Why slowing the transmission rate matters

An epidemial modeling explains why it is hugely beneficial to slow the rate of viral transmission even if the entire population gets infected, based on the Chinese numbers:

Total population 327 million, with a single initiating infection. 12 day course of disease, initial R0 of 3.5 (as per the stats from China that Steve linked.) Assume 5{de336c7190f620554615b98f51c6a13b1cc922a472176e2638084251692035b3} of cases are critical, 2{de336c7190f620554615b98f51c6a13b1cc922a472176e2638084251692035b3} of those critical cases die with ICU care, 5{de336c7190f620554615b98f51c6a13b1cc922a472176e2638084251692035b3} with general hospital care, and 50{de336c7190f620554615b98f51c6a13b1cc922a472176e2638084251692035b3} with no care. 90,000 available ICU beds and 900,000 available hospital beds.

Run this model through to completion and it sweeps through the population in about a year, infecting most everyone (less about 9 million who escape), killing 5.4 million.

Now, suppose we impose infection controls on day 80, right about when there’s 1000 deaths from this thing. And then we vary how strong those controls are: from 0.35 (what the Chinese managed) up to nothing at all.

Here we see how the # of deaths varies with the strength of our controls. If we impose Chinese-style controls, we get away with only 5K deaths, or 1000-fold fewer than without the controls. But the inflection point isn’t just at 1.0. In particular if we can get the R0 below about 1.5 that gets us down under 500K, or a 10-fold reduction. At 1.0 we get down to about 50K.

And this is why it is best to leave the opinionating on these matters to those who are, at the very least, statistically numerate. Don’t be like the NBA idiot who, in his clueless effort to demonstrate his brave lack of concern over corona-chan, went out of his way to touch all of the media’s microphones and promptly contracted the virus.

It costs very little to alter your day-to-day life for a few weeks, so why take even a low risk of putting yourself through the experience, even if it is nothing more than a bad flu. If you don’t suck on the runny noses of strangers on the bus just to prove you’re not afraid of the flu, why would you feel any need to avoid taking a few simple steps to avoid altering your routine now?