How long will this coronavirus crisis last?

In a matter of days, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, life changed abruptly for many Americans and in most countries around the world. In many places, busy streets and sidewalks are now empty. Once-bustling restaurants and bars are closed. Families are hunkering down in their homes. Those who have to venture out to buy food and other supplies try to stay a safe distance from everyone.

One question on everyone’s minds: How long will this last?

How long will this coronavirus crisis last? Image: Closeup of COVID-19 coronavirus
Closeup of COVID-19 coronavirus (protein spikes on SARS-CoV2). (Image: Getty)

Associated Press:

Scientists say there isn’t a simple answer.

On Monday, President Donald Trump said the U.S. may be managing the outbreak through July or August. And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state’s number of coronavirus cases may peak – not end – in 45 days. The overall message is that the country will be fighting the virus outbreak for a matter of months, at least, not days or weeks.

If the virus makes a jump to new person every two to five days, as scientists calculate, then a single infected person could lead to 4,142 total infections within a month — assuming nothing is done to break chains of transmission. Unless such measures are put in place, scientists estimate that between 40 and 80% of the global population could become infected. Based on an analysis of data from China, scientists found that the majority of new infections are transmitted by people with mild symptoms who may not even know they’re ill, said Jeffrey Shaman, a public health expert at Columbia University.

Even if most people recover and only a fraction of total infections are severe enough to require hospitalization — about 14%, scientists estimate — the sheer scale of the epidemic will put enormous strain on hospitals, healthcare workers and other patients who may see unrelated procedures delayed.

Scientists now agree that measures to break or slow the chains of transmission are crucial to ensure that emergency rooms aren’t quickly overwhelmed by surges in critically ill patients.

So how does this end?

Most scientists believe the fight against COVID-19 won’t be over until there’s an effective vaccine. But [U.S. government disease expert Dr. Anthony] Fauci and other experts say it will be more than a year before a vaccine can be ready for widespread use. “The best-case scenario is that we have vaccine in 12 or 18 months and then our lives go back to normal,” [Mark Jit, a disease researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine] said. “The worst-case scenario it takes a long time for a vaccine to be developed, and the world is really changed and our lives aren’t the same again.”

While we wait, are we all shut-ins for more than a year? Almost no one thinks that’s realistic. What may be more feasible is a plan for intermittent restrictions and enhanced monitoring to control the disease, an idea explored in a new study from researchers at Imperial College London. Once the number of new cases falls below a certain threshold, schools, offices and restaurants could reopen. But if the number of infections spikes again, restrictions would be reinstated. “The analogy of pumping car brakes on an icy road is what we should be thinking about,” [Michael Levy, a University of Pennsylvania disease researcher], said. “You push on the brakes to slow things down, then ease up – but if you skid, you have to pump the brakes again.”

MacDailyNews Take: So, the U.S. is taking a middle approach between the two extremes of doing nothing vs. total lockdown (the Netherlands, for just one of many examples, is taking a similar approach the the U.S.).

Here’s the plan: Allow the virus to spread to people who are not really affected by it while protecting the vulnerable as much as possible. If the group that recovered from the virus is large enough, herd immunity will help protect the vulnerable against the virus. This will happen naturally, as some people have to work and some people will just not heed the warnings and properly distance socially. With the current measures already advocated and in place, the U.S. and other governments are trying to “flatten the curve” as much as possible to spread the peak of infections over a longer period. This way immunity is built up in the population that is best-equipped to survive it while the healthcare system is not fatally overloaded. Those who need help to fight and survive the virus will have access to the hospitals, doctors, nurses, and equipment they need. Most people who contract COVID-19 will not need hospitals, doctors, nurses, and equipment. They will get sick, their immune system will do its job, and then they will be immune.

If no measures were taken and the virus were allowed to spread unhindered it would make too many people sick quickly, overloading the healthcare system (see Wuhan initially, Iran and, to some extent, Italy).

