How to control the covid-19 pandemic

It's not rocket science. Do not slow down the testing, as President Trump wishes. We have a viral disease attacking humans. There is no current vaccine to guard against infection and there are limited therapeutic approaches and medical knowledge to treat infected patients. [Please do not drink or inject yourself with bleach] So what we have to do is reduce the spread of the virus from those who are infected, with or without symptoms, to those who have not yet been infected. Think of the number of individuals in the population who have already been infected. Each of these persons can spread the disease to those to whom they come in contact.

With no limits on contacts among persons the virus can be spread rapidly among the entire population. Each disease of this sort has its own contagious characteristic, but any disease such as this one where it is apparent that each person that is carrying the virus can potentially spread the virus to more than one other person will, if left unchecked, lead to disastrous pandemic results.

Think of the number of people in the population that are infected with the virus. Call this number X. As we can get more of these persons to not spread the virus to anyone else the slower will be the rate of spread of the virus. In fact, if these X people as a group pass the virus on to a number of people Y that is less than X the disease will eventually die out. That ratio of Y/X is crucial. To get control of the virus that number must be below one. Many persons in the infected group X don't know themselves that they are carriers of the virus. So the first line of defense is to require all of us to socially distance ourselves from one another. Hence the six feet of separation rule can help bring down the Y/X ratio. This is because the virus is less likely to be able to travel the six foot distance. And the requirement to wear a mask inside of public buildings and stores where the six foot rule is hard to maintain will likewise bring down the Y/X ratio because it lessens the distance the virus can travel from one person to another person.

We don't know how big the infected group X is in the United States. And more importantly we don't know all who among us is in that group. So an important strategy is to find as many persons who are in the infected group X as possible by widespread effective testing so we can isolate or quarantine them (experts say for a two week period) so they do not spread the virus to anyone else. And to do contact tracing, that is, to ask each discovered infected person whom they may have been in contact with recently, and then test these contacts and quarantine any of these contacts that tests show are infected. Test results need to be timely so quarantine can take place before those infected have had much chance to spread the virus too widely. If this protocol is instituted faithfully the Y/X ratio can be brought to very close to zero and the pandemic will be over, while we wait hopefully for the discovery of more effective treatments for this disease and, hopefully, for an effective and safe vaccine.

So social distancing, wearing of masks, testing, contact tracing and quarantining is the order of the day. And in spite of the wishes of President Trump saying, "Slow the testing down please," we need testing, testing and more testing. Any contact that any of us have with health care people should bring forth a test. I'm amazed that this is not happening. It's elementary.

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