It’s a boom time — thank God — for explanatory, research-based and research-expertise content about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. Here are 12 informational resources from the last week that I’ve found very valuable and/or very interesting:
3Blue1Brown: “Exponential Growth and Epidemics” (YouTube): Send this nine-minute explainer video to all the virus-complacent in your life; it patiently walks through why COVID-19’s threat is about its exponential growth path, not the small-seeming number of cases being reported today in your city, state or country. The numbers you’re hearing are the tip of the iceberg. Stop thinking linearly; start thinking exponentially.
Tomas Pueyo: “Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now” (Medium): A fantastic overview of the data, timelines of events, projections of spread, rationale for concern about health care system capacity to deal with the infection’s spread and recommendations for action for all sectors of society — all interspersed with numerous illustrative charts, slides from key presentations by health officials and links to other resources. Updated daily since its publication earlier this week.
Nicholas Kristof and Stuart A. Thompson: “How Much Worse the Coronavirus Could Get, in Charts” (NY Times): Data visualizations have quickly become essential to understanding the mathematics behind why an epidemic with seemingly so few cases in many countries is worrying so many officials and citizens. This interactive lets you model the severity of infections and deaths in the United States based on timing of interventions and their aggressiveness. While there are still large uncertainties about the virus, the interactive makes one point clear: Earlier, more aggressive and more comprehensive interventions reduce our risk dramatically.
Brian Resnick and Dylan Scott: “America’s shamefully slow coronavirus testing threatens all of us” (Vox) and Jason Beaubien: “Singapore Wins Praise For Its COVID-19 Strategy. The U.S. Does Not” (NPR): Despite their headlines, these are two comprehensive, well-reported looks at how and why the United States badly lags other developed countries in testing and tracking. Here’s the killer Vox graphic — but I urge you to read both pieces for a better grounding on where the United States is and needs to go:
Eliza Barclay and Dylan Scott: “How canceled events and self-quarantines save lives, in one chart” (Vox) and Aaron E. Carroll: “Here’s the Biggest Thing to Worry About With Coronavirus” (NY Times): These are good primers on how staying home and self-quarantining flattens the curve of infection spread — and why that matters for ordinarily solid health care systems that, as with Italy’s, are projected to be soon overwhelmed by a crush of infected people requiring hospitalization and forced to triage care in ways unimaginable outside of wartime.
Tom Inglesby: “Why we will need social distancing measures in the US, what the goals of them are, and the need to reject the concept of ‘lockdowns’ by force” (Twitter thread): The director of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health’s Center for Health Security makes the case for voluntary social distancing in the United States instead of the Italian lockdown.
Kaitlyn Tiffany: “The Dos and Don’ts of ‘Social Distancing’” (The Atlantic): What do three public-health experts agree and disagree on about how we should execute social distancing in a myriad of social situations? Fascinating and, because of the range of their responses, more than occasionally disconcerting.
Alex Tabarrok: “COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planner” (Marginal Revolution): Why “large events are a bad idea even in scenarios with just a small number of carriers.” (Proviso: You need to have a ballpark sense of the number of carriers in a population — which we in the United States are struggling to calculate.)
Joel Achenbach: “Coronavirus can stay infectious for days on surfaces. But it’s still okay to check your mail” (Wash Post): Most comprehensive piece I’ve read with the latest research findings on how the virus spreads, how long it stays viable on various surfaces and your windows of highest risk for each vector.
Charlie Warzel: “Please, Listen to Experts About the Coronavirus. Then Step Up.” (NY Times): How institutional expertise, information and authority have almost disappeared during the crisis — and how individual outside experts are stepping up, especially via Twitter threads, to fill the gap and bend the rest of us toward action.
Stay safe, and remember that risk isn’t just individual — it’s social. Your actions matter to the rest of us; don’t be a riskhole. Even if you’re seemingly healthy and asymptomatic, you could be infected — and your actions over the next few weeks could work to flatten the curve…or sharpen it.