On the other extreme, a “total lockdown” would result in fewer cases of COVID-19, but as soon as those controls were relaxed, the virus would spring right back into action and we do not and will not have an effective vaccine that is deemed safe for 12-18 months at least. We very likely will have effective treatments long before then.

It’s better in this case to overreact. Stay home. When you have to go out, stay away from others. Be smart. Let’s work together to blunt the coronavirus as much as possible!

More info on the Prevention & Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) via the U.S. CDC is here. Track the Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) here.

45 Comments

  1. Allow the virus to spread to people who are not really affected by it while protecting the vulnerable as much as possible. If the group that recovered from the virus is large enough, herd immunity will help protect the vulnerable against the virus

    That was the UK conservative government’s strategy: isolate the elderly, but younger folk were told to continue mixing and mingling. But according to https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/17/britain-uk-coronavirus-response-johnson-drops-go-it-alone/

    “On Monday night, that theory collided with the facts. A new analysis by immunologists at Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine of the impact of the coronavirus in Italy suggested that up to 30 percent of patients hospitalized with the virus would require intensive care treatment. Those numbers, if repeated in the U.K., would quickly overwhelm Britain’s state-run National Health Service.

    Within hours of the report, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared at a daily briefing at No. 10 Downing St. to reverse the herd immunity policy. Acknowledging that “drastic action” was required, Johnson announced that from now on Britons should try to work from home and voluntarily refrain from unnecessary travel and social contact.”

      1. Most jobs can’t be done by infected workers who’ve been hospitalized, either.

        A Wednesday CDC report, 20% (1 in 5 people) of Americans confirmed to have COVID-19 had to be hospitalized in the US, and 12% of those also admitted to ICUs, are young adults (ages 20 to 44).

        The health insurance of millions of Americans is not robust enough to take this kind of hit.

          1. I’m not being disingenuous, you read what you wanted to, instead of what I wrote. I’m not talking about a health care system not being robust enough to handle the surge, no country’s system is. Not single-payer/state-run, not majority privatized like the US either.

            I’m talking about the HEALTH INSURANCE of millions of Americans not being able to cover their care in the first place, if they have insurance at all. Some may have decent coverage but a big initial deductible (MotleyFool says the US average is $1655) to cover a cheaper premium, which people living paycheque to paycheque might have a much harder time covering now that they’re not working and possibly not being paid.

      2. Cite your data source please. Are we talking Steve Jobs “Those jobs aren’t coming back” Chinese production jobs, or Wall Street and corporate beancounter jobs? Cook performs his job using an iPad on the corporate jet, and the leader of the free world uses a Samsung S3 from his golf course. If we were smart, we could do what they do.

    1. Thanks, you saved me the trouble. It’s baffling that the US is resisting harsher measures to ensure a flatter curve rather than relying on dubious ‘herd immunity science. It’s been proved that coming down hard yields the best result in the short term and longer.
      There will be howls of “anti constitutional “
      ‘the Johnson’ has had to do a 180 from said policy.
      London will be in lockdown come the weekend, troops on the street, food riots and a curfew most likely. The US will probably follow.
      In Quarantine signs going up locally even though we have only 3 cases so far in the county. The huge county wide holiday/second home owners brigade are piling in with their suvs piled high with supplies putting a strain on local services severely depleted after 12 years of austerity, the web speed has slowed by around 50% in the last two weeks, local shops are stripped to the point you can’t even buy the ingredients to bake a loaf of bread from anywhere.
      Yep. The herd immunity policy worked really well.

  2. There are also 2 drugs that are designed to kill all corona viruses (including this one), under development for the last 5 years, that are now in human trials. The news interviewer didn’t ask the timeline question, so I am not sure how long before they could be approved for market, etc. I am sure many months (year to year and a half?). I think clinical trials come after human trials (the drugs have both been effective in vitro and in animals). Once all trials are done, if safe and effective, I assume the FDA could fast track approval red tape. Then you have manufacturing ramp up, etc… So, likely – about the same timeline as vaccine, as at least one vaccine has also begun human trials.

  3. The “simple answer,” is End of March. Corona Virus is no more potent than a mild case of the Flu (with similar death-rates). This has all been a case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

    👉🏼China has closed down its last coronavirus hospital. Not enough new cases to support them.

    👉🏼Doctors in India have been successful in treating Coronavirus. Combination of drugs used: Lopinavir, Retonovir, Oseltamivir along with Chlorphenamine. They are going to suggest same medicine, globally.

    👉🏼Researchers of the Erasmus Medical Center claim to have found an antibody against coronavirus.

    👉🏼A 103-year-old Chinese grandmother has made a full recovery from COVID-19 after being treated for 6 days in Wuhan, China.

    👉🏼Apple reopens all 42 china stores,

    👉🏼Cleveland Clinic developed a COVID-19 test that gives results in hours, not days.

    👉🏼Good news from South Korea, where the number of new cases is declining.

    👉🏼Italy is hit hard, experts say, only because they have the oldest population in Europe.

    👉🏼Scientists in Israel likely to announce the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

    👉🏼3 Maryland coronavirus patients fully recovered; able to return to everyday life.

    👉🏼A network of Canadian scientists are making excellent progress in Covid-19 research.

    👉🏼A San Diego biotech company is developing a Covid-19 vaccine in collaboration with Duke University and National University of Singapore.

    👉🏼Tulsa County’s first positive COVID-19 case has recovered. This individual has had two negative tests, which is the indicator of recovery.

    👉🏼All 7 patients who were getting treated for at Safdarjung hospital in New Delhi have recovered.

    👉🏼Plasma from newly recovered patients from Covid -19 can treat others infected by Covid-19.

    1. Steve… perhaps you’ve heard of the Spanish Flu. You may not realize it, but it didn’t come from Spain. There are three theories… one that it developed in the Trenches in France, one that it developed in a military army camp in Kansas and another that it started in Northern China.

      The Chinese theory is the most interesting ( and before you pull the racism card, keep reading ). China and its environs, in general, was not hit as hard as the rest of world. in 1917 Northern China was affected by a mysterious respiratory disease. The Chinese at the time labeled it the winter flu.

      96,000 Chinese laborers were ( at the same time ) shipped out from that affected area to the front lines to help with the war effort.

      The virus then mutated and became more deadly.

      It’s the mutated virus that killed so many more. IN the FALL of 1918 it mutated again and became even more deadly.

      We don’t yet know how deadly this virus will end up being, but we DO know that it’s very contagious… so flattening the curve both doesn’t overwhelm medical facilities and allows us time to develop strategies to combat them.

    2. Just wow. I really can’t fathom where your blithe confidence comes from on the vaccine front, but, to be so ill informed about simple Covid-19 facts and it’s lethal effects on the world as we know it, is almost criminal denial.

      1. Please keep in mind that I have been quite healthy for many years with few colds. I get my flu shot and an annual physical. I am 54, so I am getting older, but I m not in the higher risk areas for COVID-19.

        I started feeling run down late last Thursday. I was feeling worse on Friday morning and stayed home from work to protect my colleagues. By Saturday morning, I was highly congested with a headache, etc. and I mostly huddled in my room. The symptoms worsened over the next few days and there were times when I considered going to the emergency room. I got very little sleep at night because I felt like I was choking on the sticky stuff in my lungs that I could not cough out. I began taking maximum doses of an expectorant and drank lots of water. Several times at night I would hang over the side of the bed to cough out the congestion onto a towel. I needed the help of gravity. In between those sessions I could get a couple hours of sleep. This morning – one week later – I am feeling better, although still a long way from normal. I still have some lung congestion remaining, but I have come a long way.

        The sad thing is that I do not know if I was hit by COVID-19 or by something else. Testing just started in my area a couple of days ago and I am not in a high risk group…so no test. As a responsible citizen, I have no choice but to act as if it were COVID-19 and self-isolate.

        The lack of widespread COVID-19 testing in the U.S. is a major issue and a major failure.

