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March 22, 2020 11:32 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

New post: Created March 23rd 2020, HB Dreis

COVID-19: What we need are TESTS, TESTS, masses of TESTS!

The growth rate in the US from Saturday Feb 21st to Wednesday 25th was 33%, 30%, 25%, 25% -> Worldometers

Even if this looks like a slow down (we hope it is), the rate is tremendous high.

To illustrate what a sustaining daily growth rate of this levels means, here are projections for the situation in 2 weeks.

Number of cases on April 8th depending on growth rate:

• Daily growth rate 10%: 258,000 cases

• Daily growth rate 20%: 873,000 cases

• Daily growth rate 30%: 2,677,000 cases (likely, based on current growth rate)

• Daily growth rate 35%: 4,500,000 cases (possible, based on current growth rate)

Here we see unfortunately the nature of exponential growth and what will happen if the growth rate keeps its pace. It also makes immediately clear why avoiding contact is the best and only option which exists without a vaccine. So, reducing social contacts makes sense, as it will inevitably reduce the growth rate even if we cannot predict how much. In the long run a vaccine is of course the best we can hope for.

But there is another factor. We also have to protect our economy. Not only to keep the standards of living we are used to but also to protect life.

As the date of availability of a vaccine or other working medical treatment is right now mostly unpredictable, we have to think beyond vaccines and about options to normalize the economical processes much earlier.

One way to achieve this in safe way is: TESTS, TESTS, masses of TESTS! – instandly (in minutes), everywhere and for free

The likelihood of the availability of a fast and reliable test which can be provided in masses soon is higher than that of a vaccine. But the positive impact of mass tests could be a total game changer.

With mass test capabilities we can much better isolate ourselves if we test positive or continue with our daily lives if we test negative. And we could do those tests every day or as many times as required.

Companies could screen employees basically at the doorstep and airports can screen passengers before going through security. We could almost return to normal with easy tests and much earlier than it’s thinkable now.

Such “public” tests can also easily be done entirely anonymous by creating a non-personal ID when dropping a sample. Because the testing will take most likely some minutes, the ID will have three states; not yet processed, positive or negative. A scannable tag is issued to everyone who gave a sample and a display system is showing the results. Those who are tested positive simply go home and isolate themselves. To be on the safe side, each tag gets also scanned when entering a building to double check the result.

At the end of this post a few numbers which give some hope, and which were published on March 5th by Timothy W Russell et al. from the Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases, Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.

The numbers were computed from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. From the 3,711 passengers and crew members onboard 3,063 were C-reactive protein (CRP) tested. This represents a test coverage of 82% and thus the best coverage ever in a contained group of people since the COVID-19 outbreak. In this respect the numbers of the Diamond Princess provide the best foundation for infection and mortality ratio calculations which currently exist.

For the Diamond Princess the infection rate was only 19%, the percentage of positive tested persons who had no symptoms was almost 50% and the overall mortality rate at an average age of 58 years was 0.5%. For comparison the flu mortality rate is around 0.2%.

If the numbers of the Diamond Princess turn out to be applicable to the outbreaks at land, COVID-19 is still worse because deadlier than the flu, but not by a factor of 10 anymore but by a factor 2.5. Let’s hope.

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