Is Anything Else Happening in the World?
Wednesday, March 18th, 2020 | Author:

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am weary from the overwhelming focus on the coronavirus… Frankly, people are behaving as if it’s the black plague with everyone catching skin lesions and a 50% fatality rate.

My executive summary of the situation: the combination of medical uncertainty (what is the true rate of transmission, rate of mortality, etc.) and unprecedented global visibility (worldwide access to internet news, Twitter, etc.) has resulted in the reaction that we have now.  That is, this combination has resulted in politicians taking the path most logical for them — being extremely risk averse without regard to cost/benefit.  The political “cover your rear” position is one of demonstrating to constituents that you are doing everything possible to save every life.  This enables the politician to exclaim “It would have been even worse if I wasn’t in charge”.

Now, for a little more detail (Please note that I’m an engineer acting as an amateur epidemiologist in describing the nature of potential viral epidemics).  It appears that the quantitative factors listed below are the best predictors of the virulence of coronavirus (or any pathogen for that matter).  You’ll note that I made ease of transmission (airborne versus contact) and level of mutability (virus changes structure as it multiplies) as sub-factors of the rate of transmission.

1. The rate of transmission
1a. The ease of transmission
1b. The level of mutability
2. The mortality rate

From reading recent papers in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the few takeaways that I have are:

  • The most common manifestation or correlation from a biological test is leukopenia (low white blood cells).
  • The costly CT exam has been the second most useful predictor of the presence of coronavirus (presence of glassy areas in the lungs).
  • It appears that there has been the lack of any reliable and quick diagnostic methods

I haven’t seen any reliable or statistically significant quantitative data about these set of factors that I listed above.  Based on the NEJM articles, I am assuming that most of the data is just now being generated and analyzed, and the greatest fears are the unknowns around 1a and 1b above, along with the absence of any reliable diagnostic testing.

Thus, here we are… “sheltering in place”, and waiting for the 21st century version of the black plague to come and get us… the mob mentality survives.

Category: Engineering, Politics