Fascinating research popped up on a preprint server last week. New work from scientists who earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic made big discoveries.
I want to talk about this research. Because while you might think Covid-19 scientific research a strange topic for a small business blog? It’s really not.
What researchers Alex Washburne, Justin Silverman, Jose Lourenco and Nathaniel Hupert have done? They’ve identified a rule of thumb that suggests when Covid-19 cases peak and then decline.
That should help you plan. But let’s talk about the research first.
The Natural Epidemic Endpoint
If you like science, you want to read the paper (see link at end of this post). The math gets pretty dense. But the charts the paper includes? Many readers will find them understandable—and extremely useful.
And what they show? Through the time period the scientists examined, the Covid-19 epidemic in an area peaked when the fatalities hit the grim milestone of one in a thousand.
For example, when the United States Covid-19 fatalities rose to 330,000—that’s the one in a thousand threshold—these scientists’ work suggests the epidemic probably peaked.
Two notes about this. First, if you look at any of the graphs that plot Covid-19 cases in the US, cases did peak at one fatality per thousand.
Second, the researchers’ work is not them simply “looking into the rearview mirror.”
This weird coincidence. I happened to exchange emails with Alex Washburne over Christmas 2020. And he shared then that their research suggested Covid-19 cases were peaking or had already peaked in many areas.
In comparison, at that time, other scientists like Michael Osterholm of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, were suggesting the opposite. (From Osterholm’s podcast at same time, “terrible trajectory continues!…)
The Actionable Planning Insight
You want to read the paper probably. And pay attention to the charts since those are easiest for nonscientists to process.
But here’s the planning insight you can glean from this research.
While covid-19 cases peaking and then collapsing doesn’t mean everything instantly gets better?
That peak and collapse signal the point at which you need to plan how to return to normal operations.
You won’t know the exact when.
For that, you need to wait until state and local public health officials come to the same conclusion and “unlock” your state or county.
You may also need customers, clients, and employees to emerge from their hibernation.
Finally, uncertainty still exists as the world moves forward.
But at the point cases peak and then collapse? You want to be getting ready.
And this last comment? In many areas, as hinted above, Covid-19 cases may have already peaked and collapsed.
A current draft of the research paper from Washburne, Silverman, Lourenco and Hupert appears here: Analysis and visualization of epidemics on the timescale of burden: derivation and application of Epidemic Resistance Lines (ERLs) to COVID-19 outbreaks in the US
Silverman, Hupert and Washburne’s earlier paper that spotted way more Covid-19 infections were occurring than case statistics suggested appears here and is interesting: Using influenza surveillance networks to estimate state-specific prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in the United States. (This paper was widely covered in the press.)
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