Once a country breaches a certain threshold, COVID-19 confirmed cases double every 3 days – the US is one of those countries.
On average it takes 10 days for someone to seek medical care from the time they were infected. That 10 day lag period is why you’re seeing a substantial increase of cases in Italy, even after the nation wide lockdown.
Age group 20-29 has the highest rate of infection but one of the lowest rates of complications – they often don’t even know they have it. This makes them ideal super spreaders. While the older one is, the higher the likelihood of hospitalization and death.
Testing in the US is still very limited. With test kits being rationed to those who are very sick, have traveled overseas to affected areas, or have proven contact with someone who has the disease.
The greater the number of cases, the greater risk the medical system becomes overwhelmed to the point of care being rationed to those with the highest likelihood of survival. This has already happened in parts of Italy, and isn’t far off for the hardest hit parts of the US.
How bad is it going to be?
It has been 7 weeks since China put the country into quarantine, and life is far from normal. People entering the country are subject to a 14 day quarantine, everyone wears masks outside their homes, and people with hazmat suits are still a common sight. Offices and factories are slowly reopening after being inspected and approved on an individual basis. The government closely tracks it’s citizens and can put people back into a 14 day quarantine if they come in contact with a positive case or engage in too much risky behavior. Those who have returned to work are often working 80+ hour weeks. China is now operating at 71% of it’s typical output.
Q2 US GDP forecasts range from -8% to -15% with unemployment reaching 6-9%, before snapping back in the second half of the year.
JPMorgan predicts the Chinese economy will shrink 40% from Q1 and the Eurozone to shrink 22%.
How long will it last and how will this all end?
For the time being the best way to limit the spread of the disease is through social distancing, personal hygiene, wearing masks in public (when available), and self-quarantining.
Warmer weather and humidity during the summer only slows the spread of the disease, it doesn’t stop it, as evidenced by the spread in the southern hemisphere.
There are 4 longer term options that could bring the crisis to an end: catch and quarantine, drug treatment protocols, vaccine development, and herd immunity.
Catch the disease early and quarantine positive cases, along with those who came into contact with that person, has proven highly effective in South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong. The latter 2 avoided epidemics all together. This is coupled with heavy travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines for those traveling from certain countries.
Multiple drug trials are underway to create a treatment protocol for COVID-19. Using pre-appin approved drugs for a new purpose means they could pass regulatory approval by May and start hitting the markets soon thereafter. This could create an environment like the Flu treatment is today. Going to one’s doctor, getting tested, and being prescribed medication, with hospitalization only in rare cases.
Vaccine development would be an ideal solution, but is still 12-18 months away. Even with the accerated development cycle of skipping animal testing.
Herd immunity is predicted to kick in after 60% of a population becomes infected with COVID-19. Herd immunity is different from disease to disease and has yet to be verified if this strategy would work in the long run.