Tuesday, March 31, 2020

We just don't know

It’s worth a quick note to point out that we no longer have any real idea of how deadly the coronavirus pandemic is going to be in the US. We’ve long since passed the point where the key to understanding the likely spread of the pandemic was a better understanding of the virus itself. What matters are the countermeasures we put in place to stop its transmission routes.

Somebody should stop me if I’m wrong here, but we’re in terra incognita. We’ve never had a widespread pandemic where we’ve put in place strict and widespread countermeasures, and that means we’re just guessing at how effective they are. 

The guess of an epidemiologist might be better than the guess of a blogger, but it’s still just a guess. We simply have no experience to draw on...

This is why you see estimates ranging wildly from 80,000 deaths to half a million. These estimates all depend on which countermeasures you think we’ll adopt; how well they’ll work; how long we’ll keep them in place; and how seriously people will take them. 

Unfortunately, even the smartest epidemiologist in the world has a limited insight into things like that. So we just don’t know.

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