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The Atlantic-- A New Understanding of Herd Immunity

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A well thought out and balanced article in the Atlantic.




"Essentially, at present, New York City—where I live—might be said to be at a version of herd immunity, or at least safe equilibrium. Our case counts are very low. They have been low for weeks. Our antibody counts mean that a not-insignificant number of people are effectively removed from the chain of transmission. Many more can be effectively excluded because they’re staying isolated and distanced, wearing masks, and being hygienically vigilant. If we keep living just as we are, another big wave of disease seems unlikely."


"What we seem to need is a better understanding of herd immunity in this novel context. The threshold can change based on how a virus spreads. The spread keeps on changing based on how we react to it at every stage, and the effects compound. Small preventive measures have big downstream effects. In other words, the herd in question determines its immunity. There is no mystery in how to drop the R0 to below 1 and reach an effective herd immunity: masks, social distancing, hand-washing, and everything everyone is tired of hearing about. It is already being done."

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Excellent article by the Atlantic:


“We just keep running the models, and it keeps coming back at less than 20 percent,” Gomes said. “It’s very striking.”


If that proves correct, it would be life-altering news. It wouldn’t mean that the virus is gone. But by Gomes’s estimates, if roughly one out of every five people in a given population is immune to the virus, that seems to be enough to slow its spread to a level where each infectious person is infecting an average of less than one other person."


So if the herd immunity threshold does indeed turn out to be 20% or less that would indeed be major news.



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How many more deaths? How many more infections with possible long term impairments.  The medicos are seeing longer term impairments (kidney, cardiac, CVAs) in younger infected persons.  No realistic estimate as to how long the antibodies lower the chances of reinfection.   Gomes hopes for 20% but others have posited that it is more likely to be up to 40%.  

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