So What If R0 IS 5?

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by Karl Denninger, Market Ticker:

There’s a non-peer-reviewed alleged “medical” paper floating around that claims the new coronavirus has a R0 of approximately 5.

This is is wildly beyond anything expected in a flu-type virus; it greatly surpasses the Spanish Flu, for example (about double!), and is roughly four times the transmission rate of the “common” seasonal flu.  It is up there with Mumps and Rubella.

I’m not buying this.

Yet.

But let’s assume it’s correct for the sake of argument.

Then the United States and all other nations have only one way to stop the spread: Everyone who is symptomatic must be quarantined and everyone they’ve had contact with as well, with the latter being for a minimum of 14 days.  NO EXCEPTIONS and if you refuse or resist you get shot as you are a walking homicidal maniac. Yes, for real.

This means you cannot come into the country on an international flight from any nation where there is not an identical program (nor one that has connecting passengers) unless you are quarantined for 14 days.  It also means the complete shutdown of all land border crossings on a “routine” basis (e.g. what we allow today with Mexico and Canada.)  In short this means a near-complete cessation of international air and ground travel.

And it means that if someone you have had contact with becomes ill with it you are subject to the same mandatory 14 days “in the hole” (although it can be at your home, provided nobody goes in or out), each time, because that’s the potential incubation period before symptoms show up and you are contagious before you are symptomatic.

This was not true for SARS, which was not materially contagious before symptoms appeared.  Therefore checking for fever was a reasonable way to easily screen people.  This virus is different in that once you’re exposed you’re contagious for several days, up to as much as two weeks before symptoms develop.

Beyond the crazy logistics issues attempting such a wide-scale action would bring (e.g. how do you get food, how do you pay for it if you can’t go to work, etc) you know damn well the US Government will not do this.  But anything less will not materially impact the spread of the infection.  An R0 of 5 is wildly exponential and nothing short of this will be effective.

Note that I’m not buying that alleged calculation at this time.  That doesn’t mean it might not be accurate; it very well may be.  However, I need materially more evidence before I buy into a doomsday scenario of this sort — and make no mistake, if we have a virus that has a ~3% lethality rate and an R0 of 5 you’re talking about tens of millions of dead Americans if we don’t take that sort of dramatic step right here, right now.

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