Back to Normal?

Illinois, and the majority of other states, are under mandatory “Stay at Home” or “Shelter in Place” orders. Here in Illinois the order is (currently) in place until the end of April. What happens then is anyones guess.

The big question is …

When will life return to normal?

– Everyone

I have a theory that’s not going to be very popular … and probably be viewed as cycnical.

In a nutshell: This IS the new “Normal”!

First and foremost: I am NOT a doctor, epidemiologist, or public health expert. The following is just my personal opinion.

I don’t think the stay at home orders can be rescinded until there is a vaccine for COVID-19. Everything I’ve read indicates that a vaccine is at least a year away because it has to be created, reviewed, tested, and approved.

Currently the stay at home order is in place to keep people from infecting other people, ‘flattening the curve’ by reducing the impact on the healthcare system (such as it is). By all accounts, it appears to be helping mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak.

But what happens when the stay at home orders are rescinded … when people are allowed to go out and be near other people again? Those who are are infected, but undiagnosed, will simply start spreading the infection again. Since COVID-19 has such a long incubation period without any outward signs of infection, the virus will just start spreading again … and put the healthcare system back under pressure.

In my opinion, the stay at home orders cannot be rescinded until there is a fully tested vaccine that has been given to the majority of the population. Only then will we be able to be sure that nobody can spread the virus. There will probably be a (hopefully) small subset of the population that cannot be given the vaccine … but they should be covered by herd immunity. There will also be the anti-vaxers (aka pro-deathers) that refuse the vaccine because … well, just because (they are idiots).

Obviously this is going to be a major impact on the worlds economies … it already is. If we have to stay in this mode for a really long time, there are going to be a lot of businesses that can’t recover at all.

Some are going to call me cynical … and I don’t argue that (cynics are never disappointed and sometimes pleasantly surprised).

I prefer to think of myself as a realist … or a pragmatist. Maybe it’s because I’m a programmer … always planning for the worst.

Now … since I’m not a epidemiologist … I am fully willing to accept that my hypothesis is completely wrong. If you know better, please educate me in the comments below.

9 thoughts on “Back to Normal?

  1. Steve

    I’m going to counter with the antibody testing. If there is an immunity period, that will allow a significant number of people to break quarantine.

    That would help quite a bit until there was a vaccine.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Antibody tests will only help identify those who have had the virus and are, theoretically, immune to reinfection. If someone hasn’t been infected, and gets infected, they are now spreading the virus without knowing it. Are you proposing that everyone be tested, on a daily basis, to determine if they are carriers and/or immune and only those people are allowed outside?

      Reply
          1. Lynn

            Also, the length of immunity is unknown – maybe a week, maybe a month, maybe a year – the test only proves that moment in time you have an antibody – and antibody is not immune – you can still be a carrier and pass it on – I am not saying it isn’t worth looking into, but I do think it is “jumping the gun” to put people back out there is they have the antibodies

        1. Dave H

          Antibody testing is absolutely the ticket out of quarantine, but to punch that ticket we need three things:

          1- ubiquity. It has to be feasible to test pretty much everyone at the drop of a hat. Early tests require blood draw and won’t scale well. Pinprick tests with quick results are under development.

          2-reliability: The quick tests are so far giving to many false positives (`10%) to be useful for containment. Handy for epidemiology, but not the ticket out of quarantine… yet.

          3-immunity: We do need to have a solid idea how long the antibodies last. This far I’m aware of only one bad news study on this point, released last week ish, based on a thousand German recovered patients, and gives the unhappy result that nearly a third had low or undetectable antibody levels. (Using the highly reliable blood draw tests)
          …..
          These are all “par for the course”, though. Tests will get better, and it will be the ticket out eventually.

          Reply
        2. Steve

          The theories (which are just theories) I read are expecting that the blood antibody levels directly correlate to how severe the infection was.
          I cannot support an administration that refuses to acknowledge that we live in one world, and pandemics are everyone’s problems. I will live to have my vote count in November, antibodies or not.

          Reply
  2. Jim

    Also, the length of immunity is unknown – maybe a week, maybe a month, maybe a year – the test only proves that moment in time you have an antibody – and antibody is not immune – you can still be a carrier and pass it on – I am not saying it isn’t worth looking into, but I do think it is “jumping the gun” to put people back out there is they have the antibodies

    Reply
  3. Mike

    Here’s another ry of sunshine…Don’t forget the strains of SARS2 are fracturing. No guarantee that antibodies of one will protect against another.

    Reply

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