilities.  I'm afraid American cities are closer to Italy than Sweden.

The bottom line is that there can be no single right answer to the appropriate social techniques.  The only commonalities for success are social isolation as much as possible, and massive testing of anybody who exhibits symptoms.  In many countries, including most of the West, neither of these is really happening.
blog comments powered by Disqus