Editorial: What Could the Next Few Weeks Look like in a Potential SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus Pandemic?

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2
This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19. isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. Credit: NIAID-RML

As you know, since late January, I have been following all the newsfeeds and discussion groups that I can, scouring them for information on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.

At times I have completely stressed myself out, but at this point I feel as if I am as prepared as I am going to be, in order to deal with whatever happens now, and all that preparation greatly helps alleviate my anxiety. (One of the last steps I did this morning was to meet with my financial planner at my bank, asking him to sharply reduce my exposure to the stock market in my retirement investments. Why? Because I am convinced that a potential coronavirus pandemic will have a severe, negative impact on global financial markets, as we have already seen so far this week.)

I realize that I am, still, trying to write about a potential pandemic situation on a blog I originally created to cover social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse! I feel for my readers who might be somewhat confused and upset at this tangent I am following. All I can say at present is that I will endeavour to continue my coverage of social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse, but that I will also cover SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 from time to time as well. It’s going to be a mighty juggling act, and I might just drop a few balls! So, please bear with me. Thanks.

Today, I wanted to share with you an extensive excerpt from a website I recently discovered, called ThePrepared.com, which specializes in “emergency preparedness and prepping checklists for everyone”. The reader-supported website is up-front about its using affiliate marketing links as a means of generating income, but they state:

The Prepared is more like a curated wiki than a blog. And you may have noticed the lack of ads and other junk. The Prepared is supported by readers, and when you buy something we recommend, we may get an affiliate commission — but it never affects your price or what we pick.

(The above link goes to their Mission and Values statement, which you might want to read through completely if you are curious and/or suspicious of their motives. If you do not like their approach, there are certainly other places you can go to get advice on how best to prepare, which I will link to below.)

The excerpt I do want to share with you comes from ThePrepared.com’s comprehensive document titled One-page laypersons’s guide to the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), which offers a calm, rational, well-organized overview of what priorities you should be focusing on as you prepare for a potential SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic.

The part I want to highlight, which I have not really seen covered anywhere else in my admitted obsessive reading, is titled “What the next weeks might look like”, and it outlines two possible scenarios: a baseline scenario and a severe disruption scenario:

What the next weeks might look like

The range of realistic scenarios laid out below are not predictions. They’re planning tools to help you prepare based on what you might face.

Even in pessimistic models, experts aren’t planning for doomsday. We don’t think a really bad situation where food stocks are low and critical infrastructure is iffy is even worth talking about at this point.

We’ll update this page if expert predictions get worse.

Scenario A. Baseline scenario

Our baseline scenario — what we feel is most likely to unfold — is that the virus will spread person-to-person in a sustained way globally, not only in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, but also in the U.S. or Europe. We’re expecting disruption to daily life at some point here in the U.S., and in most places worldwide.

This scenario envisions a rising case count in one or more major U.S. cities, possibly to the point that a city has hundreds of cases before serious lockdown measures are taken to halt the spread.

We’re assuming in this scenario that we can, in fact, keep really bad outbreaks more or less geographically contained with Chinese-style quarantines, lockdowns, and travel restrictions in some cities and counties. We’re also assuming in this scenario that the fatality ratio is low, at about one or two percent at the most, but possibly below one percent.

What to prepare for:

– International travel restrictions that extend well beyond China, including the rest of Asia, Africa, and LatAm.

– Some pressure on US healthcare systems as hoarding of supplies results in shortages for healthcare workers. Health systems in the most affected cities will likely be overloaded.

– Possible disruptions in domestic air travel, due to the following: 1) pilots and airline staff refuse to fly in and out of affected cities, 2) fear and infection control measures like temperature checkpoints make air travel too inconvenient and people stop flying, which translates into lots of canceled flights.

– Cancellations of large gatherings or events (eg. concerts), especially in affected cities.

– Some significant amount of voluntary home quarantine by people whose work and/or lifestyle makes this possible (eg. remote workers, parents who homeschool).

– Isolated examples of voluntary relocation within your own network, as friends, family, or coworkers opt to move out of an affected zone until things calm down.

– Isolated but high-profile instances of xenophobic/racist violence, which causes widespread worries about physical safety among targeted groups.

Scenario B. Severe disruption

As with our baseline scenario, our severe scenario assumes the virus goes pandemic and spreads domestically, but the situation is worse because we’re not able to keep it constrained in any way.

If America has uncontrolled community transmission in most cities and counties, then the big questions that determine how severely our lives are disrupted are the following:

1. What is the fatality rate here in the US, with our advanced healthcare system?

2. What percentage of non-fatal cases have severe symptoms that require hospitalization, or even just a doctor visit and treatment?

These are big unknowns, so for the sake of planning we’re currently assuming the following general outlines for a severe scenario: the fatality rate in the US is on the order of about 2-4 percent, and the percentage of severe cases that require treatment is about 15 percent. With less than ten percent of our population infected, this latter number (15 percent requiring a hospital bed) is more than enough to overload the capacity of our hospitals and clinics.

What to prepare for:

– Long waits at hospitals and clinics, and more deaths from unrelated illnesses because of overall reduced access to healthcare.

– Widespread voluntary lockdown in homes for severely affected regions.

– Dedicated quarantine areas set up by FEMA, the military, the Red Cross, and other groups.

– Serious restrictions on domestic air travel, either from official order or because pilots and crew refuse to show up.

– Widespread school and daycare closures.

– Widespread closures of local businesses.

– Large companies pushing employees into remote work, halting all air travel, and moving meetings to video chat.

– Extended delivery times from carriers like USPS, UPS, and FedEx, as they cope with a combination of increased load (everyone’s ordering from home), reduced staff, and travel restrictions.

– Internet slowdowns in some neighborhoods, since everyone is home and streaming (or remote working) at the same time.

– Sealing off an area of a home or apartment in order to quarantine an ill family member.

– Temporary relocation to a safer area with much lower case count and less chaos and disruption.

– More instances of xenophobic/racist violence, along with some inter-ethnic conflicts in urban areas, as scared people begin to group up and turn on one another.

My advice to you is to read through each the potential events listed under both scenarios, A and B, and think about how you would respond to them, and what steps you would have to take to accommodate the event. For example, if your children’s school closes, will you, a friend, a relative, or a babysitter be available to care for them at home?

Good Sources of Information on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19

Here is my newly-updated list of good, credible, authoritative resources to learn more about the Wuhan coronoavirus (formerly called 2019-nCoV and now officially called SARS-CoV-2; the disease the virus causes is now called COVID-19):

If you need lists of how to prepare and what to buy in order to get your household ready for a potential pandemic, here are five suggestions:

If you want a quick, up-to-date overview of the current situation, here are three good places to check:

Stay informed, get prepared, and stay healthy!

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One thought on “Editorial: What Could the Next Few Weeks Look like in a Potential SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus Pandemic?”

  1. Two excellent articles in the UK’s Guardian remind us that the USA is unique among industrialized countries in have no health care or even time off for a quarter of their population — heavily female, heavily minority. The CDC’s advice: “Just stay home if you’re sick, wash hands, telecommute, see a doctor early” are a foreign language to bus-drivers, food-service workers, public-facing jobs. Also the Case Fatality Rate may be 1%-2% average, but it is heavily skewed – very low for children, up to 8% for those 70-80, and 15% for those 80-90. This will be a very different pandemic in the USA for neglected and forgotten older, poor, minorities than for everyone else. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/feb/28/coronavirus-millions-of-americans-uninsured https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/27/coronavirus-outbreak-us-healthcare-sick-leave

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