CoronaVirus…What Should You Do?

With everything that’s happening about the Coronavirus, it might be very hard to make a decision of what to do today. Should you wait for more information? Do something today? What?

The US administration’s ban on European travel is good: It has probably bought us a few hours, maybe a day or two. But not more. It is not enough. It’s containment when what’s needed is mitigation.

Once there are hundreds or thousands of cases growing in the population, preventing more from coming, tracking the existing ones and isolating their contacts isn’t enough anymore. The next level is mitigation.


Mitigation requires heavy social distancing. People need to stop hanging out to drop the transmission rate (R), from the R=~2–3 that the virus follows without measures, to below 1, so that it eventually dies out.

These measures require closing companies, shops, mass transit, schools, enforcing lockdowns… The worse your situation, the worse the social distancing. The earlier you impose heavy measures, the less time you need to keep them, the easier it is to identify brewing cases, and the fewer people get infected.

This is what Wuhan had to do. This is what Italy was forced to accept. Because when the virus is rampant, the only measure is to lock down all the infected areas to stop spreading it at once.

With thousands of official cases — and tens of thousands of true ones — this is what countries like Iran, France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland or the US need to do.

But they’re not doing it.

Some business are working from home, which is fantastic.
Some mass events are being stopped.
Some affected areas are in quarantining themselves.

All these measures will slow down the virus. They will lower the transmission rate from 2.5 to 2.2, maybe 2. But they aren’t enough to get us below 1 for a sustained period of time to stop the epidemic. And if we can’t do that, we need to get it as close to 1 for as long as possible, to flatten the curve.

So the question becomes: What are the tradeoffs we could be making to lower the R? This is the menu that Italy has put in front of all of us:

  • Nobody can enter or exit lockdown areas, unless there are proven family or work reasons.
  • Movement inside the areas is to be avoided, unless they are justified for urgent personal or work reasons and can’t be postponed.
  • People with symptoms (respiratory infection and fever) are “highly recommended” to remain home.
  • Standard time off for healthcare workers is suspended
  • Closure of all educational establishments (schools, universities…), gyms, museums, ski stations, cultural and social centers, swimming pools, and theaters.
  • Bars and restaurants have limited opening times from 6am to 6pm, with at least one meter (~3 feet) distance between people.
  • All pubs and clubs must close.
  • All commercial activity must keep a distance of one meter between customers. Those that can’t make it happen must close. Temples can remain open as long as they can guarantee this distance.
  • Family and friends hospital visits are limited
  • Work meetings must be postponed. Work from home must be encouraged.
  • All sports events and competitions, public or private, are canceled. Important events can be held under closed doors.

Then two days later, they addedNo, in fact, you need to close all businesses that aren’t crucial. So now we’re closing all commercial activities, offices, cafes and shops. Only transportation, pharmacies, groceries will remain open.”

One approach is to gradually increase measures. Unfortunately, that gives precious time for the virus to spread. If you want to be safe, do it Wuhan style. People might complain now, but they’ll thank you later.

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