Tuesday, March 17, 2020

British Method

The Brits were taking a different approach to fending off C19. I have heard that they have backed off from the radical plan, that they haven't, that they have modified it, and that it is still evolving.  I have heard it called, brilliant, insane, or worth serious consideration. Don't trouble me with the update unless you have really solid information, because I don't live in the UK, and am only interested in the theory.

Their idea is to seriously sequester the elderly and discourage huge events of many people, but otherwise let life proceed as normal. As very few young people will die of C19 and most will not even get seriously ill, the plan is that the nation as a whole will develop  herd immunity, which will flatten the curve far more effectively than what everyone else is doing in other countries. One advantage is that there are far fewer sectors of the economy vulnerable to collapse.  As I have a young friend with four children who does lights, sound and other arrangements for huge events like concerts and conventions, this attracts my attention.  His entire industry has collapsed 90% during what is usually their busiest season. He has already lid most of his staff off, and he may go under.

As we will all eventually be exposed anyway, we should not think in terms of zero risk, because that isn't happening.  The intensity of exposure matters.  Whether your body takes on one droplet or a thousand is relevant because of time.  You body already develops antibodies to 4-80 viruses a day, just naturally.  As most of these aren;'t likely to hurt you or hurt you quickly, your immune system can take its time.  It might develop a solution in a week, or it may take five weeks, but it eventually gets there with at least a partial solution.  It will story this solution forever, so if you get re-exposed sixty years later, the antibodies get pulled out of storage and the immune system commands "make me a million more of these, fast."  We have vaccinations for things that will kill you before the body can respond. The anti-vaxxers are partly correct that your natural systems develop immunities. Thus, if your exposure is mild it gives your body more time while the disease pressure mounts. (I oversimplify greatly, but I think that's the outline.)

Because it is older people in nursing homes who are sickest and are dying, and schools are getting closed to protect the children, we just naturally, in spite of our rational thinking, develop the idea that it is the children who are in danger, and the old people who are dangerous.  Stay away from old people!  They are the sic ones who might cough on you! And Keep your children away from everything!  They're going to die if you let them be exposed!  

It's close to the opposite.  The children are not in danger, the children are the danger.  They are asymptomatic carriers who run about cheerfully, making others sick. The old people are not the danger, they are the ones in danger.  As to the latter, I should modify the statement.  People who are sicker - usually the old or compromised - do cough more and spread the disease more.  That is true, but only mitigates my statement.  It is the disease intensity, not frequency of disease in your age group that is the issue.  We know this, but somehow cannot think it.

One reason is that parents do not want to run even minor extra risk for their children. I was that parent myself.  I get it.  Even though I can rationally understand that the risk of coronavirus in children is akin to the risk of anesthesia for necessary surgery, that means nothing when it's MY KID! SICK! The thought of your own little one gasping for breath is powerful enough to drive out all reason. I shudder at it in imagination even though my youngest is 15 years past this. It is the milder version of one of the anti-vaxxer sentiments. I know that true anti-vaxxers are strongly influenced by suspicions of the government and Big Pharma, and thus dismiss ideas of group and long-term safety as mere covers and convenience for some dark plans on their part.* Yet I have always thought that two less-mentioned motives affect those parents.  i could be wrong on this, because I am not one of them and I don't hang with them.  But entering into their thinking as well as I can I say. "Why should I put my kid at risk (not even of autism, but of the natural risks of any injection) for the sake of the group?  I like the group fine, but what I really care about is my kid."  Secondly, it's a needle.  It's a frightening and dangerous item all by itself, regardless of what's in it. We spend our lives avoiding sharp objects, the kid screams and cries, and the very idea of it makes us shudder.

Sequestering our kids is similar. So the British idea of "Nah, let the little nippers run about.  Hardly any of 'em'll get sick, and it will work out for the good of all" does not attract.  It seems like shoving our little ones into the street so that those that survive are nimble and mindful of traffic.

Yet it might be the better plan.  As I said, we are all going to be exposed eventually anyway.

*CS Lewis knocked this argument down in the chapter "Horrid Red Things" in God In The Dock. You may justly think that the government and Big Pharma are in all ways corrupt. Yet if they tell you something is dangerous, you would be foolish to embrace that danger without very solid evidence otherwise.


Christopher B said...

We have friends in a similar position. Theater/event lighting tech and cameraman for events, and now the Derby is put off until September.

My take on part of why we didn't adopt the proposed British plan is basically the radical egalitarianism we've fostered for years. If the elderly or compromised need to sit at home then by gum it's just fair that everybody has to do it. Though of course not everybody is doing it, quite obviously.

Texan99 said...

It makes sense to me for young people at low risk of serious complications to keep the lights on and the food coming to groceries stores on trucks, while the older folks (which now includes my husband and me) go on lockdown. We have enough to eat for several weeks, at least. We're not missing paychecks and, although our retirement savings are being hammered in a bear market, I'm persuaded the rebound from the recession will be rapid.

I liked what I heard in the President's press conference on Sunday about the rapid hard work getting us ramped up for widespread testing. They had less to say about the specifics of ramping up the supply of protective gear and ventilators, but it's clearly a topic that's getting attention. It's good to see industry leaders in food and medical production stepping up with a "Moon Shot" attitude, and it's good we have an administration that doesn't want to hobble them.

Donna B. said...

Yep, what Texan99 said. Although, my offspring tried to go a little overboard and didn't want me leaving the house at all, offering to run all my errands for me. I told my daughter I was beginning to feel like a teenager and was considering sneaking out of the house.

I get most of my groceries delivered and I'm fine with my daughter filling in the gaps there -- I hate going to a grocery store anyway. But... don't tell me I can't go!