When a Nobel laureate and number-cruncher talks about coronavirus, people listen

The coronavirus is a very contagious disease.  In January, information coming from the Wuhan region suggested that an infected person could infect two to three others — a frightening exponential growth rate.  That may have led to Angela Merkel announcing up to 70% of Germany's population — around 58 million people — might catch the coronavirus.  Merkel said this even though 70% of China's population — 1,006,363,300 — people did not get infected.  Had Merkel paid attention to Nobel laureate Michael Levitt, she might not have said anything so foolish and frightening.

Levitt is an American-British-Israeli biophysicist and a structural biology professor at Stanford.  Although he's not a virologist or an infectious disease specialist, he is a very good number-cruncher.  As the infection seemed to crest in Wuhan, Levitt concluded that the numbers were encouraging and wrote as much to worried friends in China.  The data went viral in China, especially as time proved that Levitt was correct.

What Levitt realized was that, rather than continuing to grow at an exponential rate, the number of people infected would start to fall at a predictable rate.  He was correct: although infections in China continued to occur, what mattered was that they were happening more slowly until, finally, they ceased.

In an interview with Calcalist, Levitt noted that, when people practice good hygiene and social distancing, the virus's progress slows until it can no longer find enough hosts to sustain itself:

"In exponential growth models, you assume that new people can be infected every day, because you keep meeting new people. But, if you consider your own social circle, you basically meet the same people every day. You can meet new people on public transportation, for example; but even on the bus, after some time most passengers will either be infected or immune."

Another reason the infection rate has slowed has to do with the physical distance guidelines. "You don't hug every person you meet on the street now, and you'll avoid meeting face to face with someone that has a cold, like we did," Levitt said. "The more you adhere, the more you can keep infection in check. So, under these circumstances, a carrier will only infect 1.5 people every three days and the rate will keep going down."

Quarantine makes a difference, according to Levitt, but there are other factors at work. "We know China was under almost complete quarantine, people only left home to do crucial shopping and avoided contact with others. In Wuhan, which had the highest number of infection cases in the Hubei province, everyone had a chance of getting infected, but only 3% caught it," he explained. "Even on the Diamond Princess (the virus-stricken cruise ship), the infection rate did not top 20%." Based on these statistics, Levitt said, he concluded that many people are just naturally immune to the virus.

Here's a video in which Levitt explains people's struggles with exponential numbers:

Both Merkel and the media would do well to pay attention to what Levitt has to stay, rather than spreading panic due to their innumeracy.

Because Americans are changing their habits, they will slow the virus's trajectory.  While the virus and its risks are real, the panic is a Democrat project intended to destroy President Trump.  In other words, one can accept that there is a serious health problem in America that requires individual responsibility while refusing to accept the media's narrative.

As an almost random aside, the fact that the virus is running rampant now does not necessarily mean that it will be around forever, even if we can't develop an effective vaccination.  Some diseases run their course and vanish.  That was the case with the sweating sickness, which struck England and Europe between 1485 and 1551.  It was a remarkably aggressive illness that could kill people within hours.  However, after 1551, it was never seen again.

There will be an end to coronavirus, and the steps that President Trump has taken — closing the borders, lifting regulations that slow testing and treatment, and partnering with the innovative and responsive private sector — all suggest that it will end in America sooner rather than later.

Or as Scott Adams said even before Trump freed the private sector to react:

The coronavirus is a very contagious disease.  In January, information coming from the Wuhan region suggested that an infected person could infect two to three others — a frightening exponential growth rate.  That may have led to Angela Merkel announcing up to 70% of Germany's population — around 58 million people — might catch the coronavirus.  Merkel said this even though 70% of China's population — 1,006,363,300 — people did not get infected.  Had Merkel paid attention to Nobel laureate Michael Levitt, she might not have said anything so foolish and frightening.

Levitt is an American-British-Israeli biophysicist and a structural biology professor at Stanford.  Although he's not a virologist or an infectious disease specialist, he is a very good number-cruncher.  As the infection seemed to crest in Wuhan, Levitt concluded that the numbers were encouraging and wrote as much to worried friends in China.  The data went viral in China, especially as time proved that Levitt was correct.

What Levitt realized was that, rather than continuing to grow at an exponential rate, the number of people infected would start to fall at a predictable rate.  He was correct: although infections in China continued to occur, what mattered was that they were happening more slowly until, finally, they ceased.

In an interview with Calcalist, Levitt noted that, when people practice good hygiene and social distancing, the virus's progress slows until it can no longer find enough hosts to sustain itself:

"In exponential growth models, you assume that new people can be infected every day, because you keep meeting new people. But, if you consider your own social circle, you basically meet the same people every day. You can meet new people on public transportation, for example; but even on the bus, after some time most passengers will either be infected or immune."

Another reason the infection rate has slowed has to do with the physical distance guidelines. "You don't hug every person you meet on the street now, and you'll avoid meeting face to face with someone that has a cold, like we did," Levitt said. "The more you adhere, the more you can keep infection in check. So, under these circumstances, a carrier will only infect 1.5 people every three days and the rate will keep going down."

Quarantine makes a difference, according to Levitt, but there are other factors at work. "We know China was under almost complete quarantine, people only left home to do crucial shopping and avoided contact with others. In Wuhan, which had the highest number of infection cases in the Hubei province, everyone had a chance of getting infected, but only 3% caught it," he explained. "Even on the Diamond Princess (the virus-stricken cruise ship), the infection rate did not top 20%." Based on these statistics, Levitt said, he concluded that many people are just naturally immune to the virus.

Here's a video in which Levitt explains people's struggles with exponential numbers:

Both Merkel and the media would do well to pay attention to what Levitt has to stay, rather than spreading panic due to their innumeracy.

Because Americans are changing their habits, they will slow the virus's trajectory.  While the virus and its risks are real, the panic is a Democrat project intended to destroy President Trump.  In other words, one can accept that there is a serious health problem in America that requires individual responsibility while refusing to accept the media's narrative.

As an almost random aside, the fact that the virus is running rampant now does not necessarily mean that it will be around forever, even if we can't develop an effective vaccination.  Some diseases run their course and vanish.  That was the case with the sweating sickness, which struck England and Europe between 1485 and 1551.  It was a remarkably aggressive illness that could kill people within hours.  However, after 1551, it was never seen again.

There will be an end to coronavirus, and the steps that President Trump has taken — closing the borders, lifting regulations that slow testing and treatment, and partnering with the innovative and responsive private sector — all suggest that it will end in America sooner rather than later.

Or as Scott Adams said even before Trump freed the private sector to react: