Sunday, May 17, 2020

Washington Post Highlights Really Smart, Logical Plan for Pandemic Recovery - With Diagnostics

We've seen a huge amount of interest in pandemic recovery, with diagnostics and tracing, but too often some huge number is thrown out ($1B, $10B, $50B, $100B of tests) without a clear rationale.   

Washington Post this weekend highlights an important, logical report with a lot of thought capital produced by a consortium of experts and institutes, found on the Harvard website.

Here are the entry points:
  • WaPo article by Tabarrok and Ohlhaver here.
  • Harvard webpage for master document here.
  • Actual 66 page PDF here.
They divide the US into green, yellow, and red zones by COVID prevalence.  In a green zone, "fewer than 1 resident in 36,000 is infected...requires 1 test per day per 10,000 people and 5 contact tracers per 100,000 people."   Until 2 weeks ago, there were a number of green zones in the U.S. (there are none today).   Most Americans (circa 85%) live in yellow zones today, with disease prevalence between .002% and 1%.   "Yellow zones require 2500 tests for every daily death."  

Just 30M Americans live today in red zones - such as Detroit, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York City.  These zones require full social closures and stay-at-home orders.  The article and white paper outline steps to reduce red zones to yellow zones within weeks.

They note that Congress has authorized $3T in corona relief with a (disputed) additional $3T on the table, and that large multi-trillion dollar economic losses are coming.  They suggest the tracing and testing program outlined in their report tallies $75B.  

Note that the budgetary distribution includes $25B for (mega) labs and kits, $30B for isolation financial support, and $9B for contact tracing.

Like any plan, this one can probably be disputed or even shot down.  To my eye, there was a level of "thought capital" in this one that I haven't seen before.


Did We Drop Ball on Partial Tracing A Month Ago?

From news articles, you have the impression that the U.S. will be ramping up contact tracing "now" and in the future, with reopening.  But shouldn't we have done partial or as-possible contact tracing the past six weeks?   If there were 2000 cases somewhere per week, and capacity to sample-trace 50, 1 in 40, weren't we doing that?   I ask because around May 8 New York announced that 66% of new cases were coming from "home" - meaning NOT essential workers but at-home workers, unemployed, or retired.  And this was treated as a really big surprise (for example, by Gov. Cuomo.)  It seemed to me that kind of data - including from sparse sampling if necessary - was crucial to know. 


ProPublica Compares New York, California

News source ProPublica compares COVID responses in New York and California, May 16, here.