Tag Archives: covid-19

Guest Post: Why social distancing works

NOTE: Updated 3-21-20 — 8 months in the second to the last paragraph was incorrect. Dean asked me to change it to 8 weeks.

My husband is a biostatistician for the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). He sent my kids and me an email explaining why social distancing works. (Emphasis mine)

Here’s something I wrote up about social distancing.

If life continued without change, on average, someone with COVID-19 might infect somewhere around 3 others. And it takes about 6 days, say a week, for someone to infect others.

So in two months just from that one person we go from 1 to 3 to 9 to 27 to 81 to 243 to 729 to 2187. All from one person.

With social distancing suppose that we reduce this to 2. Now in 2 months we go from 1 to 2 to 4 to 8 to 16 to 32 to 64 to 128. Still explosive growth but 128 is about twenty times less than 2187. While most people who are infected don’t need to be hospitalized, there are still twenty times as many hospitalizations if we do nothing.

In fact we want to reduce this number (called R0 or R-naught) to way less than 2. If it is 1.25, then after 8 weeks we expect about 5 cases. And if we keep it less than 1, the epidemic will die out.

That’s why governments are introducing drastic measures. If we keep the growth down, the hospitals can better handle the cases. We can better learn how to treat cases. We can do studies to find what treatments really work and which give false hope. And it buys us time to evaluate vaccines.

Random thoughts about COVID-19

Listen to Tony

Listen to whatever Anthony Fauci says. He’s likely the leading expert in this right now. He is the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had friends and family ask my husband, (who works at NIAID) what he thinks about COVID-19, what he advised them to do. His response has been, “listen to Tony”. As of this afternoon, Dr. Fauci is saying don’t go to restaurants or bars or other crowded places, and of course wash your hands and don’t touch your face.

Also:

“You know, I would prefer as much as we possibly could,” Fauci responded. “I think we should really be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, March 15, 2020

Our next crisis might be clogged sewers

Update:UK’s sewage system in danger of gridlock from toilet paper substitutes

With all the panicked toilet paper hording, many people have resorted to buying facial tissues and at least one Facebook friend posted a photo of dinner napkins she bought when she could find no toilet paper. I even heard that one newspaper printed 8 blank pages for emergency toilet paper. Other Facebook friends are discussing what to do when all the paper in the house is used up (take a shower for #2 was one response). My immediate thought is don’t flush those facial tissues or napkins or paper towels. Hell, don’t even flush “flushable personal wipes”.

King Arthur Flour is out of flour

Of course. The hoarders bought up all the flour in stores, but I never would expect the king of flour to run out of flour! But it has. I can deal with no TP but I really need to bake bread. If not for eating, to deal with anxiety.

I deleted my Facebook app

I had a meltdown Friday night after spending the past couple days and several hours on Friday reading articles people posted on Facebook. I was convinced I was going to die and not live to see my retirement date or sit on the brand new deck or in the brand new “lodge” in warm weather. I would tell you what the articles were, but I don’t want you to have a meltdown too. Listen to Tony…

Facebook is not all bad

I did see some amusing things on Facebook today after I recovered from Friday’s meltdown*. My favorite was someone who’d just cleaned out their deep freezer after 20 years: “Threw out old frozen foods, the freeze dried remains of two budgies and ten betta fish, and found where the good glass containers were hiding.” I told them that they should use this as the first line in a short story or novel.


*just because I deleted my app does not mean I am not reading Facebook sometimes…