Posted on: March 30, 2020 at 2:19 pm

Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic, people all over the world began panicking. News of the virus is impossible to avoid, as it has dominated every headline and news report, and is the topic of conversation in every household around the world.

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Different news outlets have made varying predictions as to how long social distancing and isolation will remain in effect, some saying it could be a few months, some saying it could be up to a full year.

One Nobel Laureate, however, predicts that the crisis in the United States will be over sooner than many think.

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“We’re Going to be Fine”

Michael Levitt, a Stanford biophysicist, and Nobel Laureate has studied data from 78 countries and believes the threat is less severe than what the media is portraying. 

Levitt published a report on February first that predicted with remarkable accuracy how the situation in China would play out. In his report, he forecasted that China would see a total of around 80 thousand cases of the virus and 3 250 deaths. 

China, whose number of new cases has now slowed down to just 25 per day, reported that as of March 16, there had been 80 298 cases, and 3 245 deaths [1].

Levitt has noticed a similar pattern in countries around the world and says that cases of the virus will begin to decline more rapidly than some have projected.

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“What we need is to control the panic,” he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times [2].

Read: Former CDC Chief: Vitamin D May Reduce The Risk Of Coronavirus Infection

The Total Number of Cases is the Wrong Metric

According to Levitt, the more important metric to monitor is the number of new cases, and how quickly that rate is increasing. He compared the outbreak to a car racing down an open highway. He explained that although the car is still gaining speed, it is not accelerating as rapidly as before [2].

In the same way, if there are 42 deaths one day, and 46 the next, although the number of deaths increased, the rate of that increase slowed down, which is an early sign that the trajectory of the disease has shifted. 

Levitt is seeing a similar turning point in other countries and expects that the United States will follow a similar pattern.

“Numbers are still noisy, but there are clear signs of slowed growth,” he said [2].

Levitt noted that in areas where testing is inconsistent or not widely available, case counts may appear lower than they really are, but as long as the reason behind inaccurate case counts remains the same, it is still useful to compare them from one day to the next.

“…a consistent decline means there’s some factor at work that is not just noise in the numbers,” he said [2].

Read: You Can Kill Coronavirus With These Common Household Cleaners

Levitt Supports Social Distancing

While he believes that we should not panic, Levitt does not disagree with the social distancing measures and lockdowns being put in place all over the world. The virus is so new that nobody has built any immunity to it, and a vaccine may not be available for several months if not more.

He echoes the recommendations by public health officials, stating that the real worry is overwhelming our healthcare system, which is why we all must self-isolate to descending upon our hospitals all at once.

“Currently, I am most worried about the U.S. It must isolate as many people as possible to buy time for preparations,” he explained. “Otherwise, it can end up in a situation where 20,000 infected people will descend on the nearest hospital at the same time and the healthcare system will collapse.” [5]

He also fears that the mass shutdowns and the catastrophic effects they can have on the economy will come with their own public health concerns, due to job loss, poverty, and general hopelessness. Research has shown that suicide rates increase when there is a severe downturn in the economy [2,3].

Levitt says that early detection through testing and body temperature-surveillance, similar to what was implemented in China, will help prevent the spread of the virus because the virus only grows exponentially when it is not being detected and controlled.

“People need to be considered heroes for announcing they have this virus,” he said [2].

Read: Antibodies Identified With Aim to Treat Coronavirus

Only Time Will Tell

Other experts, such as Dr. Loren Miller, a physician and infectious diseases researcher at the Lundquist Institute for Biomedical Innovation at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, believe that it is still too early to predict how the situation in the U.S. will end up.

In China they nipped it in the bud in the nick of time,” he said. “In the U.S. we might have, or we might not have. We just don’t know.” [2]

As of March 30, 2020, the United States has reported 145 542 cases of COVID-19, and 2 616 deaths. From March 26 to March 29, the number of new cases reported in the U.S. was as follows: 

March 26- 17 224
March 27 – 18 691
March 28 – 19 452
March 29 – 19 913 [4]

Although the number of new cases is still increasing, these numbers show that the rate of increase is slowing down, which, according to Levitt, could be an early sign that the virus is starting to slow down.

It is important, however, that we do not use Levitt’s predictions as a source of false confidence. Now more than ever, it is crucial to stay home and practice social distancing in order to continue slowing the rate of new infections until they start to decrease. This is the only way that we will be able to defeat this virus and return to normal life.

Keep Reading: How Will The Coronavirus Pandemic Come To An End?

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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