Ferguson: R0 for Coronavirus is Probably 3.1

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From the department of buried leads:

New data from the rest of Europe suggests that the outbreak is running faster than expected, said [Neil] Ferguson. As a result, epidemiologists have revised their estimate of the reproduction number (R0) of the virus. This measure of how many other people a carrier usually infects is now believed to be just over three, he said, up from 2.5. “That adds more evidence to support the more intensive social distancing measures,” he said.

Neil Ferguson is the guy in charge of the Imperial College study that predicted 2 million coronavirus deaths in the US and 500,000 in Britain if no control measures were taken. He now believes that Britain will keep its death toll under 20,000 due to the strong isolation and social distancing measures being taken.

Which is great! At the same time, estimating that R0 has increased from 2.5 to 3.1 is . . . very, very bad. It means that on average, every infected person infects three other people, not 2.5 other people—which makes the spread of the virus much wider and faster. Without any control measures, for example, it means that after ten generations a single person will be responsible for 120,000 infections instead of 15,000 infections.

In other words, control measures are even more important than we thought. This is really, really no time for Donald Trump to be screwing around with this stuff.

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In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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