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Read this NOW

Everyone should read this article NOW. It is long and contains lots of numbers and graphs, but it explains everything well, every step of the way.

If you want the short version, it is that we must reduce the transmission of the coronavirus, and the best way to do that is through social distancing, which means shutting down any place where people gather, and putting at least a meter (and preferably 2) between you and any other people. Or even just staying home. Now.

I cannot stress enough that these measures must be taken now. Every day that we delay taking measures will increase the number of cases of COVID-19 by a whopping 40%.

That’s right. 40% every day. That is how exponential growth works. For 40% growth per day, in just a week there are 10 times as many cases, two weeks means 100 times.

And when there are too many cases, the health system becomes overwhelmed and people die.

This is all based on the best numbers we have now, and you can look at the numbers and helpful graphs yourself.

And don’t panic. It is very reassuring to know that there is something straightforward that all of us can do, which we know will work.

If you think you can’t take measures now, know that if you don’t do it now, you will do it later, when it will be much worse. Do it now.


Please forward this link to everyone you know.

UPDATE: Washington Post has a “coronavirus simulator” which shows (simplified) simulations of COVID-19 spreading under different conditions, including with nothing done (very bad), closing borders in a forced quarantine (works a little, but not very well, and causes lots of problems), social distancing (works much better, as that other article predicted, and how well it works increases as more of the population practices safe social interactions. The percentage of people who practice social distancing can be improved by doing things like closing businesses and other places where people tend to interact closely.



  1. notycoon22 wrote:

    This is fairly current and regularly updated. It is reporting confirmed cases, though, and, per the article, that is probably just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in areas with inadequate testing like the US.

    Sunday, March 15, 2020 at 10:09 am | Permalink
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    But you should also read this:

    Sunday, March 15, 2020 at 4:30 pm | Permalink
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    And also read this:

    You won’t see this on CNN

    Sunday, March 15, 2020 at 4:49 pm | Permalink
  4. EemKam wrote:

    To the poster sharing the Fox News link: What’s your point? Are you suggesting, that one anecdotal account of a mild is somehow counter to the statistics and mathematical trends cited in the Medium post?

    Also, you will see it on CNN, if you look:

    Sunday, March 15, 2020 at 6:41 pm | Permalink
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    No. What I’m saying is there have been many anecdotal accounts from almost no symptoms thru moderate, that by far outweigh the very few cases of severe symptoms. Yes, we should take precautions to protect those with higher risk, but over all corona, has thus far been much less an issue as the regular old flu.
    Relax, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Because, this to shall pass.
    And lastly, individuals have the most responsibility to quarantine themselves if they’ve travelled to places where there are higher concentrations, and or if they believe they have symptoms.
    The first article I posted from the MIT PHD should explain. If you want govt statistics showing you that corona is not as lethal as the current hysterical media frenzy portrays and can provide. But, you have already likely seen those numbers.

    Monday, March 16, 2020 at 7:57 am | Permalink
  6. Iron Knee wrote:

    Well, of course there are lots of anecdotal accounts of mild effects of the corornavirus. That is the nature of disease. So far, the worst mortality rate seen is 5%, which means that “only” 5% of people who have it will die. A study in China showed that 80% of people will only be mildly sick and can recover at home.

    But the whole point of that article (did you even read it?) is that even if you have mild symptoms, you can pass the disease on to others, in fact many others since you might not have symptoms and even know if you have it. That is why everyone needs to take this seriously and immediately do what is necessary to reduce transmission of the disease.

    As for “this too shall pass”. Yes, the Spanish Flu eventually passed. It had a fatality rate of 2.5% but managed to kill between 20 to 50 million people. Even the Black Plague eventually passed after killing between 30% to 60% of the population of Europe.

    Read the article. It is not enough to self quarantine if you have symptoms, have travelled, or even if you are high risk. Saying things like that are wrong. Dead wrong.

    I am not panicking. There are straightforward things we can all do that will make things better. And if we do them, then surely “this too shall pass”.

    Monday, March 16, 2020 at 9:57 am | Permalink
  7. Notycoon22 wrote:

    Anon – I read your posted article plus the one cited within it. At least to me, there is no real new information in either that hasn’t been widely available already in the media. I’m a little tired of hearing all too many people scream that the media isn’t covering one aspect or another of one story after another (I’m speaking in general terms here), information that I’m usually fully aware of, that an article that points to a conspiracy to keep the populace ignorant of important facts loses some credibility from the get-go. Hence, it troubles me that the gentleman that wrote your cited article is a dark state conspiracy believer. This makes him suspect from the get go – at least to me.

