This post is going to be an adult discussion. It has to be – because death is a difficult topic to discuss, but it’s essential.
The answer to stopping the spread of Coronavirus is quite simple.
That’s it. Nothing more.
According to John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 70 to 90% of individuals must have immunity to stop the spread of disease. The actual figure depends on each virus – how it spreads and how long it can remain active on surfaces.
So what is herd immunity?
We are all members of the “herd.” If an individual becomes infected and recovers, that person can no longer become sick or pass along the infection. They act as a barrier.
The ability of a contagious individual to pass along the virus decreases as the number of recovered increases. If we have a herd immunity of 75%, then 3 out of 4 individuals a contagious person comes into contact with cannot become sick.
I’m aware of two methods in which herd immunity can increase, through the natural progression of a virus or vaccination.
Vaccination is an essential part of maintaining herd immunity for several infectious diseases. Measles is an excellent example of this. A proper herd immunity rate for measles appears to be between 93 and 95%.
It’s challenging for the measles to spread when we reach this threshold. Yet, we also have a glimpse of what occurs when sections of the population reduce their immunity.
The CDC lists several breakouts of measles. A breakout occurred in 2017 when a small Somali-American community had a measles breakout of 75 cases. This small community wasn’t immunized, and the introduction of the disease quickly spread.
So what does herd immunity look like for the Coronavirus?
John Hopkins said it would likely need to be 70%.
Of Missouri’s estimated 6,137,428, we need 4,296,200 to be immune. Unrelated, that’s nearly the same number of registered voters in the state.
We have 6,321 documented cases in Missouri. It would appear we have a long way to go until we reach 4,296,200 total cases.
Fortunately, the documented cases aren’t the correct number of individuals who recovered. It’s likely much higher.
A recent Stanford study shows that there are about 85 times more cases in Santa Clara County, California, than they previously believed.
But we don’t know.
Even as testing increases, they aren’t testing to see if one has had COVID-19. The swab tests across the state check if you have it, at the moment of your test. My friend, Mark Siettmann, gets into testing a bit more.
An antibody test is required to know if you’ve had COVID-19.
The FDA has approved only one test, but they’ve removed restrictions that would allow 70 companies, with similar tests, to begin providing them.
Knowing who has had COVID and recovered will give us a much better picture of how far the disease has spread and how much further it needs to go.
We know that Missouri has 6,321 confirmed cases, and we know that 4,296,200 need to be to create herd immunity.
How do we get there?
We could wait for the production of a vaccine.
The University of Oxford has begun human trials of its vaccine, which is promising news. Unfortunately, it can take twelve to eighteen months for a vaccine to reach full production and be available to the public.
We cannot remain in lockdown for a year. That’s not possible.
Before we get to the adult portion of this topic, let’s make something adamantly clear. No one wants other people to die. Not mayors who locked down their communities or the protesters who descended on Jefferson City on Tuesday. There is disagreement on what the impact of COVID-19 will be and disputes on the effects of the responses, but no one is wishing death on others. Anyone who states such is adding nothing to the discussion and should be disregarded.
Let’s review what we know.
- We have to have herd immunity to stop/slow the spread
- 70% of Missourians, 4.3 million, need to have immunity
- Missouri has lost 218 loved ones to this disease, roughly 3.4% of confirmed cases
Again, it’s most likely that far more than the 6,321 known cases exist. But using the 3.4% as a conservative number, it means we are potentially facing the loss of 146,070 family members, friends, and colleagues.
That’s a tough number to swallow.
But the stark reality is – the disease will continue to spread, we are currently powerless to stop it, and we’ll likely lose loved ones in the process.
Some might say that the stay-at-home orders are stopping the spread.
This is absolutely false.
From the beginning, slowing the spread of infection has always been the goal of the stay-at-home orders. We cannot stop the spread of disease with these orders, only slow it.
The fear was that if we allowed COVID-19 to spread unabated, our hospitals could be overwhelmed, leading to a more significant loss of life.
We saw this when China was being honest with their numbers, and in Italy, whose hospital system is known for being easily overwhelmed.
I heard a comment the other day – no American has died from lack of access to a ventilator.
And though there was some fear our hospitals in New York, our most significant hotspot, would be overwhelmed, the Navy hospital ship, Comfort, is now leaving New York. It treated only 179 individuals during its short stay.
We also saw this in Washington when an Army hospital closed after nine days, seeing no patients.
So far, we’ve been in a far better position than many other nations. Arguably it could be better without the many restrictions placed on it by government, but that’s another post.
A silver lining is that the LA antibody testing study puts the mortality rate at .18%. That’s still a loss of over 7,700 Missourians but a far better outcome than 146,070.
The other good news is that we know which populations are most vulnerable.
The CDC lists individuals over 65 years of age, and those with lung disease, heart conditions, immunocompromised, diabetes as being the most vulnerable. In Missouri, we’ve lost 29 under the age of 60 but 199 over 60.
We’ve seen what the disease can do when it gets into our nursing homes – our most vulnerable populations. It’s devastating.
This means we know, moving forward, who we need to protect and how to best protect the lives of our fellow Missourians. We can narrowly-tailor our efforts accordingly.
A stat not often reported by the media is that our peak in deaths took place ten days ago, on April 14. We’ve had a total of 218 deaths, 10 in the past day, and our rate is decreasing.
This seems to say we’re at a lesser risk than even the potential loss of 7,700. Does it mean we’re looking at losses closer to 400 or 500?
This is probably the reason Governor Mike Parson’s is allowing his stay-at-home order to expire on May 3, and some local governments are following suit. Cole County, where I live, is expiring on April 24. The City of Springfield and Greene, Cass, Clay, and Franklin Counties are allowing their orders to expire on May 3 as well.
Granted, we’ll likely see an adjustment in the peak of cases and deaths by COVID-19. When we start returning to a more “normal” lifestyle, it will spread a little faster.
We’ll also need to be aware of an increased threat come winter.
But recall, we cannot stop the spread, we can only slow it. Unless you know you’ve had the Coronavirus and have recovered, having the antibodies to protect from further infection, it is probably best if you voluntarily continue the practice of social distancing and wearing a mask, until you know otherwise.
There is a lot we don’t know about this disease and its potential impact. Just because stay-at-home orders are lifted doesn’t mean we still don’t have a problem, and it is incumbent of all of us to practice personal responsibility.
We’re blessed to live in America, where our freedom, wealth, and prosperity allow us to live long and fulfilling lives.
And it’s painful when we lose those close to us, regardless of the reason. But we’re all mortal. At some point, my Lord will call me home. It’s the reality of life.
Keep in mind that though we cannot stop the spread, though we will lose more to this horrible disease, we can minimize its impact while also living our lives.
Humans have faced worse attempts by Mother Nature to end our existence, and here we are, thriving and prepared to meet her challenges.
This will be no different.
Stay safe and be responsible.