Someone online was musing that the reason we’re getting fewer and fewer people dying from this is that this is a new strain of the virus…
My gut feel is that it isn’t a new strain because you’d have to have a lot of preconditions met for it. (It doesn’t 100% rule it out, but I think it would be tricky to be true)
This comes from the fact that there is no “virus” in the sense that it’s a coordinated entity. Instead you have uncountably many instances of viral particles, some with transcription errors. To have the new strain theory be true you would have to:
- Have accidentally gotten one that still tests the same as the old one and also grants immunity to the old one (this isn’t that far fetched).
- The new one would have to have an R(0) that is far higher than the old one so that it would outcompete the old one (combined with the first one could be tricky)
- The new one would simply be milder
If the second one were true, it would spread easier, and with that you should see the death rate fall at roughly the same time everywhere because, at least in the US, people and things are still moving across state lines pretty much every day. But it would have to be done the same way around the globe as well.
All that said, I would take it in a freaking heartbeat! Unlikely doesn’t mean impossible.
My personal theories (based on me looking at the data like everyone else – I’m not an epidemiologist but I dabble in math and like to torture myself to explain things):
We all are aware that the virus affects people differently based on age. This is very clear looking at the numbers as well as reports from various agencies. My idea is that there is another variable that we’ve not yet nailed down that makes certain groups even more vulnerable to catch the virus — so a subset of the population has a high R(0) and the rest have a much lower one. This group drew the short genetic straw or something. Since the virus is literally everywhere, and has been for months now, the extra vulnerable group is just being burnt through and once most of them have gotten it the R(0) of the overall population just falls through the floor.
Playing off the first idea is that we’re getting better at keeping people who we know to be vulnerable safer. The “you’re old or already sick, stay home” idea. People don’t want to die so if they know they would likely be screwed by it will take extra care. Conversely, what you’re seeing is a lot of people who are unlikely to die from this are already treating this an a nothing.
This has been around for months, so we’re also better at treating people who get it. This isn’t supported by the hospitalization data though… if this were true then you’d have a bump in the hospitalization rate but the death rate wouldn’t be as affected, if at all.
I’ve read elsewhere that the severity of an infection is correlated to the viral load you were initially exposed to. This would explain why placed like the NYC area got it hard with the density and the reliance on packing people in tightly in small confined places (i.e. subway cars). Tennessee would be lucky because we’re so opposite in many ways.
I think that I had reached the point of admitting that this virus was behaving strangely a couple months back and the simple “just wait two weeks” didn’t seem to explain the data that we’ve been seeing for months now.
I’m just tired of the politicization of this. We are dealing with something real unlike some people say. But it no longer seems to be as deadly as other people say.
TL;DR: The virus is real, but it’s more complicated that we fully understand. But at least people aren’t dying nearly as fast as we originally though, and that’s a good thing.