    Monday, March 16, 2020 at 11:55 am | Permalink
  8. dave TN wrote:

    In the Narcissistic society of Faux News, it’s all about me, me, me. Actually caring about others is not of much concern, unless it’s the almighty market. The concept that neglect in preventing the spread could actually reach someone you care for doesn’t seem to sink in. There are many elderly people in the crosshairs of this virus if its speead is not contained.
    From a religious perspective, honor thy mother and father.

    Monday, March 16, 2020 at 11:58 am | Permalink
  9. Anonymous wrote:

    I don’t disagree that we need to protect our vulnerable populations. I even agree with trying to stem the spread, but not indefinitely. They’ll be too many secondary and tertiary effects not considered In the original problem solving phase.
    The truth is this virus is not too different then regular old flu. But we don’t react to flu like we have corona.
    The last complete year for CDC data on the flu in the US was 2018-2019. There were 35 mill cases, resulting in 16 mill Dr vista, 490,000 hospitalizations and 34,000 deaths.

    We didn’t over-react then, why are we now? The additional fear, anxiety and depression of many in the population will have effects. It’s well known that those symptoms degrade immune systems for that group, actually making them more susceptible to viruses and harsher symptoms.

    That’s all I’m trying to say.

    Monday, March 16, 2020 at 1:20 pm | Permalink
  10. eemkam wrote:


    You ignore or are ignorant of facts comparing this to the flu. We have vaccines and treatments for the flu. We have none for this virus, at least not yet. As the stats the original post note, death rates are likely 1-5%. If we use your flu comparison and we have 35 million cases, that’s 350k to 1.7 million deaths. However, without measures to slow it, the total number of cases and thus deaths will be much higher. Why can you not see this?

    By the way, your link to the supposed proof of this all being a hoax by governments cites no evidence whatsoever and diverts to a discussion of the value of immune health and vitamins. Total clickbait

    Monday, March 16, 2020 at 2:05 pm | Permalink
  11. Iron Knee wrote:

    Anon, just read (and understand) the article I posted. Until you do, please don’t post comments about it.

    And the coronavirus is NOT just like the flu. In addition to what EEMKAM says, the mortality rate for flu is 0.1%, for COVID-19 it is between 1% – 5%. Also, COVID-19 is more likely to require more serious treatment than the flu, such as the use of ventilators, which are limited. And finally, as the article I posted shows, people can pass on the coronavirus more easily because they are contagious even without symptoms. These factors combine to make it easy for health care facilities to become overwhelmed, which causes the death rate to go up dramatically, not just for coronavirus cases, but for many other health problems.

    Monday, March 16, 2020 at 4:17 pm | Permalink
  12. eemkam wrote:

    I’ve traveled to over 50 countries through work and personal trips and while I greatly value those experiences, I’ve never wanted to live anywhere else. I am an American. I love our freedoms and individuality, but the thick-headedness of people like Anon displays the downside of those attributes. I’m glad we don’t have an autocratic regime like China or the social norms of South Korea, but those factors allowed them to relatively quickly gain control over the outbreak in their countries. I don’t believe its “over” there, but they are in much better control.

    We are predisposed to question authority, which has it merits. But I’m afraid that in this situation, combined with our President and a subset of our leaders and media downplaying this and blaming others for a hoax this is going to lead to a horrible outcome. There are other factors like our lack of preparedness and tepid response so far, but regardless, I’m really concerned.

    Wednesday, March 18, 2020 at 6:33 am | Permalink
  13. William wrote:

    This isn’t funny or ironic.

    I heard a story on public radio here in Oregon (where I live) on the expected surge in hospital patients, just went back and read it, then did some simple calculations. The results are VERY grim. Perhaps some of you have run these numbers yourself, or maybe I can hope that you find some glaring error in what I’ve done. I’d VERY much like for that to be the case.

    This is the story:
    Oregon’s Healthcare System Braces For The Coronavirus Surge

    Specific paragraphs of note:
    One study of 44,000 cases in China found that about 15% of diagnosed cases required hospitalization with 5% needing intensive care. If numbers in Oregon are similar, Oregon could see 11,250 patients who need to be hospitalized and 3,750 people could need intensive care.

