The WuFlu and You: How this Virus Outbreak Will Go

Download this interactive spreadsheet and watch the virus numbers spread.

This site is normally about local news, but after waiting nearly two weeks and seeing the absolute, total, and complete failure of both regional news sources and the absolute, total, and complete failure local government to communicate virtually anything of value about this disease or our futures, I’ve decided to take up this task as a responsibility to the community, from SaveNewport itself.  This post is about the numbers behind the virus outbreak known as Novel Coronavirus, the “Chinese Virus” the Wuhan Flu, or the “Coming of the Apocalypse”, depending on what kind of political views you have. I don’t particularly care about political views, but I like the name WuFlu I made up, so I’m using it here.  But this isn’t about the politics.   This is about math.

First, we cannot continue the quarantine. This will destroy businesses big and small— and already has. If we continue, it will erode the very foundation of how our supplies are created and shipped to us, and the very social fabric of our country. Believe me, if it were possible for the entire economy to sit back and for us to watch Netflix all day, we would have figured out a way to do that by now. The quarantine does, however, help “flatten the curve”. This means instead of 100 people getting infected on the same day and going to a hospital that can only help 30 of them, it spreads them out over time– reducing deaths and allowing hospitals to deal with patients without being totally overwhelmed.  I do not believe there will be a continued quarantine after this latest extension.  However, there *will* be more to come, later, as the virus spreads–pending no medical savior to cure or prevent the disease being found and available in a widespread fashion– more on that below.

We will go through several quarantines during this period in order to “pause” the flu spread and allow medical facilities to catch up. It is the only way to prevent overloading the medical systems.  These will become longer and more frequent as we move through this.  How many? That depends on the contagion factor (“R0”, pronounced “R-Naught”). This is currently believed to be between 1.5 and 3.5, and the formula for herd immunity is (R0-1)/R0. in Math, that is ((X-1)/X). In English, this means somewhere between 33% and 72% of the population needs to be immune before this outbreak stops– a huge range, but that is as close as we know right now.

Second, not everyone shares the same risk of death. Those with low risk need to get back to work. Those with high risk need to stay quarantined. If you are already sick, old, obese, a smoker, have an auto-immune disease, or otherwise have cardiovascular issues– you are at high risk of the most serious complications from the coronavirus. Take appropriate actions on your side. This could kill you.
In English: We cannot continue to quarantine everyone, but we should strictly quarantine those who are at-high-risk.

What is immunity? Immunity is when the antibodies in your system (think of them like “virus scouts”) know how to target the virus. They sit on the virus and put a flag in it and say “KILL THIS THING” to your T-Cells. Your T-Cells come over and beat the crud out of whatever the anti-bodies marked as dangerous. In more militant terms, the anti-bodies find the enemy, shine the laser on the target, and call the T-Cells to come in and bomb it.

How do you get immunity? Well, if you get some of the virus in you, you can build it the easy way. If you get a lot of the virus in you, you can build it the hard way. Or, you can take a vaccine. Vaccines give your body dead, wounded, or limited quantities of the virus or its analog (match), so you can create antibodies to be on the lookout for it in the future. However, with some viruses, these get tired and go dormant– meaning you lose the antibodies and can get sick from it again.  Don’t expect a vaccine for a year or more– but cures and treatments are on the table.  There already appears to be a possible treatment on the horizon, a malaria treatment (hydroxychloroquine) whose side effects are relatively minor (some malaria treatment drugs have some seriously intense side effects– not those).  French labs are already ramping up production and offering millions of doses.

Now, the big question is: Is this virus a big deal? Well, if you fit into one the above categories– yes. Otherwise, Yes, still. It’s a nasty bug. Those who have had the flu know the feeling of helplessness that comes along with it.  Now imagine everyone having it at once.  But that can’t happen, can it?  Can everyone get it at once?  Close enough– yes, due to the Law of Exponents.

Here’s a photo of the projections I have inputted on a spreadsheet that I made yesterday– ignore the numbers that are above the population or numbers above 100%, obviously.  Those are just there because I didn’t have time to make this “pretty”.:

As you can see, there will be a time before herd immunity when it gets really bad.  Weeks 13 through 18 are horrific.  After that, the virus goes away like it never even happened… Like magic.