        1. Glad you’re on the mend. Testing is key. The failure in the UK was all but carved in stone after 12 years of starvation for our NHS.
          “But but….it snuck up on us”

        2. Mel. Hope you continue to get better. We went on a cruise out of Florida and returned January 15. One day latter my wife and I came down with symptoms similar to yours. Two of our friends on the cruise came down with it too. It took 3 weeks for my symptoms to go away and 5 weeks for my wife. At the time Corona virus wasn’t in the US news much and no tests were available but due to the severity of the virus we both basically stayed home for 3 weeks. We found that NyQuil, Robitussin DM (dextromethorphan and guaifenesin), sleep, and fluids worked best. Beer helped too. 🙂 I’m 61 wife is 57.

    3. Wow! China has got everything under control! 1,435,000,000 people all hanging out with a highly contagious virus and China is just cruising along. Some other explanations might be, A) numbers coming out of China aren’t accurate, B) they have stopped testing – no tests = no new cases, C) both A + B. In other “China is doing a great job” news; citizen reports are popping up on Weibo and We Chat of local community door to door checks in Wuhan… knock, knock… no answer. Bust the door down to find…uh…ehh… family has been permanently cured. Another one… mom and dad went off to “a hospital.” Two children left at home. They are permanently cured, too. If only we could be more like China! Yay!

      1. You may wish to express your concerns about trusting China with Tim Cook, who along with most corporate CEOs has bet the farm on China production. Corporate CEOs, including the ultraliberal SJW and the ultra conservative red hat wearing Trump Collection producers, all chose to outsource to the max to a communist nation.

        Only now we claim communist tactics are bad? Does not matter if we are talking about health quarantines or factory working conditions, communism makes decisions to benefit the Party, not the people. The people (citizens, their representatives, shareholders) should demand that all corporations diversify their supply chain and balance production across democratic nations.

        We know that greed prevents that, don’t we? Turns out Crony Capitalism loves communism, as it enriches the oligarchs.

      1. They should also remove any stigmatising posts ré China and Covid-19 since in the aftermath of 9/11, I don’t remember Chinese officials making unjustified and gloating xenophobic remarks over the loss of lives from terrorism. A figure dwarfed three times over by the currently 9000 Covid-19 deaths in China.
        C’mon MDN grow a spine.

    4. Not to be a prick but you believing anything the Chinese press tells you about their ‘survival rates’ is astounding. Otherwise I have a lot of hope for the rest of the world. Here in Canada, we have very realistic rates – yes old people are threatened (as they were long before CV19), but the young should be fine.

    5. Come back at the end of April and tell us how right you were that we’ll be a month past the disease. Go ahead – we’ll be waiting to hear from you. And bring your own bucket of crow if you’re mistaken.

  4. The new normal will take 1 month (for the human mind/world to adjust), Coronavirus like the flu is here to stay, and like the flu or the common cold there is nothing you can do a question of when not if you get it, but single payer and more better investment in healthcare for all is something that should be done? And not smoking and clean air (EPA) might be important to your long term health.

  5. Steve Carl Said:
    “The “simple answer,” is End of March. Corona Virus is no more potent than a mild case of the Flu”

    That’s a hugely wrong and dangerous claim.

    COVID-19 has a vastly higher mortality rate.

    The CDC has repeatedly stated that the CV-19 mortality rate is between 2% and 3%. and (between 10% and 20% for people above 60). The flu mortality rate 0.1%. Mortality rate is 20 times greater than the flu at a minimum.

    COVID-19 is vastly more transmissible than the flu for AT LEAST 2 reasons:

    NO PREEXISTING immunity: Prior to December 2019 no one in the world has ever had this disease. But almost everyone has had many forms of flu, which by itself, according to the CDC makes covid-19 vastly more transmissible than the FLU
    COVID-19 is transmissible from people who have this WITHOUT SYMPTOMS. Thus its impossible to know when to self isolate, (and its impossible for people even WITH average symptoms to get tested). This is not true of the flu.

    China’s success relates to the fact that they’ve been tracking and isolating People in ways we haven’t even begun to dream of.

