YOU CAN HELP END THE PANDEMIC IN 30 DAYS: A FLATTEN TO ZERO PLAN
By Denny W. Kwock, President & CEO of Daily Wellness
In the 1980’s I worked as a Research Associate at the University of Hawaii’s School of Medicine. A great deal of that research involved characterizing retroviruses and studying their epidemiology at a time when the AIDS epidemic took hold of this nation. Our published research on infection patterns was instrumental in developing blood screening methodologies that culminated in FDA trials on test kits to prevent retroviral infection from donated blood. From that experience, I have identified a glaring oversight in how our society is handling the Covid-19 crisis. We have done a poor job of helping everyone understand the key weakness of this virus so we can rally around a strategy to defeat it.
Ask those around you what they know about the virus and you will notice the answers are inconsistent, incomplete, and in many cases misinformed. As many of us sit at home watching the news cycle, we see a similar pattern playing out among our government leaders. As individuals, we are left to cobble together our own interpretation of what’s happening and become more anxious each day as to what will happen next. In spite of the miraculous advancements in science and technology since the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, we seem just as helpless today.
Here’s what you can do to turn this around:
- Learn the basics about viruses so you understand Covid-19’s weakness.
- Learn the basics of a “flatten to zero” strategy that exploits this weakness to end the pandemic in 30-days.
- Encourage your friends and family to learn as well. Together, we can beat this.
Let’s get started:
VIRUSES AND THE COVID-19 VIRUS
- A virus is microscopic parasitic particle.
- A virus needs to infect another organism like an animal or human in order to make more copies of itself.
- The human body is made up of many types of specialized microscopic units called cells. (For example, lung cells form the structures of our lungs. The average human body is made up of approximately 37 trillion cells.)
- There are many different kinds of viruses and each kind targets specific kinds of cells in the body.
- The Covid-19 virus targets cells in your nose, mouth, throat and lungs.
- When a virus gets into a body and ends up close enough to the kind of cells it targets, it latches on.
- Once it latches on, the virus injects the cell with its genetic code and forces the cell to make more copies of the virus using that code, as many as two million copies before the cell dies.
- Those virus copies are released outside the cell and go on to infect more cells in the body and repeat the process, going from millions to trillions unless the body’s immune system can slow down or stop it.
- Billions of these virus copies also find their way outside the body where they can infect someone else to repeat the process over again.
Based on these virus fundamentals, we can continue the story by classifying types of viruses into two broad categories based on how long they are able to live in the body they infect:
NON-PERSISTENT VIRUSES can live in the body for several weeks at most.
- Examples of non-persistent viruses: the viruses that cause Covid-19, SARS, MERS, Spanish flu, seasonal influenza, common cold
- Highly contagious through airborne droplets and surfaces contaminated with these droplets: millions of viruses come out when an infected person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. A single sneeze can emit 40,000 mucus droplets and millions of viruses. Another person can become infected when they breathe in these droplets or when they touch a surface contaminated by these droplets and bring their hands to their mouth, nose, or eyes. We see exponential rates of person-to-person infection.
- An infected person’s immune system made of specialized immune cells and immune chemicals like antibodies fight to eventually kill off ALL the viruses in the body including killing the body’s own virus-infected cells. If the immune system is successful, the person recovers. If not, the person dies. A fully recovered person from a non-persistent virus is no longer infectious because they no longer carry the virus.
PERSISTENT VIRUSES can live in the body for years.
- Examples of persistent viruses: HIV, herpes, HPV, hepatitis C
- Sexually transmitted, needle sharing – not highly contagious and not infectious through the air or through contaminated surfaces.
- An infected person’s immune system cannot eliminate the virus from the body. These kinds of viruses have various strategies to hide inside cells away from the immune system. In some cases, the virus eventually kills the person.
UNIQUE INFECTION PROFILE OF COVID-19 VIRUS
An infected person can infect others for up to 14 days before they develop symptoms and know they are infected (cough, fever, body aches, lethargy, difficulty breathing). Some recover with little or no symptoms and don’t realize they were infecting others. Because of this “stealth period” we see the dramatic spread of Covid-19. Some individuals have been documented to infect 20 to 70 other people before they knew they were infectious.
UNKNOWNS ABOUT THE COVID-19 VIRUS
- How long and how far does it linger in the air around someone who is infected?
- Is it seasonal?
- Is a vaccine possible?
- Will a recovered person stay immune?
- Will drug cocktails work?
- Will it mutate to be deadlier?
This last point creates a greater sense of urgency. We know in some past pandemics the virus mutated over time to be more lethal. The likelihood of this happening only increases as the pandemic spreads. Young people shouldn’t be so complacent thinking they are less vulnerable. That could change. Based on the statistics at the end of March 2020, we now know that the Covid-19 pandemic is at least 10-times deadlier than the flu and many times deadlier than car accidents and the numbers are trending up.
