On Saturday evening March 7, I received a phone call from Rick Lakin recommending that the district leadership take proactive action to protect the health of our members from the Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19. I asked him to put his thoughts in writing. On Sunday, he sent me the excellent white paper that appears below. I share Rick’s concerns and I learned much from the clear and concise manner in which he presented this critical information.
I care for the health of our members and I endorse the recommendations that Rick provided in the conclusion. As District Governor, I recommend that the members and officers of each club consider this information and act in a proactive manner to protect the health of their members.
Our strength, our determination, our compassion, and most of all our optimism are the most effective tools we have to get ourselves, our families, the children we support, and our organization through this crisis.
California District 41 Governor
Rick Lakin, Calso41.us Webmaster
In late 2019, a flu-like disease transmitted from a live animal to a human in China, leading to the first case of Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19. In this paper, I will present information allowing the leaders of service clubs like Optimist International to evaluate the risks of continuing to meet regularly and preventing infection to our members from the coronavirus. Some of the information I present will be specific for Southern California clubs.
Coronavirus vs. the Flu
There are many differences between coronavirus and the seasonal flu or the common cold. These include the number of people susceptible to the virus, the rate of serious complications, how infectious novel coronavirus is, and how many people can die from the disease called the case fatality rate.
Coronavirus is called novel because it is new to the human population. There is no natural immunity in the community, and there is currently no vaccine. Therefore, everyone in the population is at risk of getting sick from the virus. For seasonal influenza, a large majority of the population has either had it and is immune or has received a flu vaccine.
There is a high rate of serious complications. Up to 15% of patients get pneumonia, and 5% require intensive care.
COVID-19 is very infectious. On average, one person with the illness can infect on the average four others, and it can spread from those who do not even know they have the disease to others. It can take more than three weeks for someone to have symptoms, during which they are contagious.
Coronavirus is up to twenty times more deadly than the flu. This varies by age and other complications. Fortunately, no young children have died yet.
San Diego and Southern California are densely populated, have many citizens who are uninsured or underinsured, receive visitors from many countries, and share a border with a country having a less effective health care system. Members are more likely to come in close contact with those who may have the disease but do not know it or can’t afford healthcare.
How Infectious is Coronavirus?
Contagious diseases have what is called a reproductive number, R0 pronounced R-naught. If a patient has the disease and is contagious, R0 represents the average number of healthy people whom he or she will infect.
The R0 for the seasonal flu is about one, and for COVID-19, the number is estimated to be 4.08, four times as contagious. If a person with the flu comes to a meeting, he or she could give the flu to one person who has never had the disease or who has not had a flu shot. Therefore, there is a low probability a flu sufferer will transmit the virus to another member at a meeting.
On the other hand, let’s say a person who has been exposed to COVID-19, has the virus, is contagious, is asymptomatic not feeling symptoms, and comes to a meeting. They may not even know they have the disease. Every person with whom they come in close contact might be exposed by a sneeze, a hug, a handshake, contact with a surface the patient touched, or even breathing in the exhalation near the patient. And every other person in the room is susceptible to COVID-19 because no one is immune.
According to an article in LiveScience from two weeks ago, “The number of coronavirus cases in South Korea has soared to about 602, according to The New York Times. More than half of those cases involve members of, or those somehow linked to, the religious sect, the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, where a female member infected at least 37 people.”
Don’t Test, Don’t Count
According to Worldometers.info, 447 US citizens have tested positive for COVID-19. Is this number accurate?
Here is a graph, again from Worldometers, from February 26:
South Korea has tested one-hundred-fifty times as many citizens and the United States, and the positive rate is about the same.
Part of the disparity is the lack of testing kits on hand, but part of it is a decision on the part of the federal government to limit the testing. If a citizen tests positive, they have to leave the workforce for three to four weeks. In my opinion, the government believes that keeping the economy going is more important than the health of our citizens.
An estimate from Dr. Chris Martenson’s Podcast on Peak Prosperity was that there are as many as five times as many actual cases as the number of positives, in other words, 2500 actual cases in the US.
To date, there have been 19 deaths in the United States out of 447 cases. That is a Case Fatality Rate of 4.2%. In South Korea, there have been 50 deaths from 7,313 cases for a rate of 0.6%, six-tenths of one percent. Why is there such a difference? Probably because the number of actual cases in South Korea is closer to the number of diagnosed cases.
The CDC guidelines limit who can be tested and, if positive, which contacts are tested. That significantly increases the likelihood that an asymptomatic person will attend a meeting.
Case Fatality Rate and Our Demographics
The demographics of our Optimist Clubs put our members at higher risk than the general public. A majority of our members are over fifty years old. Many are over eighty.
If a person with COVID-19 attends an Optimist Club meeting and infects several others, there is a probability we could lose one of our most valued long-time members.
Beware of the Second Derivative
Why is it essential to make a quick decision on this? As a mathematics teacher, I taught about slope as the first derivative and exponential growth as the second derivative.
If you start with 100 cases of coronavirus on January 1 and you increase by ten each day, on December 31, you will have 3700 cases. That is a slope of 10/1, the first derivative.
If you start with 100 cases on January 1 and you double the number every month, you will have 400,600 cases on December 31. That is the exponential growth of the second derivative. Think of the story of the chessboard and the grain of rice.
In the United States, the number of COVID-19 cases is doubling every six days. That means there could be a million sometime in May.
So far, the second derivative for COVID-19 has remained positive around the world, and it is not slowing down.
I have tried to present the facts from reputable sources, and I have been attempting to come to reasonable conclusions. I know it sounds alarmist, but I believe you need to consider this.
The captain of my submarine once explained that the moral of the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf was all wrong. If someone sounds the alarm, you should always listen, evaluate, and react.
Therefore, based on the facts and conclusions I have presented, I recommend the following:
- Call a meeting of the Executive Board quickly and consider this information.
- Suspend all Optimist Club meetings and events in CALSO41 until COVID-19 is under control, and there is a vaccine.
- Encourage members to follow all of the recommended precautions for COVID-19.
- Explore on-line alternatives for club meetings and events.
- And yes, wash your hands regularly