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The Stark Difference Between Virus & Vaccine Math

COVID-19 | 

It’s all in the numbers. The difference between virus and vaccine math is essential to understand the importance of public health measures in slowing disease spread and wait for herd immunity.

According to the “NY Times,” the 7-day average for new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. on December 1st was 161, 247. The 7-day grew relentless upward and peaked at 259,564 on January 8th. Since then, it has since declined precipitously to yesterday’s figure of 136,442.

These figures illustrate how viral growth and decline is exponential. 2 goes to 4 goes to 8 goes to 16 and so on. This is logarithmic multiplication (or power laws) in action, and it’s difficult for linear thinkers to get their heads around. Importantly, viral infections go down as fast as they go up. That’s logarithmic division in action.

Vaccine math is much easier. It’s simple arithmetic.  1 goes to 2 goes to 3 goes to 4 and so on. The U.S. administered its first COVID-19 vaccine on December 14th to critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay in New York City. As of yesterday, 27.2 million Americans have received their first vaccine dose. Total vaccinated Americans push upward one at a time. There is no subtraction, but we still have a long way to go.

The difference between virus and vaccine math clarifies the importance of public health measures in slowing disease spread now. Mathematically speaking, mask-wearing, handwashing, social distancing and lockdowns keep COVID-19 in check while the plodding arithmetic of vaccine administration catches up.

Read all dispatches from Dave Johnson here

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