The number reported infected is of little relevance

I am amazed at the shallowness and downright stupidity of some of the headlines hyping the number of people infected in any country. Countries are following widely divergent testing policies. Apart from for celebrities looking for publicity, testing is only carried out for those showing some symptoms or who are known to have been, or are at risk of of being, exposed. The number being reported as infected says very little beyond the boundaries of the testing policy. Comparing numbers from countries implementing different testing policies is just dumb.

Around half a million positive tests have been reported around the globe. That only reflects the number of tests carried out on varying population groups.  Probably ten or twenty times that number have actually been mildly infected (5 – 10 million). The number reported infected only says how many tested positive of those few who were tested.

The only statistics that are really relevant are:

  • how many have been hospitalized,
  • how many are in intensive care, and
  • how many have died.

It is desirable that everybody be mildly infected to develop a mass immunity. It is desirable that the vulnerable not be infected at all, until a vaccine is available. Any country’s strategy has to be a balance between maximizing the number to be mildly infected (such as with a vaccine) and minimizing the number severely affected. The objective currently should be to prevent infection, in general, and especially to prevent infections among those likely to suffer severe effects. That should mean ensuring social distance for those with other underlying conditions (of any age). Of course, other exacerbating conditions are more likely among the older population. General, draconian lock-downs are not sustainable for very long. The conventional wisdom seems to be that about 3 weeks may be sustainable. The purpose of any such restrictions can only be to win some time.

It will take a year or more for a vaccine. It makes more sense to follow sustainable rules of social distancing for the most vulnerable for the next 3 – 6 months and to allow the general population to return to normal. If the most vulnerable are protected then it makes sense for most of the population to be mildly affected, recover and carry on.


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