Saturday, March 28, 2020

2740 : Does isolation or social distancing work?

I have been investigating, as a scientist would - trying to learn for myself the core and the truth around all the hoopla surrounding the virus. I don't mean to be an expert, think of me as a novice, but the scientific learner. I am bringing the some rigor that I bring to my Zen.

Does isolation or social distancing work?
I am no expert, but based on all that  I have read (I rely on NYTimes, The Atlantic, Guardian, BBC Science News, Science, Washington Post)- yes, it does to seem, but more so in flattening the curve. Almost delaying the onslaught.

Let me take an example - if we were going to get 3million critical infected patients...then the scenario could be

  • Total critical patients 3MM
  • Of which we expect to save 50% if we had enough health care for all
  • Which means we expect 1.5MM to die and 1.5MM to survive (if we had health care for all 3MM)

If all these 3MM patients came in, in about 3 days and we have health infrastructure for only 0.5MM people, then we would have
  • 2.5MM dying due to lack of health care and another 0.25MM due to probability
  • Total deaths 2.75MM
If these 3MM came spread over 3 months, with a health infra of 0.5MM at a given time,
  • We would have 1.5MM die due to lack of health care
  • 0.75MM due to probablity
  • That means 2.25MM deaths
In summary, isolation and slowing down are great if you have health infra to deal with patients and you are essentially flattening as a mechanism to control the eventual flow - and hence potentially save many more lives. On the other hand, if you don't have health infra, then all bets are off.

Do N95 masks work?
Again, I am not an expert, but a virus is about 10^-6 to 10^-8 (in size), that's about 10-1000 times smaller than N95 pores. A believer says, that an N95 blocks or stops about 80% of virus from the air. The cynic in me is worried about the inexact fitment of the mask. The gaps around your face are enough for you to ingest a good billion viruses. 

So overall N95 does slow down the virus, but that's if you can find the perfect fitment. Almost airtight around your mouth and nose.

Does touching an elevator switch pass me the virus?
Of course it does. But not only that, if you are in an elevator that is infected, just breathing the air risks you. When an infected person exahles, he exhales a lot of particles with moisture and possibly some virus. The virus is not heavy enough to settle down quickly. Remember this is 1000-100000 times lighter than a gram.

In summary, a good chance that you sit in a car/ or an elevator which earlier had an infected patient, you shall be infected too.

Does food or other surfaces risk carrying the virus ?
Yes of course. Food via deliveroo or swiggy of course carries the risk of transmitting the virus. Same for common surfaces like toilet seats. 

So in summary, not ordering food or not sharing at all - will increase some probability of your safety. But no means NO....which means no vegetables from outside too. And don't tell me, I build vegetables, because vegetables don't jump into the cooking pot. You have to handle them that much touch is enough. And NO meat too.

Will it only infect me via ears, nose, mouth or eyes?
I believe the science around this is sketchy. Yes easier to infect via an orifice, but I believe (caveat science is sketchy) you can get infected via skin too.

So as long as you have contact with anything organic (or surfaces that can harbor organic), you run the risk of infection.

Will I suffer?
In all probability if you are fit, have enough sunlight....chances are low down to single digit percentages. Most might show no symptoms too.

Will I die?
Of course some will die.....but that will be less than 0.5%. My (limited) scientific estimate is about 1 per thousand infections, in steady state shall die.
Thats almost same as flu. Same as malaria. 
Vehicle accidents in India kill more than 10000+ every day. We lost about 1000 people to hunger and malnutrition possibly. 

Hopefully that puts in context.

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