COVID-19 DISEASE PROGRESSION
We know that within 14 days after a person is infected, they will start feeling sick or will have recovered with no symptoms. And, we know that after another 14 days, most people who get sick will recover or be in the hospital where they can continue to be isolated. This provides a window of certainty that is no more 30 days, where the virus will die-out unless it has jumped to a new person. This is a crucial point.
FLATTEN TO ZERO, 30-DAY QUARANTINE
We can use this crucial point to design a quarantine that can end the pandemic decisively in 30 days. While we have been told to implement social distancing and shelter-in-place to flatten the curve, we have not taken this far enough. This approach is only designed to slow the spread, not stop it. The way to quickly end this pandemic is to enforce a full quarantine, and this quarantine needs to last at least 30 days, denying the virus the chance to jump to new victims during its 30-day life cycle. We have a window of opportunity to end this pandemic decisively with two key tools:
- Arm the public with knowledge of Covid-19’s weakness so people have the conviction to comply or better yet, to demand that our government implement such a quarantine, and
- Put in place a logistical plan to carry out a “flatten-to-zero” quarantine that meets people’s basic needs.
Quarantines are highly effective against non-persistent viruses such as the Covid-19 virus. But Americans were too lax during the period when the virus could have been eliminated without widespread contagion. That’s because it’s difficult to convince a free society to take such strict measures when it seems as though the impending threat is minimal. Just as we don’t fully appreciate the value of property insurance until our house burns down, the
American people would have criticized a move to stop the economy in response to a threat whose effects they have not seen. It’s an unfortunate aspect of pandemic response those in my field have been sounding the warning about for decades. Even though the fire has started, the whole house doesn’t have to burn down. So, here’s what I mean by “quarantine” and why this will be effective now.
FLATTEN TO ZERO QUARANTINE GUIDELINES
* Establish a single point of information to facilitate communication to the public. For this to work, everyone needs to be on the same page including knowing what actions to take, issuing progress reports, and providing contact information for where to go and who to call when needs arise, including if someone in the household requires medical attention.
* A shelter-in-place mandate that lasts for at least 30 days. The general public would not be allowed to leave their homes except by guidelines determined by the federal government. When leaving the house for government-approved emergencies, the following guidelines must be adhered to:
- Thoroughly wash hands when leaving and returning home
- Wear a face mask that tightly covers the mouth and nose
- Maintain at least a 10-foot distance from others not in their household
- Carry and wipe all surfaces they touch with a moist disinfectant wipe
- No exchange of items including cash with other households unless items are thoroughly wiped with disinfectant
- Only members of a single household in elevators at the same time. No talking. Same for hallways, stairways, and other enclosed spaces
The inconvenience of such careful measures are well worth it. The current quarantine-light efforts some parts of the country are practicing now might be required for months or reinstated on and off for over a year because they won’t definitively end the spread of the virus. 30 days of hard effort with certainty is much better than months or over a year of uncertainty.
* Allow a one-week preparation period, before the 30-day clock starts. This would allow every household to get what they need to minimize leaving home for 30 days. Grocery stores and other merchants should place reasonable limits on purchases to prevent hoarding. The government should make it clear that people will be allowed to get food in emergencies, including by delivery.
* Identify essential services personnel and establish “cluster” housing. Isolate personnel in their own clusters for the virus to die out without the risk of them crossinfecting their families when they return home. Empty hotels, corporate cafeterias, and gyms outfitted with cots, and other facilities could be used for this function.
* Establish recovery quarantine housing. During the 30-day quarantine, individuals in households may develop symptoms indicating an active infection. These individuals should immediately be moved to quarantine housing to recover and prevent infecting other household members. Again, empty hotels could be used. In the case where a child is sick, they can be accompanied by a parent. These quarantine facilities should have ready access to medical support and basic needs such as meals and laundry.
* Extreme social distancing for essential services personnel. These personnel should wear masks and, when possible, stay at least ten feet away from each other. When working with the public, the same precautions apply as those the public takes when leaving their home including disinfecting items that they deliver.
These guidelines can be tailored and refined by each community based on their particular set of circumstances and available resources.
For less affluent countries where this is not feasible, we will be in a better position as a recovered nation to support mitigation and relief efforts in other countries as a crucial next step to end the pandemic globally.
The advantages of a Flatten to Zero approach are that it doesn’t rely on unknown assumptions, is the most efficient use of the limited resources we have at the moment, and solves the problem in the shortest amount of time possible.
With a well-coordinated effort carried out with conviction and best practices by the general public (and the nation as a whole), we have the opportunity to end the Covid-19 pandemic within 30 days with reasonable certainty. That would go a long way to restoring order to our economy as well. Perhaps it’s being overly optimistic to think we can accomplish this, but even the efforts we are undertaking now will be more effective if everyone has a firm understanding of what we’re dealing with and why a greater, short-term sacrifice will be
the easiest way forward. We are now in a crisis of uncertainty and the ultimate antidote is certainty.
We can flatten to zero and eliminate the Covid-19 virus from existence. Urge friends and family to learn more about the Covid-19 virus at www.FlattenToZero.org and what we EACH can do to take action. Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge and work together to solve this instead of waiting for someone else to do it.