Whether you’re a mayor, a CEO, or a bride-to-be, you have probably noticed there is little practical guidance available to inform the tough decisions coming your way in the upcoming days/weeks/months. Should I travel? Cancel a large meeting, sports event, or wedding? There is a lot of confusing and misleading information on the internet. You don’t want to overreact. But you also don’t want your event to be remembered as the time everyone got sick.
Each week, as the epidemic unfolds, I will try to distill the information available and how you should reasonably act on it.
Also, COVID is not a hurricane. You can’t change the course of a hurricane. But you can absolutely change the course of an epidemic. A swift, strong, coordinated public health response can beat COVID before it takes off in a community. But the bug is so transmissible, the trick is that you have to act before it’s a visible problem. If you wait until it’s a problem, it’s too late. That is why everyone hates public health. Because every time we do our job and avert a disaster, there’s no champagne. There’s just a bunch of angry guys pissed about the government coming in and making a tizzy out of nothing.
Finally, a disclaimer: scientists are trained to meticulously gather data until the evidence is overwhelming. Up until that point, they talk only about uncertainty. That can seem unhelpful during a life-and-death pandemic when people have to make daily decisions based on the evidence we have. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own, drawn from 15 years studying respiratory viruses (3 getting my PhD). I’ve published >70 peer-reviewed scientific studies. But this is a new virus no one has ever seen before. There is not a person on the planet who could claim to be an authority on it.