COVID-19: Vacation in the time of COVID-19Jul 13, 2020
I am on vacation but the COVID-19 pandemic is not. It is surging in the United States, exposing too many flaws in responses across the country. Most states have rising case numbers, including Colorado, and hospitalizations throughout our state have moved from a plateau over the last several weeks to now showing an uptick. Several months of effective social distancing in Colorado lowered the reproductive number (R) to well below one, but even the measured re-opening of Colorado has now brought the R estimate above one in our modeling. All Coloradans need to continue to maintain the behaviors that reduced the R below one. Mask wearing is critical. I joined Governor Polis at a press conference last week; his retort after numerous questions about using masks and the need for a statewide order: “Just wear your damn mask.” Why not?
Colorado’s epidemic has evolved and the proportion of cases among those under 40 has risen over the last few months, as has the proportion of younger people being hospitalized. This trend is seen nationwide, perhaps reflecting a misperception among young adults that they will not become ill if infected, and ignorance concerning the consequences of being infected for older people. Locally, there have been gatherings on “the Hill” in Boulder leading to outbreaks, and nationally, there have been “COVID parties” leading to illness and even deaths. Bars have been closed in many places, including Colorado, to control this unfortunate expansion of the pandemic.
“Vacations” have a new definition and implications in the world changed by COVID-19. For those working at home, work is as close as a computer or telephone and inescapable 24/7. As I commiserate with colleagues, we lament the challenges of virtual meetings and other interactions. “Body language” is lost with zoom and there is fatigue with tracking the small faces in the gallery view. But we have the privilege of safely working from home, while many cannot and have suffered a high burden of disease. The inequities of the pandemic are addressed in our collaborative series with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, today (July 13) and next Monday (July 20). Last week, the New York Times published a superb article on the topic and a recent CDC Morbidity, Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) addresses race, ethnicity, and mortality.
Last week, the COVID-19 Modeling Group posted an app version of the SEIR model that has been used and refined over the last several months. The tool, a “shiny app,” allows users to set scenarios for controlling Colorado’s COVID-19 epidemic and project the consequences for the epidemic’s course. One message is clear: we need to use all tools available to control the pandemic.
“Just wear your damn mask” and stay well,