The United States needs to be on national five-week lockdown, as Yaneer Bar-Yam, an MIT-trained physicist and complexity scientist, makes the case in his USA Today op-ed. The purpose of the first two weeks, he explains, is for infected people to either recover or get help. His experience with pandemics and his logic are persuasive. Do read.
The reason we must do this widely is because we have no idea who has been infected. We would have a better idea if public health departments were to trace and track each case, gathering each person’s movements for the two weeks prior to diagnosis and then informing those exposed that they might have been exposed, to allow them to hunker down.
In Israel, the Ministry of Health investigates each and every case. It informs the public about exposures, even calling those exposed to let them know to self-quarantine. And now they even have an app (!) so that people can see if they’ve crossed paths with known cases. Taking histories and getting that info into people’s hands—this is how you slow down spread.
Are there any states tracing people’s movements and notifying those who may have been exposed? Any at all? I have not read of any doing that, and certainly have seen no evidence that Georgia is.
And so, if we are not tracking and tracking, then testing anyone possibly exposed makes sense.
But we cannot do that given the dire shortage of tests.
What is our next choice? Well, in the absence of tracing & tracking and in the face of a scarcity of tests, the only other choice is for everyone to just stay home. Though doctors from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and citizens alike have petitioned Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp to impose lockdown rules, he refuses, insisting it is up to localities to do this. So far, very few have.
Let’s see what this means in numbers. To date, 30 days since its first confirmed case, Israel has had 1071 cases and one death. Israel has been quick to trace and track, impose restrictions on movements, do what it could to contain the spread; this is because the government understood it had to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. Sunday saw new cases slowing, and with their rules only allowing Israelis to leave home for specific reasons, they expect to start seeing further improvement in about ten days.
In comparison, as of Sunday night, Georgia has already seen 620 confirmed cases and 25 deaths since the first case was confirmed March 3, only 13 days after the state’s first case was confirmed.
Where will we be in 17 days’ time, that is, Day 30, at the point where Israel had recorded 1071 cases and one death?
Well, this may be where we are in 21 days’ time, on Day 34: One website offers rough estimates, based on a five-day doubling time and a 1.3% death rate. Using today’s numbers, Georgia may be facing 11,400 cases and 460 deaths in three weeks. Of course, no one can see the future. But the present is scary enough.
How many hospital beds will be required? All of America has fewer than a million. And what about Georgia? Every day I look at the status update on the Georgia Department of Public Health’s website and while it does not give day over day data, I do see more and more counties change from white to green in the map, as they report their first cases. I’ve also checked out the Georgia Hospital Association’s map which shows the sheer number of counties without any hospitals. One doesn’t need to have a crystal ball to see the future…especially when we take into consideration the shortage of protective gear and ventilators even in existing hospitals.
If hospitals are telling staff to reuse disposable masks, then how can those who employ cooks, grocery store and pharmacy workers, utility and sanitation workers, inventory and warehouse workers, shippers as well as mail and package carriers protect their employees? Each of these people is risking his or her life – and if asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, may be spreading the virus.
The Federal government should call for a quarantine (and restrict all non-essential interstate travel). It won’t. By passing the buck to the governors, we citizens are now at the mercy of each governor’s whim. To date, Brian Kemp, too, prefers to pass the buck. And our state will pay.
Last week I wrestled with visiting my parents and ultimately decided not to go, not to risk picking up COVID-19 on the way and bringing it to them. This week, I would not have even thought twice. Please, no matter where you are, stay home. If you are from Georgia, please sign the petition asking Brian Kemp to be responsible. Until our leaders find the strength to understand they owe the citizens this, it is up to each of us to be responsible. Just stay home.