How Should We Respond to the Coronavirus? | Nicholas Christaki on Making Sense with Sam Harris #190

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Key Takeaways

  • “It’s not just bad if you catch it and you’re over 70…there are healthy fit people getting killed by this virus” Sam Harris
  • Even if we’re all destined to contract the virus, social distancing is essential: The healthcare system is collapsing from an overflow of patients, if we can slow down the rate of infection, that will save countless lives
    • “The time for hugging people and shaking hands is over. You’re not being friendly by shaking someone’s hand, in fact, you’re being quite rude.” – Sam Harris
  • The coronavirus mortality rate estimates:
    • Age 0-30: 0.2%
    • Age 30-80: 1-2%
    • Age 80+: 20% 
  • The most optimistic estimate is that 1 million Americans will get infected and 35K will die from the coronavirus
    • One Harvard scientist estimates that 20-60% of Americans will be infected over the course a year–That means at least 60 million Americans will get infected and 300K will die
  • There will be multiple waves of infection, this is only the first–The later you contract the coronavirus the better
    • It gives doctors and scientists more time to research what drugs can help fight the virus and increases the chances of a vaccine being developed 

Intro

  • Nicholas Christaki (@NAChristakis) is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University, where he directs the Human Nature Lab and is the Co-Director of the Yale Institute for Network Science
  • Host:  Sam Harris (@SamHarrissOrg

Coronavirus Update

  • “It’s not just bad if you catch it and you’re over 70…there are healthy fit people getting killed by this virus” Sam Harris
  • Even if we’re all destined to contract the virus, social distancing is essential–The healthcare system is collapsing from an overflow of patients, if we can slow down the rate of infection, that will save countless lives
    • “The time for hugging people and shaking hands is over. You’re not being friendly by shaking someone’s hand, in fact, you’re being quite rude.” – Sam Harris
  • If you can work from home, you should work from home
    • Schools everywhere should move classes online
      • Avoid social gatherings and public transportation
  • The US is dealing with two problems: There’s no vaccine for the coronavirus and even if one is created, many citizens are anti-vax
  • The Trump administration cut the US Pandemic Response team in 2018 because they thought we didn’t need it
  • There are two main traits to evaluate a disease on: how transmissible it is and how deadly it is
    • SARs was deadly but wasn’t very transmissible
    • Coronavirus is moderately deadly and moderately transmissible which could make it a perfect storm
  • The travel industry is shutting down, as are many supply-chains and factories

Facts & Figures

  • The coronavirus mortality rate estimates:
    • Age 0-30: 0.2%
    • Age 30-80: 1-2%
    • Age 80+: 20% 
  • In 2018, around 80K people died from the seasonal flu
    • Around 4K people have died from the coronavirus worldwide so far
  • The most optimistic estimate is that 1 million Americans will get infected and 35K will die from the coronavirus
    • One Harvard scientist estimates that 20-60% of Americans will be infected over the course a year–That means 60 million Americans will get infected and 300K will die
  • If you stop 90% of flights on day 30 of a pandemic, you delay the peak in the epidemic in your country by 10-12 days
    • If you stop 99% of the flights, you delay the peak by 26 days
    • If you stop 99.9% of the flight, you delay it by 42 days

Coronavirus Timeline:

  • Jan. 11th: China announces first death from coronavirus
  • Jan. 21st: First confirmed case of virus in the US
  • Jan. 30th: WHO declared a global health emergency (only the 6th time in history)
  • Feb. 24th: Trump announces that the virus is under control
  • Feb. 26th: Trump says we probably won’t need to close down school
    • Trump’s exact words: “We have it so well under control, I mean we’ve really done a very good job”
  • Mar. 2nd: Trump says we’re going to have vaccines “relatively soon”
    • Nicholas says the most optimistic timeline for a vaccines is 12-18 months  

Sick Later > Sick Now

  • There will be multiple waves of infection, this is only the first–The later you can contract the coronavirus the better
    • It gives doctors and scientists more time to research what drugs can help fight the virus and increases the chances of a vaccine being developed 
    • We also need to slow down the rate of infection so that fewer people get sick all at once
      • There’s a shortage of hospital beds and medical staff
      • “Rushing to get sick now is sort of stupid” – Nicholas Christaki
  • We need to be proactive, not reactive, with closing down schools
    • Many studies show that closing down schools after someone has already been infected, it doesn’t delay the overall epidemic that much (~25% delay)
      • “The more rational policy is, as soon as someone gets sick in your community, shut the schools…if you jump the gun and shut it, you might radically improve the course of the epidemic.”Nicholas Christaki
        • In the 1918 influenza pandemic, St. Louis closed its schools earlier than Pittsburgh, and it had less than half the death rate of Pittsburgh 
  • It isn’t 100% clear how the virus jumped to humans, but it’s believed it originated in bats, then jumped to pangolins, then humans

Use Common Sense

  • Avoid large groups
  • Don’t touch your face
  • Avoid public transportation
  • Work from home if possible
  • Wash your hands several times a day
  • Keep a bit of distance between people
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