Updated Thoughts on COVID-19

Updated Thoughts on COVID-19

When is this over? - the elephant in the room.
I’m asking myself this question and have been looking for answers — so I can take the right actions.
There is no answer to this from the authorities. Of course not:  Ein Teil dieser Antworten würde die Bevölkerung verunsichern.
We won’t return to normal life at the end of April. Nope, also not at the end of May. As said, 2020 will be different.

Let’s take a look at the following simulation from Nicky Case. A wonderful visual overview of different scenarios:

I’m a fan of Scenario 4, as proposed by Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance - Tomas Pueyo - Medium, A Path to Victory over COVID-19 and highlighted in my recent thoughts:

  1. Suppress (up to 8 weeks — what we’re currently doing)
  2. Release (around 6 months)
  3. Cope (if all goes well 18 months)
  4. Win (Vaccines!)
  5. (Prepare for the next one 🙃)

Again, the current suppression is vital.

A team of researches of the Future of  Humanity Institute created some forecasting models. They help to get a grasp of the mitigation policies.

Medium-Term COVID-19 Forecast
Researchers from the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute have created country-specific predictions of the current and future spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic using GLEAMviz epidemic modeling software and a database of mitigation and control measures in effect around the world.

Play around with different R0 values, and therefore with different mitigation policies. Which one you wanna go for?

Everything is a trade-off. Sure, missing concerts for some weeks is fine.
Nonetheless a shutdown of the economy results in people suffering and dying. This weird fantasy construct (as most things are) has real-life implications.
(IMHO the economic recession might outweigh COVID-19 — in terms of people dying and suffering. If you’re interested in QALY: Coronavirus: how much is a life worth? - Ben Finn - Medium.
Of course the damage to the economy is worse because we picked the right policy — just keeping business as usual is far worse.)

So how are we doing?

Coronavirus Case Counts Are Meaningless*. Countries differ widely in their test capacity. Making estimates based on the case counts doesn't help.
Let’s see the testing capacities:

You might now be happy: your country is doing great - we’re all good.
Well, no. Unfortunately, it is a global world and we’re all in this together. Far worse than no Bali vacation this year.
You may also laugh at the US right now, blame Trump for all of this and say that they do deserve so.
I don’t. I want each country to tackle this problem as well as possible. We’re in the need of international collaboration. It’s a global world - we’re all in this together.
To get a take on the situation, check the deaths — that’s easier to count.

To put this into context: 925,000 people died in German in 2015 — that makes 2,500 per day. Always put numbers into relations. Hundreds of people dying within a single day sounds terrible, and it is, but relatively it is different.

Wait, when is this now over?

Depends. Implementing step 2) will differ for each country – this will tint our summer, and probably autumn.
Let's hope for scientific reasoning and international collaboration, so we can slowly let the young & healthy return back to work while we

  1. Isolate the vulnerable.
  2. Rigorous testing, then isolate the positive cases and all of their contacts. (This is why everyone is now trying to develop an app for that.)
  3. Create a new normal of hygiene and wearing masks.

This will last awhile.

Moving on

I guess now is the time to reflect on some choices. If you feel the urgent need to work on projects related to COVID-19 and stop everything else you’ve been doing, this might tell you something about your day-to-day job and what you actually care about.
I’m not saying the projects on COVID-19 aren’t important – but maybe they are not neglected, and all the other things you’ve been doing should still be important (if they ever were).
I guess the best thing you can do is to push certain policies and be a good example. Do a weekly update to keep your mind sane and focus on different things.
Otherwise 80,000 Hours has some great ideas about what to do:
If you want to help the world tackle COVID-19, what should you do? - 80,000 Hours

ps. Wear a mask.

pps. Dramatic picture, huh? I know someone who likes that.

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