Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance

Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance. By Tomas Pueyo.

“Mitagation” is “flatten the curve”. “Hammer” is “crush the curve.”

Strong coronavirus measures today should only last a few weeks, there shouldn’t be a big peak of infections afterwards, and it can all be done for a reasonable cost to society, saving millions of lives along the way. If we don’t take these measures, tens of millions will be infected, many will die, along with anybody else that requires intensive care, because the healthcare system will have collapsed.

When you’re done reading the article, this is what you’ll take away:

  • Our healthcare system is already collapsing.
  • Countries have two options: either they fight it hard now, or they will suffer a massive epidemic.
  • If they choose the epidemic, hundreds of thousands will die. In some countries, millions. And that might not even eliminate further waves of infections.
  • If we fight hard now, we will curb the deaths. We will relieve our healthcare system. We will prepare better. We will learn.
  • The world has never learned as fast about anything, ever. And we need it, because we know so little about this virus.
  • All of this will achieve something critical: Buy Us Time.
  • If we choose to fight hard, the fight will be sudden, then gradual. We will be locked in for weeks, not months. Then, we will get more and more freedoms back.
  • It might not be back to normal immediately.
    But it will be close, and eventually back to normal.
    And we can do all that while considering the rest of the economy too.

Comprehensive and easy to read article. A couple of excerpts:

It’s unlikely that poorer countries aren’t touched. .. The most likely interpretations are that the coronavirus either took longer to reach these countries because they’re less connected, or it’s already there but these countries haven’t been able to invest enough on testing to know. …

If we do nothing: Everybody gets infected, the healthcare system gets overwhelmed, the mortality explodes, and ~10 million people die (blue bars). For the back-of-the-envelope numbers: if ~75% of Americans get infected and 4% die, that’s 10 million deaths, or around 25 times the number of US deaths in World War II. …

These numbers only show people dying from coronavirus. But what happens if all your healthcare system is collapsed by coronavirus patients? Others also die from other ailments. There are 4 million admissions to the ICU in the US every year, and 500k (~13%) of them die. Without ICU beds, that share would likely go much closer to 80%. Even if only 50% died, in a year-long epidemic you go from 500k deaths a year to 2M, so you’re adding 1.5M deaths, just with collateral damage. …

The mitigation strategy not only assumes millions of deaths for a country like the US or the UK. It also gambles on the fact that the virus won’t mutate too much — which we know it does. And it will give it the opportunity to mutate. So once we’re done with a few million deaths, we could be ready for a few million more — every year. This corona virus could become a recurring fact of life, like the flu, but many times deadlier.

hat-tip David Archibald