    Every person (including foreign travelers) has his ID on his smartphone checked and his temperature checked before entering each and every building in the country. movement within buildings are tracked as well
    ANY previous PROXIMITY to infected people is automatically identified and cause for lockout,.

    We can’t even test all people with severe symptoms

    the number of US cases is going up 10 fold every week, and we’re testing practically NO-ONE whose symptoms are not life threatening

    1. The CDC has reported 2-3% mortality for “diagnosed/reported cases.” They went on to estimate that worldwide the mortality rate would be 1% for All cases, reported or not. Same as the Flu, biased toward the elderly. Same as the Flu. Kaiser Permanente has recently notified members that 80% of all who get the Corona Virus will experience symptoms no worse than a common cold — and thus, worldwide, will go unrecognized and undiagnosed.

      This is a little like “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Folks, the problem isn’t the Corona Virus — which is here to stay — it the “Crisis” (read, Panic: Toilet Paper? Really?).

      But you will believe what you want to believe.

      1. Since MDN is continuing to allow this bull…, I will just point out the general credibility of somebody who thinks that 1.0-3.0% (Covid-19 mortality rate) is “the same as the flu.” The rate this year for deaths per diagnosed/reported case of seasonal flu is significantly less than 0.1.

        If this guy thinks that a 2900% difference doesn’t matter, I sure hope he doesn’t teach mathematics for a living. The difference is perhaps twice that for people over 60 or with a prexisting health condition.

        We can hope that effective treatments and quarantines will reduce the death toll substantially, but without them, 50% of the American population could easily catch the virus. If just 1% of those die, that would be 1.5 million deaths. Keeping the rate at 1% when 30 million people need hospitalization might be difficult.

        Again, this is not inevitable if we stop listening to the lying voices.

      2. The current mortality rate of deaths vs reported cases is 3.4%.
        – CDC OFFICIAL mortality rate is 2%.

        Trump is the one who said “I have a hunch that its less than that because of unreported cases”. Not the CDC.

        Even if you want to insist that its ONE PERCENT, that’s still TEN TIMES greater mortality rate than the flu which is POINT ONE PERCENT

        You also state that the elderly have the same mortality rate for CV19 and flue. Totally wrong again. Flu mortality rate for elderly is LESS then ONE PERCENT, CV19 for elderly goes up to FIFTEEN PERCENT

        And you haven’t even addressed the transmissibility which is really the biggest problem of all, for the factors stated above.

      3. If the US population is 329 million and 50% catch the virus that’s 165 million.
        so for 1% death rate 165 x .01= 1.65 million deaths.
        so for 2% death rate 165 x .02= 3.3 million deaths.
        so for 3% death rate 165 x .03= 5 million million deaths.

        Those numbers are a bit bigger than flu death rates in the past 100 years.
        The death rate seems to vary with Hospital overcrowding.
        Northern Italy is expected to see a 65% infection rate

        1. Good reminder for the remaining skeptics.
          This administration has substantially changed its tune in the last 9 days.

          That being said, the mixed messages continue. The president should sit down whenever a medical question is given, because his verbal diarrhea has merely confused the issues. The latest signaling is a pile of unfounded hope that a Malaria drug (chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine) is a substitute for a properly tested COVID-19 vaccine. This “hope as a strategy” should be tamped down by proper medical professionals. Dr. Fauci again had to reel in the president’s enthusiasm. Effectiveness has not been proven. Dosages have not been established. Known precautions need to be followed, otherwise side effects can make a bad matter worse. Malaria meds are not safe for everyone (a long list of effects can occur for people with heart,liver and kidney conditions, and there are known interactions with blood pressure medications).

          It is true that some doctors are willing to try “off label” low dosages with their patients, but proper trials have not been completed. In the most litigious nation in the world, do Malaria drug makers have any liability for possible bad effects? “What the hell do we have to lose” is simply not acceptable medical advice.