So what’s this mean?  Obviously, with the Law of Exponents at play here, the quarantine this time around is basically a practice run.  These quarantines will become more common and more frequent as this virus pushes on, because of the exponential flow.   Those last two weeks of spread will need to be artificially pushed out by a massive set of long quarantine periods to spread the infection rate over a longer period of time.  We can’t have everyone getting sick like that all at once.

Many nay-sayers will say things like “this has only killed X people and the regular flu kills Y per year!”– these people are not lying, but they are also not informed of the whole truth.  We are in the first several weeks here, and the virus is going to get exponentially worse, every week.  The problem humans have is that we see things through the lens of evolutionary linear paths.  We are not easily able to comprehend exponential math.  There’s a huge difference, and I’ll outline it below:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
1 2 4 8 16 32 64 128 256 512 1024 2048 4096 8192 16384 32768 65536 131072 262144 524288

As you can see above, on the left are numbers small enough to mock, but the further you move right, the more severe they get, quickly. Column 20, we don’t have “20” as the value below, we see 524,288.  The exponential flow depends on the contagion factor of this virus. We are currently on week 9 (ish) of infection.  Expect this to start getting far more widespread, quickly.  So ignore those who say it is similar to the common flu or try to compare it– they are not aware of exponential flow or contagion factors– or both.

BUT– and a but big enough for Sir Mix A Lot to write a song about it— this projection ONLY works if the input numbers are accurate.  While the formulas are sound, the only thing I am sure of right now is that the input numbers are not 100% accurate, and will change as more information arrives.  For that reason, I have made the spreadsheet available for you to download here.  I ask only that you leave the credits section intact so that I may receive the beatings that will inevitably come to me, and modify the spreadsheet to make it better.

The time to panic is not now.  The time in Rows 14-18, however– that could get… Let’s just say, “weird”.  We’ve got a lot of time left until those dates arrive.

I do have one request, though: STOP SHAMING “HOARDERS”.  The people that are being referred to as “hoarders” are people who are buying the stuff they know they and their families will need in the future.  Stockpiling allows you and your family to take fewer trips to the grocery store, thereby putting you *and other shoppers* at a lower risk, thereby slowing the infection rate for everyone.  Use Amazon for easier shopping with minimal exposure.

Nonperishable goods should be stockpiled as a matter of general habit.  If you don’t have at least 30 days of food on-hand for every mouth you want to feed, you need to get it.  If you are able to, more is better.  Mormons typically prepare for an entire year– that’s not a bad habit, but it is unaffordable for most.

Prepare for inconveniences: Items may be out one week or another, and during the supply-chain shift you may find that you can’t purchase your favorite specialty fruit.  Not a big deal; Move on.  We will inevitably go through shifts of running out of this item or that item.  Prepare yourself for that– both in supplies and for your mental state.

Now that you have the numbers, you can properly prepare yourself for how this will play out.  Our fingers are crossed for an effective vaccine, but those don’t typically come for years.  However, the treatment mentioned above is very, very promising and could completely change the way this plays out.

Right now, it looks like this thing has a life expectancy outside of the body of about 3 days.  Colder temps (like fridges and freezers) prolong it.  So wash everything carefully that you bring home.  This is a biologically strong virus, but it is physically weak, so even mild soap and water will destroy it.  (Even lime juice will do the trick, according to some doctors!)

If you are in need of supplies that are short right now, ask a friend or family member.  Start your help networks NOW.  Don’t wait until you are in critical need and have nobody to call.

If you are in need of toilet paper– the white gold of March– today from 12pm to 3pm at Malarky’s Irish Pub, the owner Mario Marovic will be handing out toilet paper for just $0.50/roll— less than his cost to have them delivered.  This is a perfect opportunity for you to reach out to friends and family and see if they need a roll or two, and begin building your support network.  We will all need each other on this path that is sure to be a long one.  Be early to this party of friends helping friends and see if you can help someone else right now– don’t just show up to the party when you need something.  It’s a bad look!

So is this the end of the world?  Hardly.  Even if we find no vaccine, no treatment, and no cure, we will survive.  But there is even better news.  It looks like there is a cheap and abundant treatment that is being tested overseas right now (the aforementioned malaria treatment).  If this works, then the problem largely goes away.  And I, for one, can’t wait to get back to normal.



About Mike Glenn

Mike is the founder and publisher of Save Newport and Chair of Government Relations for the Elks Lodge. He writes, shoots photos, and edits, but much of the time, he's just "the IT guy". He can be reached at: Google+, Facebook, or via email, at