    But Oregon hospitals only have 6,601 staffed beds statewide. And those beds aren’t vacant; other people without COVID-19 need them, too. According to data maintained by the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, in 2018 Oregon hospitals reported an average of around 64% for the yearly occupancy rate.

    OHA also says there are 688 ventilators in the state. Ventilators are necessary for treating patients with severe respiratory illnesses.

    Now to some math. The above number of hospitalizations seems really low. Dividing 11,250 patients by 15% gives 75000 cases total in Oregon. Wikipedia says that Oregon had a population of 4.4 million in 2018. Dividing 75000 by 4.4 million gives an infection rate of only 1.7%. That seems remarkably optimistic. If we we hit the 15% hospitalization rate from China, to stay below the total number of hospital beds, we’d need to stay below about half that, or 0.85% infection.

    It seems to me that this would require an extreme lock down.

    To stay below, say, only half of that number, to allow for heart attacks, strokes, accidents, and other emergencies that might need hospital beds, we’d need to stay below an 0.425% infection rate.

    Obviously this figure is far below the number needed for “herd immunity.” Let’s work some more with numbers. Assume than an infection runs its course in exactly two weeks. If we could somehow get exactly 0.5% of Oregon infected every two weeks, and needed to hit 80% to get herd immunity, we’d need 160 rounds of two weeks each, or 320 weeks (6 years, 8 weeks). We hope to get a vaccine in a year or 18 months. During that time, of course, we’d see 0.5% of the population infected (22,000), 15% of them land in the hospital (3300), and 1/3 of them into the ICU (1100). One of the articles above says that Oregon has 688 ventilators, so only about 60% of the ICU patients could get one. Maybe we’re lucky, and they only need the vent for half the time, as they get weaned off of it.

    So, if we can keep the infection rate down to an infinitesimal figure for the entire time needed to get a vaccine, however long that might be, and get lucky in the ICUs, we might not crash the health care system. The Chinese plan to build a new hospital in two weeks doesn’t sound as unreasonable. How quickly can we build capacity? The idea of using an unused jail starts to look rather attractive, doesn’t it?

    Even now, while we’re still in early days, we have deaths from Covid-19. What will thing look like if (when) the medical system gets overwhelmed?

    Surprisingly, Oregon has the lowest number of hospital beds per-capita of any US state, only 1.6 per thousand residents. “Normal” occupancy is 64%. South Dakota and Mississippi have the largest numbers, per capita, but I don’t know their occupancy rates. The virus doesn’t respect national or state borders, though travel across national borders can be shut down.

    I expect a very patchy response, with some areas hit hard, with hospitals overwhelmed. We can hope to expand health care capacity, but it may be easiest to build hospitals or even to set up triage tents, than to find or train more doctors or nurses.

    We’d better hope that the mutation rate for this virus is very low, that it doesn’t return like the seasonal flu. We do know that researchers are tracking the mutations. It seems to get a single nucleide change about every other infection, about monthly. I don’t know how this compares to the flu. It seems like we need a very good, broad-spectrum vaccine.

    I may need to go watch some mindless videos or find a good book to take my mind off of these numbers.


    P. S. I don’t have any connection to the health care system, nor medical training. I have a degree in Electrical Engineering, and usually find turning over numbers satisfying. These numbers, however, are much more alarming than satisfying.

    Wednesday, March 18, 2020 at 10:28 am | Permalink
  14. eemkam wrote:

    William, it won’t make you feel any better, but the NYT daily podcast yesterday was interviewing a doc from Italy, where the implications of the math you shared was explained in grim detail. They are making daily decisions about who gets care and who doesn’t, and people are dying alone in isolation wards as the system is past the max and family can’t be allowed in…exacerbated by lack of protective gear. Glad to see our gov’t using it’s powers to goose production. Better late that never.

    Wednesday, March 18, 2020 at 11:39 am | Permalink
  15. William wrote:

    An updated and revised post on

    Friday, March 20, 2020 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

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  1. Political Irony › Read this NOW – UPDATE on Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 10:52 am

    […] same person who authored the Medium article featured in my original “Read this NOW” post has come out with an update, and this time he had lots of help. […]