          The world is now simply going to have to keep their interpersonal distance until vaccines and medications are proven. That’s a 12 to 18 month process. If one shortcuts the effectiveness trials, that could be trimmed. In the meanwhile, let’s not short Malaria patients from needed medicine. Remember, two weeks ago this was just a flu! Natural herd immunity would take care of everything in no time!

      4. @Steve Carl .. the problem with even a 1% casualty rate is that even at but a 50% infection rate upon a 7.7 billion worldwide population still means ~40 million dead. Similarly, it only takes a 40% infection rate to exceed 1M casualties just within the USA.

        Given the long asymptomatic period of COVID-19 and that US hospitals haven’t yet hit a new case inflection point (nor have Italy or Spain), we have zero evidence to even suggest that we’re halfway, which means the final casualty rate will be at least double what it is today.

        Similarly, the time required for the tailing off is functionally similar to the ramp up time, which basically makes it to be 80% over by the end of March 2020 patently impossible.

        But congratulations! You did attract a lot of attention.

        In the meantime, it doesn’t look like anyone else has offered a specific date, so I’ll stick out my neck with my own estimate. I expect quarentines to last through April for sure, although by May/June there will be pressure to provide relief, as unemployment will probably be over 10% (hopefully less than 20%). If the summer is ‘calm’, schools will try to resume in the Fall, but there will be an uptick in cases, so if quarantines were relaxed, they may come back. Overall the history books will record the end of this outbreak as Spring 2021.

  6. The short answer is that nobody knows how long the crisis will last, but looking at how cases multiply, the crisis will last in a particular country for about two months after their government truly understand that it’s crisis and that extreme action needs to be taken. to restrict movement

    I live in the UK and our government has recently done a 180 degree spin and is now doing many of the right things. Today they said that there is zero chance that London will be put on lockdown, but lockdown is precisely what is needed, so we can anticipate another 180 turn there. To put a charitable spin on it, I think they have to deny it right up until they need to enforce it, otherwise there will be a mass exodus, with people taking the virus with them to wherever they flee to.

    I have relatives in Germany and friends in Italy. Things in both countries currently look grim. and the public in both countries are very concerned aboutr the future. In Germany, young men have to do national service, which can be military or alternatively in essential services. A very good friend of mine who is now in his mid 40s did his national service as a paramedic. He has already been recalled to work as a medic. It’s very telling that while Germany has quite a high number of infections, their mortality rate is rather lower than most countries.

    With regards to the spread of coronavirus, the Germans are a couple of weeks ahead of the UK while Italy is about a month ahead, and China is emerging from the other side of it, so there is a lot to be learned from their experiences for anybody willing to listen, Sadly the people who most need to listen seem to be talking instead of listening.

    1. Too late. There’s almost a convoy of loaded suvs streaming into the many second homes in a county with only three current cases. Our services are barely adequate without the incomes as it is.
      But yes ‘the Johnson’ will do another 180 as soon as his cronies have decamped to their nests.

  7. How many people working have had a end of the person lose their mind in the last week or two? my design dept. has had one, he gave his two week notice the company said see ya, note this person is now jobless and moving to Idaho….

  8. I think its hilarious (in a not-so- way) that the same nutjobs that made fun of people panic-buying toilet paper a week ago are the ones standing in lines panic-buying guns this week. Gun sales in Delaware went up over 4000% in the last 3 weeks and the shops are running out.

    It’s hypocritical (criminal?) that they will willingly accept checks for missed salaries and various other forms of relief (sounds like socialism to me) from the same government that they are afraid is going to come steal their guns, so they can turn around and spend the money on more guns.

    Terror and stupidity are scary bedfellows.

    1. Very true. Sad those bedfellows are friends of 👉🏼 Steve Carl, who is an embarrassment to people named Steve and Carl.

  9. First the infection data are different in the US than China. In the US young people account for over 40% of the cases with many ending up in ICUs on ventilators. So the strategy of letting some people get infected is not a good one. Here is a report on how long this may last by one of the world’s foremost epidemiologists. They say prepare for an 18 month shut down punctuated by some loosening of restrictions followed by renewed tightening. https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

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