A modeling study on the new coronavirus  warns that intermittent periods of social distancing may need to persist into 2022 in the United States to keep the surge of people severely sickened by Covid-19 from overwhelming the health care system.

The research, published Tuesday in the journal Science, looked at a range of scenarios for how the SARS-CoV-2 virus will spread over the next five years. Those scenarios included variables like whether people who are infected develop short-term immunity — less than a year — or longer-term protection. But, overall, the research concludes it is unlikely that life will return any time soon to the way it was before the virus’ emergence.

The researchers, from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, acknowledged the economic fallout from the response to the virus has been profound. And they stressed they were not advocating one course of action over another.

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“Our goal in modeling such policies is not to endorse them but to identify likely trajectories of the epidemic under alternative approaches,” they wrote. “We do not take a position on the advisability of these scenarios given the economic burden that sustained distancing may impose, but we note the potentially catastrophic burden on the healthcare system that is predicted if distancing is poorly effective and-or not sustained for long enough.”

The authors suggest a number of factors will play a major role in the path the disease will take over the coming years — if transmission subsides in summer and resurges in winter, if there is some immunity induced by infection and how long it lasts, and whether people get any cross-protective immunity from having been infected with related human coronaviruses that cause common colds.

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In terms of the latter, they suggest if infection with the human coronaviruses, HKU1 and OC43, gives some protection again SARS-CoV-2, it could appear that transmission of the new virus was tapering off. But a return within a few years would be expected, perhaps by 2024, they suggested. The two human coronaviruses induce only short-term immunity — less than a year — in infected people.

If SARS-CoV-2 triggers immunity of a similarly transient nature, annual wintertime waves of infection might be expected, they said. If the immunity lasts longer, the time between surges of cases might be a couple of years, or more.

And if immunity is permanent, the pandemic might burn itself out by about 2025, they said. The researchers suggested, though, that that scenario is unlikely.

The model predicts that a one-time social distancing effort of the type currently being employed in most parts of the country will not stop transmission of the virus. If treatments are developed that can prevent Covid-19 patients from progressing to severe disease or if a vaccine is developed, movement restrictions could be loosened without health care capacity being overwhelmed, the researchers said.

Likewise, increasing the capacity for intensive care beds could also allow a community to loosen its restrictions, as long as it could cope with the severe cases the increased spread would generate. That could speed progress towards herd immunity — the point where enough people have some immunity that transmission should drop off, they said. Without these extra tools, though, transmission will resurge once controls are loosened, the authors warned.

“So I think distancing interventions of some sort are going to have to continue, hopefully lightened and in conjunction with other interventions,” said Marc Lipsitch, a leading infectious diseases epidemiologist and senior author of the study.

Infectious diseases epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers said the modeling work will be useful for public health officials and disease experts trying to plan for the continued response to the virus.

“What this is saying is that SARS-CoV-2 will stay with us through 2022, that it’s not going to die down to nothing in the summer. So I think it’s helpful for thinking what interventions are sustainable and effective,” said Rivers, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “If we knew that we only had to make it through another two weeks, we might make different decisions than understanding that this is a threat that will be with us for many months,” she added.

While acknowledging that intermittent periods of distancing over several years “is obviously a very long time,’’ Lipsitch said loosened restrictions could come sooner if scientists discovered that a lot more people have been infected already and have some immunity. He and his co-authors stressed how critical it is to conduct long-term serology studies designed to map out human immune responses to the virus over time.

“On the other hand, there are some indications coming out at the moment that not every case of Covid-19 infection … generates a robust immune response, which would mean that the build up of herd immunity is slower than its anticipated here,” he added.

The study does not look at whether imposing social distancing only among certain high-risk groups — including older adults and those with serious underlying health problems — might keep the number of severe cases low enough that health systems would be able to handle them.

Another of the authors, Yonatan Grad, said tailoring restrictions to high-risk groups would be an important idea. But one would also need to factor in whether people who had been freed from social distancing restrictions would then interact with people in those restricted groups — something that might depend on the composition of individual households, he said.

Lipsitch acknowledged that delaying the development of herd immunity — effectively keeping large numbers of people susceptible to the virus by shielding them from infection — runs a risk of creating a larger wave of illness later, if controls are eased during a time when the virus transmits more easily, as it is expected to do during winter months. But delaying infections buys time, he said.

“Pushing bad things out into the future is something we want to do because we should know more about treatments, we may be closer to a vaccine,” he said. “So there is some benefit to delay, but it might be offset in the seasonal scenario where we push the peak into the high transmission time around the winter.”

