The Atlantic

Don’t Believe the COVID-19 Models

That’s not what they’re for.
Source: Tom Brenner / Reuters

The Trump administration has just released the model for the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic in America. We can expect a lot of back-and-forth about whether its mortality estimates are too high or low. And its wide range of possible outcomes is certainly confusing: What’s the right number? The answer is both difficult and simple. Here’s the difficult part: There is no right answer. But here’s the simple part: Right answers are not what epidemiological models are for.

Epidemiologists routinely turn to models to predict the progression of an infectious disease. Fighting public suspicion of these models is as old as modern epidemiology, which traces its origins back to John Snow’s famous cholera maps in 1854. Those maps proved, for the first time, that London’s terrible affliction was spreading through crystal-clear fresh water that came out of pumps, not the city’s foul-smelling air. Many people didn’t believe Snow, because they lived in a world without a clear understanding of germ theory and only the most rudimentary microscopes.

In our time, however, the problem is sometimes that people believe epidemiologists, and then get through the population, with the exception of the elderly, who were to be kept indoors. The idea was to let enough people get sick and recover from the mild version of the disease, to create “herd immunity.”

Vous lisez un aperçu, inscrivez-vous pour en lire plus.

Plus de The Atlantic

The Atlantic4 min de lecturePolitical Ideologies
I Never Expected to See It Here
As I sat in my Capitol Hill office two weeks ago, watching a violent mob storm the symbol and seat of our democracy, I was reminded of my distant past. As a child, I saw my birth country of Somalia descend from relative stability into civil war, over
The Atlantic11 min de lectureInternational Relations
The Case Against the Iran Deal
Reviving the JCPOA will ensure either the emergence of a nuclear Iran or a desperate war to stop it.
The Atlantic4 min de lecturePolitics
Can Abolition Work in an Age of Right-Wing Extremism?
Punishment can radicalize and further alienate people, while social policy and grassroots community building can defuse potential violence.