Infectious agents are supremely opportunistic. Point cluster outbreaks make them more dangerous. .
You can think of coronavirus as a wave of small hurricanes, creating more and more damage. Yet what’s not exactly in their way may lie unaffected, even if a spot next door is hit hard. And infections will tend to cluster in cities, because that’s where travelers come; the population is densest; contagion quickest.
Consider Wuhan, Milan, Daegu, and now New York City, my native home. All large entrepots with visitors coming from everywhere.
When a viral infections hits cities like these, it can spread rapidly, infecting large groups especially of socially related people. The local medical community will then try to treat and control the infection.
But if the infective rate is too high, the caregivers become exhausted and sick. They can then infect the patients around them. More nurses, respiratory techs, and doctors like Li Wenliang, who brought Covid-19 to public attention, become ill and infect their colleagues. The medical community gets overwhelmed. Death rates spike. Caregivers, like Li, die.
It need not happen that way. In Daegu, the Korean CDC had planned after SARS and a deadly swine flu infection in 2015. They knew the Covid-19 infection was being spread by members of the Shincheonji sect. They got a listing of all 212,000 people attached to the group.
And they began testing, by the tens of thousands, finding cases and tracing their contacts. Dozens died in Daegu, but far less elsewhere.
What you want to do when you have a point outbreak is immediately throw a lot of resources at it. Health care workers get sick and demoralized, as they did in Wuhan and Milan, when there is not enough PPEs-personal protective equipment. They have to reuse masks. There aren’t enough respirators, gowns, ventilators. Risks increase. More patients die, further demoralizing everyone, especially those taking care of them.
New York City is facing that probability right now.
Just like a major battle, you throw in all the resources you can muster as quickly as you can. That includes the military. It’s good a naval hospital ship will be coming to New York, though it will take two weeks to get there. It will be needed.
But what you require now are masks, ventilators, new hospital beds. New York will move quickly, but it needs national help.
That’s why activating the Defense Production Act might be a good idea. A national plan to make what’s needed, and make it fast.
Software aid with tracing cases could also be provided. Social support will help. It’s particularly scary for a lot of New Yorkers right now. If you’ve friends and family there, connect. Calling them, hailing them, talking to them, should help right now.
Silicon Valley talks about moving fast and breaking things. With epidemics, you move fast and save lives. The quicker you move, the more you save, often exponentially.
It should be an international effort. I felt China was foolish to not accept outside aid when Covid-19 hit.
Other nations have had more experience with the virus than we do. We could use their help.