  • Such articles are clearly reckless and irresponsible reporting. With developments each day, week , month , things can change in a heartbeat. Numbers show ( here in the US ) we are either at or on the downside of the curve right now on 4-16-20 (depending upon where one obtains data). I get it . It is because of the non pharmaceutic behavior that we are on the spread mitigating downtrend. By the “S” curve factor in any spread or pandemic, this will reduce in numbers substantially in the ensuing few months. This is so manifested clearly by the history of the outbreak other countries such as China and Italy. Furthermore, developments as we speak in new RX treatments that will and in all probability illuminate the need entirely
    for non pharmaceutic public spread mitigation measures. It is reasonable to say that this will all be behind people long before 2022. It is absurd to make such a prediction for 1 yer and a half to 2 years from now. The writer will have “egg on her face” for such article. Just watch. No media should make any prediction at all as it is too uncertain right now. Shut up and quit freaking out the public to these dreaded social behaviors that will be long gone by then.

  • I am concerned about social distancing while waiting line line, voting or shopping.

    I don’t want to wait in line in cold and rain, and I don’t want to stand on top of other people.

    I build a web app to allow shoppers to virtually get in line via a QR code at the store.

    Store admins can set the total number of shoppers allowed in the store and the rate new shoppers are allowed to enter when existing shoppers exit.

    Shoppers waiting in line will get a text message when it’s their turn.

    Here is a brochure/demo site to explain it better http://www.shopdistancing.com

  • THE CDC DROPPED THE BALL ON THIS DEADLY VIRUS AND LET IT SPREAD. CHRONIC PAIN PATIENTS AND VETERANS ARE SUFFERING IN UNBEARABLE PAIN BECAUSE THE CDC GUIDELINES TOOK PAIN MEDICATIONS AWAY FROM VETERANS AND CHRONIC PAIN PATIENTS CAUSING SUICIDE DEATHS BECAUSE WE CAN’T HANDLE THE PAIN. AND PUTTING GOOD DOCTORS IN PRISON LEAVING PAIN PATIENTS WITHOUT A DOCTOR AND THOUSAND AND THOUSANDS OF PAIN PATIENTS ARE BEING TORTURED TO DEATH BECAUSE OF THE DRUG ADDICTS ABUSE OF ILLEGAL DRUGS AND STEALING PRESCRIPTIONS. WE NEED HELP THIS IS KILLING US
    BECAUSE OF THE CDC WE HAVE A SHORTAGE OF PAIN MEDICATIONS THAT ARE DESPERATELY NEEDED FOR PAIN PATIENTS AND VETERANS AND THIS VIRUS. WHY ARE WE BEING LEFT OUT HERE TO SUFFER IN HORRIBLE PAIN UNTIL OUR DEATHS 💔😢😭
    THE DRUG ADDICTS GET NEW TREATMENT CENTERS OPENING UP ALL OVER AND THEY GET THE MEDICATIONS WHILE WE GET NO HELP AT ALL .
    PLEASE STANDUP FOR CHRONIC PAIN PATIENTS AND VETERANS WHO ARE SUFFERING FROM DENIED PAIN MEDICATIONS THAT MAKE LIFE BEARABLE AND POSSIBLE. I CAN’T TAKE THIS HORRIFIC PAIN ANYMORE NONE OF US CAN WE ARE LOSING PAIN PATIENTS TO SUICIDE EVERYDAY…💔😢😭💔

  • I have a question for scientists and doctors:
    At a website for tracking coronavirus statistics, I see that in California, yesterday’s reported new deaths, divided by the number of new cases, is .03, or 3 %.
    I see also that, taking all cases cumulatively, all since the begnning of the epidemic which have been confirmed by testing, the ratio of all known deaths to all known cases is also about .03.
    I had been thinking the known case fatality rate may be too low, because significant numbers of people just diagnosed by the test are not yet very sick, but some will get sick and die later, and the epidemic is still rapidly growing.

    But with the overall death rate the same as the daily death rate, it seems to me the epidemic is (perhaps only for a day ) stabilized, in California.

    It seems to me this would mean, not that the case fatality rate is truly 3%, but that, if NOTHING changes – including how the tests are given, including the treatments, the infection rates – nothing – then we will now have the same number of new cases and new deaths indefinitely.
    There could still be a huge number of untested people who were infected and are now immune – let’s hope so- so case fatality could be way too high – but there is no longer any reason to think it is too low due to people who just got diagnosed not yet being very sick yet.
    That would mean, if the numbers hold up, that the 3% is a maximum, woundn’t it?
    Stanford is doing a very large scale study antibody study in Silicon Valley to try to figure out how many people have been infected without knowing it, that is supposed to be resolving this, but is my theory on the statistics correct?

  • Would be nice if there was clarification if the research is published in a peer review journal – coming up with a model is one thing but seeing the limitation of the study and the methodology is also important.

    • According to the article, the study was published in Science, which is about as prestigious a peer-reviewed journal as it gets.

  • The author here Miss Helen Branswell here needs a lesson in US History, and a lesson in The Nature of Man. Plain and simple.

  • Millions could die from starvation and no income therefore 60000 seems like a very small number. 675000 died in this country during the Spanish Flu of 1918 and 100000 died in the flu epidemic of 1968 and we didn’t shut the economy down. Thirty plus percent unemployment rates can only be managed in a totalitarian country. We fought wars to preserve our freedom and Constitution. This is a coup and takeover run by the ChiComs Bill Gates and others and most of all ENABLED by a controlled media that is using the deaths of terminally ill people by the flu as human shields to enslave tens of millions of us. We need to preserve our economy and freedom and whatever deaths are caused by this flu we just have to live with. This is the way it has always been and the way it must be.

    • Totally agree. If we allow globalists and their pals free reign over our freedoms here…they will be gone. The people who write these articles may indeed have medical knowledge, but they damn sure don’t have knowledge of our history and what costs we had to take to obtain our freedom. Now is the most critical time where we have to REMIND people where we came from, and where we might be headed if we let our government and their global bosses take our freedoms in the name of false securities. Once gone, any freedoms will NEVER be returned. People are to “conditioned and compliant”..
      .and THAT is how globalism will spread country, after country, after country. The most important thing standing in their way right now in the US…is that they have to DISARM us first. But that won’t be to difficult when they will MAKE us cry for disarmament with their staged shootings and staged virus releases.

    • (This could be directed other to Gates & Co. or Frank below)

      You say you want a revolution
      Well, you know
      We all want to change the world
      You tell me that it’s evolution
      Well, you know
      We all want to change the world
      But when you talk about destruction
      Don’t you know that you can count me out

      And yeah it’s gonna be alright, because the public health lunatics and their allies in the media are not going to get what they want.

      When I was in my econ PhD program I vividly recall me and my Gen X compatriots thinking “man, a lot of this stuff is pure BS”. People were starting to come clean on it a bit by discussing “skilled bias technological change”, but I think most academics and power brokers like Bill Gates don’t understand these issues at all.

      Economists come up with the Welfare Theorems and don’t understand the problem. The Walrasian Equilibrium with transfers that we champion — and fight endlessly over the nature of redistribution — is an illusion. The transfers necessary to address the rising inequality and disruptions associated with free trade don’t fix the consequences of the disruption that are borne by individuals.

      Losing my job as an American manufacturing worker at age 47 can’t really be “fixed” by transfer payments. Obama writes a book about the audacity of Hope and only a decade or so later we have a Presidential Candidate running a sole-issue campaign based on the UBI dystopia…

      Let’s reflect on the actions we have taken to prevent deaths of the fragile, while significantly reducing the quality of life of the masses?

      What is the QALY Index for life under a COVID-19 stay-at-home order?

      How many years of normal life would you trade for 10 years more of this?

      9.5? 9? 8.5? 8? 7.5? ……

      Let’s go with a hard 8, and assume that it’s an equivalent 0.2 drop in QALY Index regardless of demographics or initial health status

      So at 5 weeks (approximating to 0.10 year for simplicity) we’ve lost:

      0.2*(.10) = 0.02 QALYs per person

      6.5 Million quality adjusted life years for the full US population.

      Obviously we don’t know how many QALYs this has saved, but this is the opposite side of the coin that we need to think about. (aside: Neil Ferguson and Chris Murray screwed up)

      Life goes on, it’s still pretty good. But it’s definitely not 100% life out there.

      My mom didn’t get to visit her grandkids for her birthday.
      My kid isn’t playing their high school sport.
      I don’t get to live vicariously through said kid.
      My kid had the experience of “going off to college” taken away.
      I don’t get to laugh and joke with others.

      Can we begin to calculate the cost of these losses?

      People say economists know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

      Not fair, as we know the value of these things but know it is bloody hard to calculate them.

      In any event we are clearly a lot more useful than Chris Murray and the epidemiologists who have proven their uselessness to policy decisions by not admitting what they do not know.

      We don’t need a revolution, we need common sense to get us through this.

      Despite some failing from the dismal science, I hope it is my brothers-in-arms who we listen to over the coming weeks and months.

    • Great clip, great movie. The SHEEPLE don’t understand any of what’s going on. Conditioned animals being led to the slaughter by their own kind. We are a very STUPID race of beings indeed.

    • Thank you Tyler, Frank, and Steven. It gives me hope when I see others awake and noticing the propaganda that is being fed to us.

    • Tika, it only takes a little common sense, and research. isn’t it a shame just how stupid most of us choose to be?

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